This is our second article on the video "Kony 2012" by the nonprofit Invisible Children. For our earlier coverage of "Kony 2012" see "Joseph Kony, "Measuring the Networked Nonprofit," and the Effectiveness of Social Media."
by Bill Paarlberg, Editor
Despite many criticisms of the video "Kony 2012" and Invisible Children's Kony campaign (we get into those below), there is no doubt that, from a marketing and PR perspective, the film and associated social media strategy were brilliant.
Knoy 2012's Innovative Social Media Strategy
A centerpiece of Invisible Children's Kony2012 website are links for visitors to send messages directly to 32 specific well-connected and influencial people. Julie Owono points out (in "Kony 2012: A humanitarian illusion") Invisible Children's innovative influence-the-lnfluencers social media strategy:
"...the real innovation of the campaign may be the work of a former employee of Invisible Children, Javan Van Groningen, who founded the agency Fifty and Fifty, which was responsible for the design of the website Kony2012. While most campaigns of this kind suggest online activists write to politicians, the first objectives of this campaign were to gain the attention of celebrities with large numbers of Twitter followers, such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Bill Gates. Together, they have over 45 million followers.
And it worked: On March 6 Oprah Winfrey, who has some 10 million followers, responded to one Twitter user who had watched the video and tweeted at her. "Have watched the film," Oprah wrote. "Had them on show last year. Made big donation. #KONY2012". This propelled the campaign by spurring others to share the video."
For a breakdown of strategy behind the film / campaign read Sean X. Cummings' "9 Marketing Lessons from "Kony 2012." He does a good job of disecting out the strengths of the campaign, and while doing so provides some great background on Invisible Children.
Kony 2012's Flawed Concept
The problems of Uganda and the people of central Africa are quite a bit off the main subject of The Measurement Standard blog and newsletter, but it happens that I was a resident of Uganda for a couple years and so I feel a particular affinity for the region.
There has been plenty of criticism of "Kony 2012." You'll find a good summary by Nicholas Kristof in the NYTimes, also in Mr. Cummings and Ms. Owono's posts mentioned above. One of the best critiques I've found is from Adam Branch, a guy who teaches in both San Diego and Kampala (the captial of Uganda) entitled "What’s Wrong with the Kony 2012 Campaign."
I was appalled by the video and the paternalistic, neocolonial concept behind it. It's a pitch for military intervention hiding behind a mask of benevolence; yet another misguided attempt by the first world to rescue the poor helpless Africans. The first world has been allegedly bringing religion or captialism or democracy or peace to the rest of the world for centuries. The gloss of admirable sentiment usually conceals complex reality and avarice.
Back to the social media aspect. One interesting result of the Kony 2012 video and controvery would be to direct some inquiry into the limits of usefulness of social media for nonprofits. Is it possible that social media is a fabulous tool to get some things done, but the wrong tool to deal with a complex problem? --WTP
--Bill Paarlberg is editor of The Measurement Standard blog and newsletter, and of Katie Paine's book “Measure What Matters.” He is also editor of the book “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit,” by Beth Kanter and Katie Paine, which will be published this year by Wiley.
Follow Bill Paarlberg on Twitter.
The Measurement Standard is a publication of KDPaine & Partners, a company that delivers custom research to measure brand image, public relationships, and engagement. Katie Paine, CEO of KDPaine & Partners, will be glad to talk with you about measurement for your organization.