The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge caused more debate than it should have.
Although some grumbled it was just an example of rampant narcissistic selfie-ism, it was incredibly successful as a way to raise the profile of the disease and money for organizations who help those suffering from it.
The traditional nonprofit take on the marketing funnel is awareness first followed by engagement then conversion (donation). With the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge the funnel collapsed for many into a singular episode.
Because it was a network phenomenon, it could do what the social web does best — compress the funnel into a tight continuum of awareness, engagement and action.
An IpsosReid Public Perspective study of the challenge in Canada (see Ipsos Reid's Mike Colledge discussing it in the video below) brings to light that while more people found out about the challenge from traditional media, younger people were more likely to have heard about it through their social networks.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was discovered by younger people on the social web, and drew its breath on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The result? These younger Canadians were much more likely to act — look for more information or donate — on the challenge even than those who knew someone who faced the disease.
The bottom line from Ipsos Reid's perspective (and mine):
While social media doesn’t have to be used as a channel to change perceptions, it should always be used to encourage action and participation.