Arment Dietrich

The KONY Video: What Worked and What Didn’t Work

By: Arment Dietrich | March 21, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Molli Megasko.

The “capture Kony” message has been all over Facebook. It’s been dissected by the media. Everyone is praising the video gone viral.

If, for some reason, you’ve been in outer space or under a big rock these past weeks, you can watch the video here.

I wanted to write this post not to talk about how great it is that a 30-minute YouTube video has had something like 75 million views in just one week but rather, how it achieved that number and what went wrong.

Why the Video Worked

  • Celebrity endorsement. When the video was first posted, the group pushed to get just 66,000 views. When Oprah was contacted, her tweet turned into a rain fall and in less than 24 hours, the views skyrocketed to 9.6 million.
  • Good message. How do you get millions and millions of people to watch a 60-second clip, let alone a 30-minute video?  By adding a human element. I don’t know about you but when that little boy was learning about the good guy and the bad guy, it really touched me. The message itself is sad but shies away from the “In the Arms of an Angel” animal rescue feel.
  • Strong calls-to-action. Most social media awareness campaigns are only looking for “likes” as a call-to-action. This video gave a few options for people to feel like they contributed.
  • Sense of urgency. People respond to deadlines. When you give someone a date to not only to do something but an end date that marks success, people look forward to the outcome.

Why the Video Didn’t Work

  • Lack of facts. The team behind the video apparently did not fact check. The reports on the whereabouts of Kony and the size of his army is not accurate. If you plan to put something on the Internet you want shared, make sure your facts are double- and triple-checked (especially if you’re pointing fingers at let’s say… the government).
  • Unclear cause. Inevitably, the video might end up making Invisible Children more famous than Kony himself. And even if the world knows the Kony name, what good is it if he is still out there?  I suggest having a targeted website, not Invisible, as well as a separate Facebook page for the cause.
  • Wrong call-to-action. I know I mention the call-to-action above as a success, but it was the wrong action. Posting a video on your Facebook wall and hanging up a poster doesn’t mean you contributed to the cause. The Huffington Post calls it a “hollow kind of activism.”
  • Where’s the money?  According to the group, “only 32 percent of the $8.6 million it raised last year [went] toward direct services.”  When asking for donations or having an e-commerce for a cause, it’s important to either direct the funds to another channel or be up-front about where the money is going.

In terms of awareness was this a success? Of course.

But like Sarah Palin learned in the Game Change HBO film, with awareness comes scrutiny.

Before you go off and try to make the next KONY 2012 film, make sure you put as much effort into your cause as you do your video or you might end up in your birthday suit “running back and forth on a street corner and yelling incoherently about the devil.”

  • lichtie

    @ginidietrich @mollimegasko They forgot to mention him going nuts and masterbating in the street in the ‘what didn’t work’ section #careless

    • ginidietrich

      @lichtie She had it at the end. What a loon. @mollimegasko

  • trontastic

    Molli, this is one of the better write ups I’ve seen around this video. I completely agree about the call to action. While watching the video and admitting my urge to all of a sudden care about a cause I hadn’t heard about before then, I kept asking, okay, what do you want me to do? When the answer was put up a poster and give someone else a bracelet I was disappointed to say the least.
    After going to (which is the website they want you to go to) I realized that the main call to action should have been this page right here: I can think of a few other CTA’s he could have used but I’m interested, what CTA would you put in place?

    • MolliMegasko

       @trontastic Thanks!  I would have liked to see what the actual need was then maybe a phone number to call, an address to write a letter to.  Raising awareness is great, but what is a bracelet and a poster going to do?

  • BBS_JonBrock

    The Kony video worked incredibly well amongst students of my age- it quickly became the ‘talk of the campus’ thanks to it’s prominence on many-a-facebook wall. 
    As a call-to-action, I suppose we will have to wait and see if anything happens on April 20th. Interestingly though, on the morning the video went massively viral amongst my peers, there was already a poster on a lampost. Interesting social experiment, at the very least. 

    • MolliMegasko

       @BBS_JonBrock Love the word you used, experiment.  Yes, this is an experiment of how social media can create change.

  • The issue with the money is not where the money went, it’s poor accounting. IC has now realized that more money went to the “direct services” but they were being very conservative in their accounting. They’ve been notified that a lot of the money they spent and relegated to “administrative” costs actually is considered “direct services” by most non-profits, and by the government for non profit pruposes. 

  • MollyFulton

    I have been so frustrated with conversation around the KONY2012 campaign. I appreciate that you don’t excoriate IC, but still think people miss the point – Jason Russell is a film maker, and he applied this skill and talent to do one thing – raise awareness. IC has done some work on the ground in terms of “direct services” but that was never the focus of their work or their fund raising. Now, one may not agree with the value of that strategy, but when I see someone use their talent/skills/abilities in the service of something beyond themselves, big things happen. This is a great PR/communications object lesson, but the real story here is about a guy that saw a terrible injustice, connected with someone’s suffering, made a promise to help and offered up what he knew how to do. More people should do the same.

    • MolliMegasko

       @MollyFulton It is all about the lesson.  They had hoped for a successful viral video and they never imaged it would be what it is today.  BUT, do you think he could have thought of more or different actions for people to take?  

      • jgerstner

         @MolliMegasko Interesting that no one seems to focus on the reason this video went viral; i.e. it’s a visually and emotionally moving film. Would a grainy, jerky, amateurish video have gone viral? Doubt it.

  • FrankWhiteCEO

    @DeenPaulGLOBAL Whats going on

  • Interesting post Molli, I haven’t seen the video but I probably should. As regards the point on where money goes it’s a feature of many charities, think that some time ago the Red Cross was almost broken but if you want my own opinion search on the net how much costs the CEO of Boy Scout of America and you get the answer.
    Have a great weekend! 😉

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  • ifdyperez

    The best breakdown of the KONY campaign I’ve seen online. Thanks for sharing your insight, @MolliMegasko!

  • Nice and great post.
    Thanks & regards.

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  • StephanieJaie

    @MolliMegasko I loved the KONY Video – while some parts were definitely a bit questionable or cheesy, I think it got the point across

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  • livefull

    what a review. The lovely insight story. thanks

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