In 2003, three American filmmakers traveled to Africa to find a story, but little did they know they would make a difference through the world. Jason Russell, Laren Poole and Bobby Bailey journeyed to Africa documenting the effects of the lengthiest conflict in Uganda and African history after the Eritrean Revolutionary War. The documentary the filmmakers created brought worldwide publicity to an infamous Joseph Kony and his band of rebels knows as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The film that begin the movement centers around the young children of several Ugandan villages who travel miles every night to sleep in isolated places to avoid being captured by Kony and the LRA. The children run and hide for their lives to avoid being mutilated, forced into militias, or sexual slavery. The documentary, entitled, The Invisible Children: Rough Cut, was released in 2006, just one year after the organization received its nonprofit status. After its release, the founding members of Invisible Children strive to sue social media to bring about international justice and social reform.
In 2012, the nonprofit group decided to unveil its KONY 2012 campaign to bring to light the war crimes of Joseph Kony, and use social media and popular culture to change the world. The video created by the filmmakers and Invisible Children went viral after it was posted on YouTube on March 5, 2012 within a day the video has had over 57million views. The Washington Post’s Hayley Tsukayama elaborates on the success of the social media campaign in her March 9, 2012 artice entitled, Kony 2012: A Viral Campaign, “And it certainly has worked. The hashtags #stopkony and #kony2012 have been on the list of trending topics worldwide on Twitter ever since launched its campaign Tuesday. It’s been a fixture on Google’s list of trending topics, and even the debate over the group’s methods and messages have kept its message afloat” (Tsukayama 1).
CNN’s Moni Basu reports on the viral video’s dramatic views “”KONY 2012″ is turning out to be the fastest growing social media video campaign, according to Visible Measures, a company that tracks measures online movements” (Basu 1).
The video may have created quite a stir in the international community causing Uganda to trend on Twitter, and creating a great deal of buzz not only via the thirty minute short film, but the method in which the company plans to target high profile figures in America to make a difference. Invisible Children has chosen 20 celebrities and 12 politicians to use their influences to bring about the message of Kon 2012. Some celebrities including Oprah, Taylor Swift and Rihanna have already signed on to the Kony 2012 campaign. President Obama has even agreed to send a small group of military advisors to Uganda to help flush out the war criminal and aid the Ugandan military to find and stop the man behind the LRA.
However, some critics argue according to CNN’s Moni Basu that the campaign is simply too late in its inception, “But with the popularity of the video and kudos to the filmmakers for raising awareness of an African tragedy came a flurry of questions about Invisible Children’s intentions, its transparency and whether the social media frenzy was too little, too late” (Basu 1).
Moving past the criticism of the campaign, the social media stir and campaign effectiveness alone is quite profound. According to Wisnefski Kenneth, the viral campaign created by the group is by far one of the most successful to date, and if the goal of the group is acehived will become nothing short of legendary in social media history, “By midday Friday, just three days after its release, more than 70 million people had viewed or seen parts of the video, with the issue trending on Twitter and much of the mainstream media providing coverage. It is safe to say their mission of exposure and awareness has been accomplished and it is thanks to viral video marketing. Viral simply achieves remarkable reach very quickly, presenting a dynamic model of marketing, changing traditional timelines and targeting strategy” (Wisnefski 1).
The strengths of the campaign are quite apparent in seeing how effectively the campaign marketed its idea and spread the word of the group’s goals and mission. The use of celebrity voices, social media, political backing, and online marketing strategies are nothing short of genius. Both the deployment and technique of the campaign are incredibly strong, as are the ways in which the community can stand behind the ideas Invisible Children are trying to promote. Putting stories, faces, and tangible goals in front of social media users is an excellent way of gaining notoriety and presenting a message every day people can get involved with.
The weaknesses of the campaign is essentially as some critics have remarked, about the timing itself. Many feel that the campaign would have better served those people the group is trying to aid if it had been 15 years earlier. Another weakness that can be seen is that the message of making Kony famous could easily be misconstrued by less informed audiences or by people who have not taken the time to understand or view the message the group is disseminating in its entirety.
Regardless of the negative aspects of the campaign, the effectiveness of this viral movement is blatantly obvious. For a video to bring about over 70 million views in a matter of a few days is incredible in and of itself, but looking at the message behind the viral video makes it simply astounding. It brings a lot of hope to a world that seems to be struggling in a sea of violence and poverty. I personally, find such a message encouraging, and knowing that social media can bring about a movement so powerful that it could change the world that simply takes my breath away. I hope that this idea’s time is in fact- NOW.
Basu, Moni, David McKenzie, Libby Lewis, Brian Todd, and Ashley Fantz. “As Criticism Surfaces, ‘KONY 2012’ Gains Momentum Faster than Susan Boyle – CNN.com.”CNN. Cable News Network, 09 Mar. 2012. Web. 09 Mar. 2012. <http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/09/world/africa/uganda-viral-video/?hpt=hp_c1>.
Invisible Children. “KONY 2012.” YouTube. YouTube, 05 Mar. 2012. Web. 09 Mar. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc>.
“Kony 2012.” Invisible Children. Web. 09 Mar. 2012. <http://www.kony2012.com/>.
Tsukayama, Hayley. “Kony 2012: The Anatomy of a Viral Campaign.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 09 Mar. 2012. Web. 09 Mar. 2012. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/kony-2012-the-anatomy-of-a-viral-campaign/2012/03/09/gIQALjbs1R_story.html>.
Wisnefski, Kenneth C. “‘Kony 2012’ Offers Businesses Lessons on Viral Marketing.”Washington Post. The Washington Post, 09 Mar. 2012. Web. 09 Mar. 2012. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/kony-2012-offers-businesses-lessons-on-viral-marketing/2012/03/09/gIQAGBsh1R_story.html>.