It’s a simple concept: Film yourself dumping a bucket of iced water over your head for charity, share it on your social networks, and not-so-subtly suggest that your friends do the same.
In spite of its lighthearted nature—or, perhaps, because of it—the Ice Bucket Challenge has become a social media phenomenon.
Since the beginning of June, participants have used Twitter, Facebook, and other networks to share videos of themselves taking the challenge to raise money and awareness for charities. As a result, the challenge has reached millions -- in both users and fund-raising dollars.
“We have never seen anything like this in the history of the disease,” Barbara Newhouse, president and CEO of the ALS Association, a major beneficiary of the challenge, said in a statement.
While the challenge has raised money for various charities since it began, the ALS Association has seen a huge spike in donations in recent weeks.
According to Facebook, 1.2 million videos related to the Ice Bucket Challenge were shared on the social network between June 1 and Aug. 13. More than 15 million people have posted, commented on, or liked a post about the challenge.
Facebook’s data team reported the challenge originated in the Boston area, largely spurred by former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who used this particular challenge to raise money for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Frates, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, posted a video of himself participating in the challenge on Facebook on July 31. The Ice Bucket Challenge took off from there.
In addition to more than a million wet, cold people, the campaign raised $7.6 million for the ALS Association between July 31 and Aug. 14, more than five times the amount it received during the same period of 2013. Nearly 150,000 new donors gave to the association since the start of the challenge, it reported.
Facebook has been the primary medium for the Ice Bucket Challenge, but the campaign has extended to Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.
The Globe tracked the rate of #icebucketchallenge participation using Twitter data analyzed by SocialSphere Inc.
The campaign started to gain steam on Twitter on Aug. 4, growing steadily over the course of the next week.
The Facebook spread reflected a similar growth pattern, as measured by the number of posts, comments, and likes related to the challenge.
Spikes in challenge tweets paralleled the participation of sports teams, TV hosts, and celebrities in the challenge. Justin Timberlake’s involvement on Aug. 12 coincided with a drastic spike in tweet volume. Other notable Twitter participants were Jimmy Fallon, the Boston Police Department, and Boston.com, which hosted a 200-person soaking in Copley Square on Aug. 7.
On Facebook, top participating public figures included the New England Patriots, Matt Lauer, and Martha Stewart.
The largest group of Twitter Ice Bucket Challenge participants used the hashtag #icebucketchallenge, but other notable hashtags were #ALSicebucketchallege and #StrikeoutALS.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled with the level of compassion, generosity and sense of humor that people are exhibiting as they take part in this impactful viral initiative,” said Newhouse.
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