It all started with one challenge and one name and now Facebook is inundated with videos of people accepting the Ice Bucket Challenge. Luckily for ALS, so too are their on-line donations. From celebrities, singers and athletes such as Ben Affleck, Taylor Swift and LeBron James, to politicians, such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie or Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, and business icons such as Bill Gates, we are all accepting and having fun with the ice bucket challenge and raising awareness for a very good cause. 

But the #icebucketchallenge was not meant to go global, but social media has made it viral.  As a result, this reinforces the following lessons in public relations, particularly for nonprofits:

  1. Social media matters but know your audience. For social media to matter, there needs to be a purpose and it needs to find the right audience. A lot of nonprofits want to be on social media but for many they just can't find their way.  Before committing to a social media strategy organizations need to first understand who they are trying to reach and where they can find them.  If they are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or Pinterest than create campaigns around the social media they use the most. Concentrate and focus your resources on where you can make an impact. Don't dilute your budget just because you think you need to be more active on Facebook. 
  2. Video integrated with social media is important. We are visual people. In fact, we would much rather look at a picture or watch a brief (3 mins or less) video than read this blog let alone anything else. 
  3. Content matters. We are all having fun with the Ice Bucket Challenge and watching our friends  join us to raise awareness and money for ALS. But how many of us know what ALS is or how many people it affects.  Perhaps it doesn't matter as long as those two objectives are met. However, the campaign would have more meaning and more support if we knew more about the disease and the lives it impacts. 
  4. Gimmicks still work, because we remember them. 
  5. Make it personal. Social media is about relationships and finding a connection. Through this challenge we have each made connections and watched our friends accept it. A good campaign makes that connection and finds the emotional appeal that causes another to act. 

So, now I challenge you. Take #theicebucketchallenge and start your own campaign to create awareness of your own cause.