"Kony 2012 is an unlikely internet phenomenon. The 30-minute documentary about a despot Ugandan warlord has been watched more than 30 million times online in less than 48 hours... more than 21m times on YouTube and 11m times on Vimeo." - The Guardian
What is KONY 2012?
KONY 2012 is a half-hour documentary, produced by nonprofit organisation Invisible Children. The video is based on Joseph Kony - a Ugandan warlord responsible for crimes against humanity and the enslavement of more than 30,000 children - and it's the key component in Invisible Children's online vigilant campaign to arrest the guerrilla group leader by 2012.
"The aim of this video is to make Joseph Kony famous, “not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice”. People will be made aware of Joseph Kony and the LRA of what they are doing to civilians." - Invisible Children, KONY 2012 Youtube video description
Shortly after the massive fanfare surrounding the video (thanks in part to its dissemination through some of the biggest pop culture icons like Oprah, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, etc), a number of websites - 'Visible Children' and "The Daily What" - broke news that the video and its nonprofit organisation was not all that it portrayed itself to be.
"Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production."
The director of KONY 2012, Jason Russell, has since then responded to the criticisms.
"That critic is a high school student in Canada," Mr Russell told TODAY."
"We are very proud of our model and it's a very unique model, because we believe in the power of educating the Western world."
I found some part of Jason's rebuttal to be flimsy - like his attempt at devaluing his critic by arguing that audiences should not take the critic too seriously because he/she is still young and not from mainstream media. I feel that when an individual makes a point that's supported with facts, his/her age or professional background is irrelevant.
We can debate this till the cows come home - so may I instead interest you in another aspect of KONY 2012 which is just as intriguing - and that is the video's unbelievable virality.
KONY 2012 - Viral Video of the Year?
KONY 2012 is not exactly anything that we haven't already seen before - 2011 was a violent year of strife and political unrest - videos depicting violent conflicts and crimes against humanity readily makes its way onto Youtube on a regular basis - what was is about KONY 2012 that enabled it to break through all that media clutter to plant itself on the top of your newsfeed and the headlines of many websites and publications?
Influence the Influencers
Well, the organisation, Invisible Children, did one thing very well - and that was to leverage on celebrity and star power - in business, we call that 'Influence Marketing'. The brunt of the communication legwork was done with the feverent support and tweeting by global culture icons Oprah, Rihanna, Justin Bieber - Invisible Children employed over 20 opinion leaders to help disseminate it's message.
"As the Vimeo statistics show, the video wasn’t picking up much speed over the first 10 days, but as soon as the Twitter, Google+ and Facebook accounts of these thought leaders shot out a video link the campaign spread like a virus."
(Vimeo Data recorded at 11:50AM GMT on 8th March 2012) statistics credits: skeletonproductions.com
There's a very compelling write up about KONY 2012 and the viral marketing lessons that we can learn from the KONY 2012 campaign, read it here.
Takeaways from KONY 2012?
First off, I would like to say that every single person who has shared, liked or tweet to promote KONY 2012 did so with good intentions - I'm making a case against the campaign and the organisation behind it because I personally do not agree with their charitable business model - that less than a third of the charity monies that Invisible Children earns actually go into direct efforts at helping the victims - I also believe that their methods only serves to promote 'slacktivism' - the idea that sharing, liking or retweeting across the social web will solve a problem.
Before I get ahead of myself, I'd like to state that The Lord's Resistance Army and Joseph Kony are bad people that needs to be stopped. But the complexities of Africa's ongoing strife run deeper than one baddie and his team of goons - killing Kony won't fix anything - he is as much a symptom as he is a cause of the region's endemic violence.
Also, your donation money might be put to better use if you contribute it to nonprofits that are putting more than 31% toward rebuilding the region’s medical and educational infrastructure instead - these efforts are much more urgent and practical.
"Here are just a few of those charities. They all have a four-star rating from Charity Navigator."
Do your research thoroughly before championing a cause -
"There is no black and white in the world. And going about solving important problems like there is just serves to make all those equally troubling shades of gray invisible." - thedailywh.at
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