What Lessons Can Social Media Marketers Learn From Kony?

What does the phrase social media mean to you? Is it simply a convenient way of keeping in touch with friends and family, a way of selling your products and services, or do you view it in broader, more laudable terms as a way to change the world we live in? Well, whatever your opinion, what can’t be disputed is that its strength lies in its popularity. Facebook’s user base runs into billions, and other social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn are doing their utmost to close the gap. The social media is a powerful modern phenomenon that has brought instant real-time communication to the masses. It lets us share information and news, and can bring attention to important stories that would otherwise hover below the radar. We’ve all seen it with the Arab Spring, and in spite of the best efforts of the Syrian authorities, we can still get an insight into what’s going on in that ravaged country. Over the last week or so, we’ve seen it again with the Invisible Children video and campaign to bring down brutal Ugandan warlord, Joseph Kony. Now whatever your views on the issue, whether you accept all the information that’s been thrown out there, or are minded to take a more measured approach, what can’t be denied is that the campaign has been fantastically well organised and brought the issue to the attention of the world. Moreover the campaign should serve as a salutary lesson for any marketer who has a desire to engage with his or her target market and raise the profile of their company. Whether you agree or disagree, we could all learn a few a few things from the charity Invisible Children.

So, what’s the background to the issue? Joseph Kony stands accused of terrible acts against humanity in a brutal 26 year campaign, and is now the International Criminal Court’s most wanted man. The American Charity, Invisible Children, posted its no-holds-barred video at the beginning of the month to bring the problem to the world’s attention. Since that time the video has gone viral and as at 9 March, 2012, the video has been viewed 52 million times on YouTube, with 1,106,335 likes, 45,649 dislikes and 422,868 comments. The video currently has been shared on Facebook over 2 billion times, and has 14.6 million views on Vimeo with almost 19,000 likes and 1,062 comments. Moreover, in the four days since the YouTube premiere of KONY 2012, Kony or the #StopKony hashtag has been mentioned on Twitter over 10 million times. Naturally the charity has raised a considerable amount of money to fund the campaign and escalate further action to achieve its ultimate goal and rid the African continent of the menace of Kony and other brutal warlords like him. Unfortunately, since that time further information has been disclosed which suggests that all is possibly not as straightforward or squeaky clean as was originally suggested. The latest information would suggest that only 32 percent of the money raised on the back of the video actually goes towards aid. Be that as it may, what’s interesting from a marketing perspective is how the charity managed to mobilise such support in such a short space of time, and more importantly can we all learn something from this?

What social media strategies did Invisible Children use to engage with its audience and market its cause?

  • They created a good product that appealed and hit a nerve. Between the video, the website and their merchandise, the KONY product is well designed, well developed and, above all, it engages and appeals to its main demographic – the younger generation.
  • A video touched viewers on a personal level. Instead of solely being a source of informative, the video explained what the charity was doing and how it was making a difference. The clever part was that the video was able to take the audience with it and persuade them that they, too, could make a real difference.
  •  Invisible Children didn’t underestimate the power of the youth. It did its groundwork and first cultivated a strong movement by preaching its message at colleges and universities across America. It only launched the video when all parties were singing from the same hymn sheet.
  • The charity had a clear understanding of how to use and leverage the social media as an effective marketing tool. It managed to reach out publicity to celebrities and politicians who were active on these networks, and their support proved crucial to the video going viral.
  • Finally, and probably most important of all, it closed the video with a call to action – “ABOVE ALL SHARE THIS MOVIE ONLINE IT’S FREE.”

Now obviously we all can’t change the world, and wouldn’t necessarily want to, but we can all learn from the experience of others.  A successful marketing campaign is built on the back of a good product, thorough research and a planned and coordinated strategy.

View the Video – Kony 2012

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