Friday, March 9, 2012

Nonprofit's Viral Video Draws Attention To Rebel Leader Kony

A now infamous viral video released to YouTube by a nonprofit has sparked a social media campaign to bring an African rebel leader to justice, showing once again the power of viral marketing.

The Wall Street Journal reported today about the nonprofit's viral video "Kony 2012," which spotlights the crimes the leader of the Ugandan rebel group Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has allegedly perpetrated. Kony is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes including murder, sexual slavery, and using children as combatants. Invisible Children's video features interviews with Ugandan children, many who are afraid to speak for fear of being captured and killed.

"Kony 2012" (Warning: Graphic content) was first uploaded to YouTube on Monday and, by Thursday afternoon, it already had 44.7 million views and more than 170 related video clips, according to the online measurement firm Visible Measures Corp. The video also reverberated in other areas of social media, with social media analytics firm PeopleBrowsr reporting that Twitter users mentioned Kony 950,000 times. It was sites like Twitter and Facebook that allowed Invisible Children to get people aware of their video in the first place. Invisible Children's campaign also allows participants to directly message specific celebrities and policy makers through their website to encourage them to speak out on the issue. The site includes a wide array of personalities to message, from Lady GaGa to Mitt Romney.

The goal of Invisible Children, which was founded by Jason Russell along with two other filmmakers, is to bring Kony to justice this year. They plan to do this by bringing awareness of his alleged crimes through "Kony 2012" and the Invisible Children Protection Plan. The nonprofit's financial statements show that this program has a five-step strategy that includes creating an early-warning radio network and deploying search and rescue teams.

There are some who question whether this viral marketing campaign is effective. Scott Gilmore, chief executive of NYC-based Peace Dividend Trust, told The Wall Street Journal that while Invisible Children's efforts are commendable, they are ultimately for an effort that didn't need awareness. He also said the efforts won't bring back the children who were already kidnapped by Kony and the LRA. Invisible Children has responded to these types of critiques on their website.

You can read the full story in The Wall Street Journal.

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