Kony2012: How They Got Your Attention

I found out about Kony2012 pretty much the same way everyone else did, my friend Kathy posted the video on Facebook. If you’re not caught up — it’s a grassroots campaign by an organization called Invisible Children that advocates for the arrest of Joseph Kony, a war criminal who forces children to fight and commit atrocities. At the core of its social media campaign is a 30 minute video that tells the story through the eyes of the filmmaker’s son, and Jacob, a child who escaped Kony.

I don’t know enough about the L.R.A., or about the criticisms of the Invisible Children organization to comment on the validity of the cause. But unfortunately, I do know a lot about social media, and I know that for a 30 minute video to go “viral” and get this much media attention is pretty unusual stuff. When I watched the video, I immediately noticed some pretty impressive social media tactics by the organization. So without further ado, here’s how Kony2012 got your attention:

1. Speaking to the social media users. The entire video uses social media devices to tell the story: Facebook Timeline illustrating historical events, YouTube videos playing to show important moments, Instagram snapshots fading in to show childhood moments, and an increasing Facebook Fan Count to display a growing movement. This very pointedly targets one type of viewer: social media users. The folks who have the power to share.

2. Giving the audience a very specific task. The video motivates the audience to complete one single, very specific task. Make Kony famous. There’s a low barrier to participation — a simple share via Facebook or Twitter. So after spending 30 minutes watching an emotionally moving video (most likely already on Facebook or Twitter), you’re motivated to click the share button and feel rewarded for doing your part.

3. Forcing tastemakers and policymakers to be involved
. Instead of waiting for tastemakers or policymakers to come running, the campaign specifically calls out 40 celebrities and politicians. Without these folks wanting to be a part of it, they suddenly have to pay attention. On the website, their profiles are clearly shown with a simple “click to tweet,” where a pre-populated message appears for you to send. It’s effortless for someone to do this. I think the only thing they can do better from a tactical standpoint is to “cross off” each celebrity or politician as they choose to take part, so that the remaining folks feel even more peer pressure.

4. Simplicity and clarity. The campaign has a short name: Kony2012. It has a clear mission: Stop Kony. A simple objective: Please tell your friends. Everything has been whittled down to make the message as clear and precise as possible. I say this a million times at work every day: People online don’t read and don’t care. The simpler and clearer you can make your message, the better. It makes you stand out above the chatter. (My friend Diana brought up a good point: to the inattentive person, the short tag “Kony 2012” comes off as a political campaign for Kony.)

This was a smartly executed, highly strategic social media campaign. What do you think about Kony2012? What social media tactics did you notice?