Why “Kony 2012” went viral

An online campaign can hardly be more effective than the one of Invisible Children. This week, the nonprofit published an online documentary video on the abductions and mass murder of children in Uganda that went viral and brought attention to an issue that most Americans had never heard about. The central focus of the video “Kony 2012” is the rebel leader Joseph Kony, who was indicted for war crimes in the region, but has never been captured. In the first few days after its release, more than 60 million people watched the video, which spread quickly through social media channels. NPR’s Alan Greenblatt interviewed me on the social media marketing success of the video.

The following are excerpts from the article “How Teenagers Learned To Hate Joseph Kony” on the NPR website:

“This is something that marketing experts dream of every day, to get a response to their campaign about a cause,” says Marcus Messner, who teaches social media at Virginia Commonwealth University.

If Invisible Children had carefully laid the groundwork for its latest film, it also executed both its launch and the quality of its content quite well, says Messner, the VCU professor.

“It really takes an emotional approach to capture an audience’s attention for 30 minutes,” he says. “When you want to bring attention to an issue that’s on nobody’s mind, you need to break it down and make it a story about individual lives.”

But the film represents only a first step, says Messner, the VCU professor.

For any group with a cause, he says, the starting point is gaining people’s attention. Once you have it, you can then help whatever fraction of people who do gain a deeper interest to find out more information and figure out how to act.

Please also read Greenblatt’s entire article on the NPR website.

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