#Kony2012: The fastest “viral” video ever?

Home #Kony2012: The fastest “viral” video ever?

March 12, 2012… Visible Measures releases a press update that the Kony2012 video of the non-profit organization ‘Invisible Children’ passed the 100 million views. You might think: “quite a lot, but what’s the big deal? Other videos did this as well, right?†… True, other videos reached this staggering amount of views as well… Susan Boyle did it with her performance on Britain’s got talent, Lady Gaga’s music clip Bad Romance did it as well,… Even two other ad campaigns reached the 100 million line: Blendtec’s “Will it blend†and Evian’s “Live youngâ€. So what’s the difference? None of them did this in only 6 days!

Just to give you a comparison, Susan Boyle’s performance on a worldwide viewed and monster hit TV show, did it in 9 days and the Evian ad campaign even took 416 days to reach the 100 million views… So for a 30 minute (which sounds like a lifetime in the fast paced environment of today’s internet) video about a completely unknown African warlord, this is quite remarkable, isn’t it?

So, how did they do it?


First of all, the video on its own is a masterpiece. It is the perfect combination of a refreshing technique of filming and editing, a compelling personal story, testimonials, even some laughter, but above all, simplicity of explaining. Watching his 5 year old son explaining the difference between good and bad will have been an emotional moment for most viewers around the world.

I believe one of the main strengths of this campaign is the strong community of convinced and dedicated volunteers behind the Invisible Children’s organization. The makers of this video understand the power of a community which believes in your values and is willing to ‘fight’ voluntarily for your organization. The use of celebrities increased exposure even more. What started with just a couple of friends visiting Uganda in 2003 and promising a local kid to stop this warlord, who was terrorizing the country, suddenly became trending topic on Twitter, appeared on almost everyone’s timeline on Facebook and was even a top story on national TV-channels all over the world.


Of course, when a success story appears, criticism is not far away. Besides the support all over the world, some people started questioning both the content as well as the financial situation of this nonprofit organization. Kony would not be active anymore in Uganda and only one third of the money donated to the organization would go to really help Uganda, were the two most heard points of criticism.

Some other complained about the “modern†trend of believing you make a change by sharing or liking an online action and called this slacktivism. I am not going into this endless discussion on who is right and who is wrong, I can only give my personal opinion. Invisible Children’s goal was to make the name “Kony†famous, a goal they definitely achieved. It doesn’t matter if you are pro or against the organization and the campaign, if you ask yourself the questions: how many citizens ever heard of this warlord and the cruelties he had on his account? How many politicians, local, national or international knew this guy existed? Then you know it did make a change.

It is true, that one share or one like on its own will not make a difference, just like one supporting signature on paper did not make a change in the past. I believe it is also true that physically helping out still outperforms clicking or sharing something online. But still I am convinced that (especially in the light of the American presidential elections) politicians will not be able to ignore the buzz this action created and something will happen before 2012 ends.

What can business learn?

Besides my personal interest in the story I also believe business can learn a lot from this story. Of course you have the classic communication tips (create a story, make it personal, use emotions, …), but companies should also understand the other learning points. The communication game has new rules. The power of information is not an exclusive right anymore. Regular people connect all over the world and really can make a difference. Transparency and communication are key (even for an organization as Invisible Children) and last but not least, communities of brand ambassadors are more powerful than ever before.

So, if you haven’t done it yet, watch the movie, form your own opinion about it, think what you can learn from it and tell me what you think 🙂