KONY 2012: Six Lessons for starting a movement online

02 KONY 2012: Six Lessons for starting a movement online

kony 2012 21 200x300 KONY 2012: Six Lessons for starting a movement onlineIs the Kony 2012 campaign dangerous hype, or a game-changer?

Tonight I spent a few minutes on Close Up giving my thoughts on why this viral campaign has been so successful, and whether it will lead to any change. 

First up, what is Kony 2012? 

  1. Ask Wikipedia
  2. Check KnowYourMeme.com
  3. In a nutshell, it’s a 30-minute video that’s going around the web. As I write this, there are 15 million views on the YouTube video; that’s not counting the other versions of the video circulating around the web. This video was only launched two days ago

It’s been a great success, and also attracted criticism. Interestingly, the critics’ complaints are the very reason the campaign has engaged people.

1. KONY 2012 is personal

In reality, this is a complex geopolitical issue with many shades of grey. But KONY 2012 pits one filmmaker/father, Jason Russell, against one war criminal, Joseph Kony. That’s something everyone can understand – and react to at an emotional level.

Takeaway: What is it about your message that is personal, emotional, and most importantly, true. (I don’t mean true to just mean factual, I mean emotionally honest)

2. KONY 2012 is relatable

Critics complained that Ugandans’ voices are not heard in KONY 2012, and instead relied mostly on the storytelling of an adorable blond American kid. That’s exactly what will engage American viewers (the primary audience) and help make the issue relevant to them.

Takeaway: Be relevant and relatable to your audience.

3. KONY 2012 is inspiring and challenging at the same time

Some of the footage shown in KONY 2012 is pretty gruesome and emotionally harrowing, but there’s also inspiring sights: crowds of American young people chanting “We will end the war”. It’s a one-two punch of challenge + encourage – this is the problem, here’s what you can do. It’s instant gratification – very uplifting and inspiring.

Takeaway: Use the one-two punch to wake your audience up to a need, and then tell them how they can make a difference. It’s all about them, not you. Kathy Sierra has some great stuff about this. 

4. KONY 2012 is part of a larger plan

If you watch all the way to the end, you’ll see this is part of a larger plan. On April 20th, 2012, Invisible Children are planning to plaster the major cities of the world with KONY 2012 posters and banners. They’re taking the online buzz offline, and they’re being very organised about it. Viral is sometimes accidental; generating value from viral is never accidental.

Takeaway: Plan! 

5. KONY 2012 is unexpected and mysterious

It’s not immediately obvious what KONY 2012 is about – it sounds like an election campaign, and it’s presented with such strong conviction that it forces the question, “WHO?”  

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid of a little mystery. Mystery mixed with confidence is a powerful attractant. 

6. KONY 2012 generated controversy but the organisation has responded quickly

A few key criticisms of KONY 2012 came out early on in the campaign, and Invisible Children has been quick to answer most of them convincingly on their blog. They’ve also had staff members engaging in conversation on Twitter and on YouTube.

Takeaway: Creating and distributing content is just the beginning – the real value and opportunity lies in the response and engagement afterwards.

KONY 2012 is a compelling cause that requires, and facilitates, action.

KONY 2012 is a campaign designed to provoke action, whether it’s the simplest kind of action (like, share, retweet), a little more commitment (donating), or something more serious (organising a mass rally in your city). On Close Up I mentioned the 90-9-1 rule, which I suspect will apply here.

Takeaway: Ensure that the 90% (consumers), 9% (editors) and 1% (creators) all have simple calls to action.

pyramid 300x204 KONY 2012: Six Lessons for starting a movement online

The second question being asked is, is this going to do any good?

20120308 190543 300x225 KONY 2012: Six Lessons for starting a movement onlineMy thoughts (not the official opinion of syENGAGE):

  •  Most of the criticisms seem to divide into:
    • It’s too simplified. It’s precisely because KONY 2012 is oversimplified that more people will engage with it. See above. 
    • It’s dodgy. Invisible Children are advocating supporting the Uganda Government Military, which itself has a bloody record. IC have answered this pretty well on their blog – the Ugandan army is the nearest, best-organised body to carry out a capture programme.
    • It’s a moneymaking scheme (and/or they spend too much money on filmmaking and travel). It’s hard to take this criticism seriously. Filmmaking and storytelling is part of IC’s core business, alongside direct involvement on the ground in Uganda. It’s not an additional expense. The storytelling is an integral part of their mission; if the story wasn’t so well-told, it wouldn’t have garnered this response. 
    • It’s short term. It’s just a flash-in-the-pan that won’t make any real change. See above; there’s actually a plan to take this beyond a single viral video. 

Want to find out more about KONY 2012? Try these:

What do you think about KONY 2012? Have at it in the comments below.

 

6 Comments
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        [comment_author] => Patrick Ikiua
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        [comment_date] => 2012-03-09 08:51:58
        [comment_date_gmt] => 2012-03-08 19:51:58
        [comment_content] => Nice post Simon - read some of the links but was left with the sense that the "thought leaders" could never mobilize in the manner achieved by KONY2012. The admonishment in one blog to read the ICG Nov 2011 report and the report itself would create enough apathy to leave Kony and his counterparts free for another 30years.
    
    Civil Rights, Apartheid & our own Dawn Raids & Bastion Point were all "complex issues" that required fervent charismatic voices and action to galvanize the populace not policy papers detailing the barriers to social change. In respect of the dawn raids the Polynesian Panthers were Grey Lynn - Ponsonby heroes (Will llolohia & Tigi Ness for me) especially when they started dawn raids on local national MPs (even Tame Iti was there, before the ta moko)
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    Nice post Simon – read some of the links but was left with the sense that the “thought leaders” could never mobilize in the manner achieved by KONY2012. The admonishment in one blog to read the ICG Nov 2011 report and the report itself would create enough apathy to leave Kony and his counterparts free for another 30years.

    Civil Rights, Apartheid & our own Dawn Raids & Bastion Point were all “complex issues” that required fervent charismatic voices and action to galvanize the populace not policy papers detailing the barriers to social change. In respect of the dawn raids the Polynesian Panthers were Grey Lynn – Ponsonby heroes (Will llolohia & Tigi Ness for me) especially when they started dawn raids on local national MPs (even Tame Iti was there, before the ta moko)

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        [comment_date] => 2012-03-09 14:42:10
        [comment_date_gmt] => 2012-03-09 01:42:10
        [comment_content] => And the responses to this post continue to pour in on Facebook. This video gives a good summary of the most compelling criticisms of the campaign: don't say Ugandans are voiceless, don't portray them as helpless. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLVY5jBnD-E&feature=youtu.be
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    And the responses to this post continue to pour in on Facebook. This video gives a good summary of the most compelling criticisms of the campaign: don’t say Ugandans are voiceless, don’t portray them as helpless. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLVY5jBnD-E&feature=youtu.be

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        [comment_date] => 2012-03-09 15:43:34
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        [comment_content] => I've got just one thing to say to critics: For quite some years now, Invisible Children has been trying to DO SOMETHING about the issue which everyone (incl. you & I) knows about, but does little or nothing. At least they're trying. So help them. Or hold your piece. It's a lot easier to break something down than build it. More strength to Invisible Children and their cause. Stop Kony first. Then, go after the others.
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    I’ve got just one thing to say to critics: For quite some years now, Invisible Children has been trying to DO SOMETHING about the issue which everyone (incl. you & I) knows about, but does little or nothing. At least they’re trying. So help them. Or hold your piece. It’s a lot easier to break something down than build it. More strength to Invisible Children and their cause. Stop Kony first. Then, go after the others.

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        [comment_author] => Camellia
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        [comment_date] => 2012-03-24 10:56:11
        [comment_date_gmt] => 2012-03-23 21:56:11
        [comment_content] => http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/kevin_allocca_why_videos_go_viral.html
    Kevin Allocca: Why videos go viral
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        [comment_date] => 2012-04-29 20:41:19
        [comment_date_gmt] => 2012-04-29 08:41:19
        [comment_content] => Some great follow up from America's National Public Radio on what's happened since KONY2012 went viral: 
    
    http://www.onthemedia.org/2012/apr/27/
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    Some great follow up from America’s National Public Radio on what’s happened since KONY2012 went viral:

    http://www.onthemedia.org/2012/apr/27/

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