If you haven’t heard about it yet, there is a new viral video in town.
Kony2012 has 80 MILLION views on youtube as of this writing. It was posted just over a week ago. And that’s just on youtube. Visible Measures says that it got to 70 million views faster than any other viral video – ever (4 days).
The video has been somewhat controversial, for a variety of reasons (many of which are valid), but Invisible Children has been pretty clear from the beginning that they are here to bring awareness more than anything else. And it has become clear in the last week that they are more than qualified as a hype machine. But it didn’t just happen overnight.
I first heard about Invisible Children in 2004 because my sister-in-law was friends with the founders (and ended up doing a lot of their video work for a few years). From the begining, they focused on the human side of the story and have spent thousands and thousands of hours on the road and through numerous campaigns bringing awareness to this situation. This latest video is by far the most successful, but it is by no means out of the blue.
Secrets to their success
BBDO put out a pamphlet recently about how to start a revolution. One of their main points was to identify a common enemy. Invisible Children has been building an army of young people that are passionately opposed to Joseph Kony for years now, and that revolution has been growing.
Still, they have gone against all odds. The video is almost 30 minutes long, it is not a light subject matter, and it just plain doesn’t fit into any category as far as successful viral videos. And yet it is one of the most successful.
I’m not going to try to pretend to have the answer to why this has happened, but there are a couple of interesting aspects.
- Their history of building awareness has given them a passionate user base that was ready to act (or share at least).
- Contrary to popular opinion, people DO care about things. The US media is extremely sigle minded and doesn’t talk about a lot of issues. I think a lot of people are interested in other topics, and this video proves that.
- They shamelessly ask for their viewers to share the video. This isn’t something you can do if you are trying to make yourself famous. You can only do that if you are fighting against something. (think SOPA)
- Controversy. People love to talk about NGOs that aren’t doing things the “right” way. There has been a lot of critique of this video and the organization, but I think it has only lead to more media and more publicity.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you think about Invisible Children and what they are doing. The point is that they have just completely shattered a whole wave of thinking that tried to define what makes a good viral video. I will be really eager to see how this effects new campaigns in the future.