The park rangers who provide security at the Massachusetts State House were called out for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in early August.
The Ice Bucket Challenge has been a juggernaut this summer. Everyone in your Facebook feed — from Tim Cook to your parents — is pouring ice water on their heads to raise awareness and money for ALS research.
But besides the ALS Association, which has raised more than $15.6 million in just a few weeks, there has been another big beneficiary: Facebook.
The social networking giant reported on Monday that 28 million people have "joined the conversation" by posting, commenting or Liking activity related to the Challenge. The trend has gone global: The most posts were in the U.S., but Australia came in at No. 2 and New Zealand at No. 3.
For Facebook, this was about more than the usual meme. The Ice Bucket Challenge was a watershed moment for three reasons.
1. Celebrities' posts weren't uploaded from somewhere else.
Twitter is typically the go-to platform for celebrity pronouncements, but Facebook has been working behind the scenes for the past year or so to change that. The Ice Bucket Challenge displayed the fruits of those efforts: Bill Gates, Chris Pratt, Oprah Winfrey and Ben Affleck,among others, posted videos of themselves accepting the challenge to Facebook. Many were uploaded exclusively to Facebook, not shared from YouTube or Instagram.
It didn't hurt that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg played a role. His challenge to Gates was perhaps one of the most memorable:
Best of all for Facebook, media outlets embedded the Facebook- or Instagram-based versions of the videos, likely leading some fans to Like or follow those celebrities for the first time.
2. Ordinary folk uploaded videos.
Facebook claims fans uploaded more than 2.4 million videos between the first week of June and Aug. 17. It's a safe bet that some were doing so for the first time. Facebook hasn't released figures on video uploads since 2010, when it reported that users uploaded more than 20 million videos each month and viewed more than 2 billion videos.
3. It's good news for Facebook's video ads.
Facebook is still selectively rolling out its video ads. Getting users accustomed to clicking on videos will probably help those efforts, particularly as Twitter is promoting its own recently launched video ads.
While the Ice Bucket Challenge has been a boon to Facebook, it also highlights the platform's differences from Twitter. Despite Facebook's efforts to lure more journalists and the News Feed algorithm's preference for news stories over rank-and-file user updates, the real-time nature of Twitter makes it a better fit for breaking news.
Facebook's niche seems to be with timely — but not breaking — updates.
Facebook's news lag, which was apparent during the World Cup, may also be compounded by a bias toward good news. That prejudice is all but impossible to prove, however, in part because the News Feed's composition is influenced by what you click. If you're in the habit of reading gloomy stories, your News Feed should reflect that, at least in theory.
But even if you don't read about bad news, it's all but impossible to keep those stories out of your News Feed. Despite the charge that very little coverage of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, appears on Facebook, everyone saw a stream of stories about Robin Williams' suicide last week.
Since wedding and birth announcements float tend to float to the top of the News Feed, Facebook will never be Twitter — which is probably just as well. A stream of hard news may be preferable to some, but uplifting stories like videos of the Ice Bucket Challenge are a better backdrop for advertising.
Tags: ADVERTISING, BUSINESS, Facebook, ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE, MARKETING, VIDEO ADS