The “Invisible Children” and “Kony 2012” Phenomenon

We normally try to steer clear of political hot buttons on this business blog, and will make every attempt to do so here, as well.  What I want to focus on is the amazing reach of a single idea, and and how that idea quickly splintered into reactions and investigations and rumor and innuendo and inevitable humor and satire, all within 24-48 hours.  That, my friends, is viral.  Or as we say in New England, wicked viral.

An interesting summary of the situation can be read here, and some intelligent comments on both sides of the argument follow.  So I will not recapitulate the matter here, nor express my opinion on it (which is, in fact, still being formulated.)   Rather, I would like to examine the social media impact of this phenomenon.

The video first caught my attention via an article on FastCompany.com on March 7.  By the time I watched the video, it had already been viewed by half a million people since its appearance on March 5.  Within an hour of sharing it on my Facebook page, a friend posted a comment, with a link to another article, which suggested that the makers of the video, and their cause, were not exactly as they presented themselves to be.  After reading that article, a few thoughts came to mind:

    1. The power of a well-produced video is so compelling.  Upon first view, my reaction was not to do more research, or ask any follow-up questions.  In my mind, the video had shown me enough to warrant my desire to share it with others, thus helping the cause of the organization that created and posted it.  That’s a powerful video.
    2. At this writing, the original video has almost 28 million views on YouTube, and almost 17  million more on Vimeo, just 6 days after its initial appearance.  Is it possible to capture that kind of lightning in a bottle on a regular basis?
    3. It will be interesting to see how much traction their movement gets before April 20 – the day the organization has targeted for having their message blanket the physical world, in addition to the cyber world.  As a marketing case study, this one is a beaut!

So, the question is, is this a matter of a well-made video, introduced initially to a number of the right influencers in the worlds of politics and entertainment, then snowballing into a viral phenomenon?  Is the actual subject of the video that drove its popularity, or was it the execution of a great content packaging and release strategy?

Chuck Dennis

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