Four Viral Video Lessons From KONY 2012

Want an incredible example of how a powerful video can spread virally, purely on word of mouth? Before March, nonprofit Invisible Children and its mission were relatively unknown. Today, Invisible Children’s #KONY2012 video, a 30 minute controversial documentary detailing the atrocious acts of Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony, has already gathered more than 100 million views since it’s launch on March 5th. It’s the fastest growing viral video in history, surpassing Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” Susan Boyle’s “I Dreamed a Dream” performance, Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” or the Old Spice Guy video campaign.

The #KONY2012 phenomenon is a testament to how — when leveraged for a cause — an inspiring video campaign with a clear message and mission can have monumental reach, exposure and impact. Enough so that it seems as if literally everyone on Facebook has been sharing the link to the video (or “Posted about Joseph Kony”) and every national news station has highlighted the video during their broadcast segments.

While it’s up for debate on whether the campaign’s media backlash (and counter-backlash) is warranted, there are some key takeaways around Invisible Children’s successful viral video campaign:

1. Have a clear strategy planned.

While the video content was emotionally compelling and inherently viral, much of the campaign’s success came from having a solid social media strategy set before launch and a clear understanding of the audience. Invisible Children, in partnership with Digitaria, came up with a social video strategy that combined emotional tugs with a simple message. They astutely knew how to leverage social media to spread awareness and activate new supporters.

2. Engaging top influencers is crucial.

The campaign included easy links for people to tweet at, message and engage celebrities (or “Culturemakers”) and their millions of followers. As the campaign homepage says: “When they speak, the world listens.” As viewers of the video tweeted at celebrities and got their attention, tweets and retweets back to millions of followers helped amplify and spread the message astronomically.

3. Have a clear call-to-action.

Whether it be signing the petition, clicking back to the homepage, or entering contact information to be kept updated, the campaign had a clear call-to-action for audiences. If contacting influential celebrities wasn’t enough, the campaign empowered individuals to believe that there’s something very real and tangible they could do to help the situation. This included a section on the campaign website to also tweet at and engage with influential policy makers.

4. Make sure the content is sharable.

With video, it’s important to make sure that the content created is short, effective and sharable. This will lead to maximum engagement and increase the probability of sharing. Invisible Children did a great job creating an engaging message that could be easily shared on Twitter and Facebook. According to Unruly Media, one of the reasons for the video’s success was its high share-to-view rate – 13% of people went on to share the video after viewing it.