Imagine you watch a 30 minute video on YouTube and you suddenly become a social activist.
Well, you don’t have to imagine it. This is what happened to millions of people across the globe in less than two weeks.
With one simple click of the mouse, users were introduced and became aware of a story occurring somewhere far off in Africa, about a war lord turning thousands of children into military zombies.
Here’s why this campaign makes for an interesting case study.
A few days after I shared the Invisible Children‘s KONY 2012 video on Facebook and tweeted the news on Twitter, I received an e-mail from Amnesty International (who I subscribed to). The e-mail started off telling me about how although this is the first time the world has heard about Joseph Kony, Amnesty has known about him for years – they just did not have the tools or know-how on how to execute the celebrity attention is he receiving now.
The KONY 2012 video that went viral reached over 80 million hits on YouTube in two weeks time. The utilization of celebrity appeal, charity, a 30-minute film and the power of social media have transformed online engagement to political activism (see below).
How the hell did this happen?!
For one, it’s a great conversation starter; the sheer curiosity factor fuelled massive discussion (we’re talking global here). Some 30-minute video was circling the web about a war lord in Africa and it was a big deal. People would ask, “But who is this guy?” and “Have you seen this?” and share videos with their friends.
This simple curiosity turned into a willingness to not just educate, but investigate what was happening. Who is Joseph Kony? What is he doing and where is he? Why are people talking about him? What is Invisible Children? How are people talking about Kony and the cause? Who is he effecting? When do we act? Can we act? Is he relevant to me, and now? (Covered the five Ws? Check).
And it sure as hell helped to get celebrities involved in the social media realm, tweeting and re-tweeting their concerns and support over the KONY 2012 video. Oh, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber are supporting the Invisible Children cause? This is even more share-worthy.
Moreover, The Uganda Speaks campaign first tweeted by Al Jazeera English last Tuesday,is asking people in Uganda to tweet their opinions about Kony 2012. One interesting respondent tweeted, “There is a total disconnect between the invisible children and the community they claim to serve. Why make Kony famous? You cannot make a wrong person famous. Stop Kony, then what?” Exactly. Then what?
If the goal of Invisible Children was to raise awareness about the issue, then the campaign was a success. Not only did they receive positive feedback and support from millions, the charity also received backlash about having ulterior motives and unfair fiscal distribution. But as my graduate professor once said, “As long as they’re talking about you, you’ve got a fighting chance.”
However, if the goal is to arrest KONY by converting a quarter of the globe into Invisible Children’s own army-to-the-rescue and overthrow the political system, then they’ve got a lot of work to do. As Malcolm Gladwell argues, “Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice.”
From the launch of the video on March 5th, forward to almost a month later, over 100 million people have now seen the short film. Awareness about Kony and the LRA has increased tenfold and people have shared their thoughts and opinions about it.
All that is left now, is action. It’s great to have an idea, but it doesn’t mean much if there are no plans to execute. As Madeline Bernstein of Technorati writes, “Knowing is better than not knowing, but clicking is not action.”
And in case you either haven’t seen the video through some social network or haven’t heard people talking about, first I’d like to know where on Earth are you. I’m kidding. But seriously.
Secondly, if you’re interested in watching the 30 minute long video, you can watch it below:
Photo credit: http://www.theatlantic.com
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