In 2012, few stories have illustrated the power of social media to influence large groups of people – particularly youngsters normally immune to current affairs – than a documentary about the atrocities of a Ugandan rebel leader called Joseph Kony.
Kony 2012, a 30-minute short film released in March 2012 by activist group Invisible Children, rapidly went viral, attracting around 100 million YouTube hits. Now, it’s not unheard of for YouTube videos to break the nine-figure viewing figure barrier (if Justin Bieber can do it…) but what sets apart Kony 2012 is the fact it’s about a serious hard news subject, not a bushy-barnetted Canadian heartthrob.
The attention it has received from younger web users has caused social media observers – including us here at SEO Web Marketing – to reappraise the potential impact of online campaigns that highlight global injustices. A survey by US Pew Research shows almost half of 18-29-year-olds were aware of the film, compared to 20 per cent of 50-64-year-olds and 18 per cent of 50-64-year-olds. US Pew Research describes the evidence as ‘striking’ that ‘young adults and their elders… learn about news in different ways.’
The majority of this impressive word-of-mouth came about via social networking – namely, people posting about it on Facebook, Google Plus or tweeting their thoughts on Twitter. So, how did Invisible Children manage to inspire such penetration of the popular culture?
- They cashed-in on their already impressive reach. Invisible Children has spent the best part of a decade spreading human rights-inspired messages among schools, colleges and church groups, often via short films either narrated by or featuring celebrities.
- They chose an issue (in this case, child soldiers and s*x slaves) which instantly inspires empathy among other young people.
- Invisible Children cleverly encouraged young viewers to tweet high-profile names renowned for philanthropy or liberalism urging them to board the campaign – figures from George Clooney to Bill Gates, Oprah to Angelina Jolie. Success breeds success, and Kony 2012 quickly found itself becoming a major trending topic on Twitter.
This is particularly impressive considering that only months earlier, the film was completely unknown and the issues largely undiscovered by the vast majority of young people.
So, here’s a quick SEO Web Marketing checklist you can use to propel your own campaign, whatever its themes, aims and target markets…
1) Use the influence of your existing following to ensure the fastest, broadest acceptance of your message.
2) Choose an issue appropriate to the age and interests of your target audience.
3) Don’t be afraid to set your sights high and seek high-profile endorsements of your cause.
Unsurprisingly, given the success of the first instalment, Invisible Children is planning a follow-up to Kony 2012, including more detail on the African militia leader whose army has been accused of kidnapping thousands of children and butchering their families.
You can see the original movie on Vimeo here
Also, check out this article and let us know your thoughts, good or bad, on the Kony 2012 campaign.