Kony 2012: How Viral Video Messaging Can Make an Impact

Last Wednesday, I woke up to see the same video posted countless times on Facebook and Twitter. It was a 30 minute documentary about the leader of the Lords Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, and what he has done to the people of Uganda. This seemed strange to me because I can’t think of the last time I discussed the situation in Uganda with many of my friends. What was it that suddenly got a large number of people interested in what is happening on the other side of the world? So, I watched the video.

Video is a powerful medium that can be used to raise awareness about your mission. But how do you make a video that people want to share?

Make it personal

KONY 2012 starts off, talking about the world and how “humanity’s greatest desire is to belong and connect”.

Who cannot identify with that? We are all human. We all want to belong. In fact, the reason why I watched the video in the first place was because I wanted to belong to the community of people that knew what this video was about.

The movie continues with a home video from the birth of the director’s son. How much more personal can a person get? We all were born and some of you are parents. Because of that, this clip does wonders for connecting the audience to the cause and once the audience is connected. They are instantly more interested in what comes next.

How can you achieve this in your video? Go straight to the source. Talk to the people who are impacted by your organization. Show your audience how you make a  difference in both your client’s life as well as for the community.

Make it special

There are a couple of key points in KONY 2012 where the narrator lets the audience know they are special. He states, “99% of the world doesn’t even know who Joseph Kony is”. He is letting you in on a secret; giving you information a lot of other people don’t have. People love to feel like they know something that someone else doesn’t. This works to the filmmaker’s advantage because a lot of people wanted to tell their secret after watching the video.

You might not have a mission that is as unique as stopping a Ugandan warlord, but you can define a unique problem that needs solving and tell people about it.

As a nonprofit staff person, it is easy to think that everyone knows about your mission and what you are trying to achieve because you personally live and breathe it every day. But what about those who don’t?

What specific part of your mission do you want them to focus on in order to become more interested in your organization? What don’t they already know?

Make it urgent (and give directions)

KONY 2012 is titled KONY 2012 for a reason. The organization behind the film, Invisible Children, wants Joseph Kony arrested by the end of this year. That’s not a lot of time. They want you to get involved now. Invisible Children has organized an action day in April of 2012, which creates even more urgency for your involvement. The film gives the audience four specific actions they can take to get involved now — one of which is very simply is to share the video.

People want to help. You just have to tell them how they can. In my exerperience, people are more willing to do something if they are given clear and easy instruction (e.g. “share this video”)

One more observation . . . KONY 2012 is 30 minutes long. At the time of writing this post, it has received over 71 million views on YouTube. This is incredible since most videos that go viral are under four minutes long. Take the time to tell your story to build your community. If you connect with your audience, they’ll be sure to stick around. More importantly, they will want to share it with others.

Hopefully, you find my observations about KONY 2012 helpful as your non-profit investigates online video as a way to extend your social media messaging.  You might also want to check out YouTube’s Nonprofit Program.

Do you currently use videos in your social media messaging? If so, is it more for an awareness campaign or as a direct call for donations? What methods do you find to be the most successful? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!