KonyOver the past few days, many of you have likely been emailed a link to Kony2012.com, or seen the link (and corresponding video) on a friend’s Facebook page or Twitter feed.  For those who haven’t, though, here’s a quick primer on the campaign and its subject, Joseph Kony.

Kony is the head of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA. The LRA is a guerrilla group that aims to establish an extremist theocratic government in Uganda

[i]. In 2005, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Kony, and other LRA members, indicting them for dozens of crimes against humanity[ii]. In 2008, the United States officially classified the LRA as a terrorist group, and in 2011, President Barack Obama sent a small contingent of troops to Uganda to assist local forces in defeating Kony and the LRA[iii].

This situation is obviously noteworthy in itself; however, we’re bringing it up in this post to break down Kony 2012, the campaign created to raise awareness of Kony and the LRA. According to the campaign’s website, their movement, driven by Invisible Children[iv], is an effort to “make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice[v].”  This is being done via the sharing of a 30-minute YouTube video that details Kony’s actions and closes with a 3-step call to action: sign a pledge to show your support of the campaign, purchase an “activation kit” online that includes posters and support bracelets, and donate to Invisible Children.

As of 11:45 AM on March 8, the video had been viewed by over 32 million people in the three (!) days since it was first posted on YouTube. A Google search for “Kony 2012” returns a staggering 170 million results. Three of Twitter’s top 10 US trending tags and two of the top 10 globally trending tags are Kony-related.

How did this happen? How did Kony 2012 make such a splash in just three days?

  1. Their documentary, while lengthy, is powerful, clear, and well-shot.
  2. Early on, it features adorable footage of the filmmaker’s charming, inquisitive child (who doesn’t love a cute, sincere kid, even if he’s a prop?).
  3. Their calls to action are clearly defined, and the tagline – “Kony 2012” – is simple and intriguing.
  4. Their website is clean, and all key information is found on the homepage (and doesn’t require extensive clicking to access).
  5. The site has, as far as we can tell, stayed live and functional despite the barrage of hits it’s received over the past 72 hours.
  6. There are celebrity tie-ins – the campaign identifies 20 “culture makers” and 12 “policy makers”, and encourages followers to contact them (which can be done from the campaign’s website, with one click) about Kony.
  7. The campaign has a ‘deadline’ – according to the video, the documentary will “expire” on December 31, 2012.

Since its launch, the campaign and its creators have, predictably, been hit with backlash, including complaints about their portrayal of the on-the-ground situation in Uganda[vi], questioning of their motives[vii], and criticism about their lack of consideration for the potential consequences of their actions[viii].  However, it’s undeniable that the impact of their effort has already been felt, which lends support to the theory that social media campaigns (especially those that are strategic, clean, and well presented) have incredible potential to resonate, with potentially global implications.

[i] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17299084

[ii] http://tinyurl.com/yeprepy

[iii] http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/joseph-kony-and-the-international-effort-to-bring-him-to-justice/2012/01/26/gIQAYk04TQ_story.html

[iv] http://www.invisiblechildren.com.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/

[v] http://kony2012.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/

[vi] http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501465_162-57393346-501465/invisible-childrens-kony-2012-viral-video-stirs-emotion-and-controversy/

[vii] http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/03/08/joseph-kony-2012-video/

[viii] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-deibert/joseph-kony-2012-children_b_1327417.html