The Stop Kony movement, formed to oppose the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, has become the mother of all viral advocacy campaigns in just four days. How did Invisible Children - an advocacy group that was invisible to most Americans - score more than 35 million views on its YouTube video in less than a week? It was all part of the plan….
Since early 2008 Invisible Children has been plugging away on its Facebook page, gathering support. Its most viral posts have shared powerful images and motivational messages, earning the group a cool 2 million Facebook "likes."
Still, even with pre-calculated resources in place, Invisible Children organizers say they were totally taken aback with the support they received when they launched their half-hour video call to action on YouTube. On Twitter, they were mentioned in 2.5 million tweets in 4 days, according to Topsy Labs.
"On Tuesday evening, Invisible Children posted their KONY2012 pledge, video, and a fundraising ask on their cause of 900,000 members," said Becca Hare of Causes.com in an email. "In less than 24 hours, 300,000 people took the pledge and almost $200,000 in donations came pouring in."
Invisible Children played directly to the power of social media. Its YouTube video specifically called Facebook users to action for its first two minutes. Before even getting into the issue of Joseph Kony, the video supercharged viewers by talking about the unprecedented social power people now have because of the Internet, a collective voice bigger than any the world has heard before. Governments have fallen to social media, said the video.
On top of that, most people agreed the video was artful. It used Facebook's timeline as a means to tell its story with animated graphics.
The video was posted on March 5 and saw an overnight spike in social traffic. College students took hold first, organizing on-campus viewing events for the film, planning mass demonstrations for April and inviting thousands of their friends to "KONY 2012? parties.
Perhaps the biggest booster? The Invisible Children website has a section solely dedicated to pushing social users to tweet at influential celebrities - and Oprah Winfrey was one of the first to respond on March 6, sending the movement into overdrive. P Diddy, Tim Tebow, Rihanna and Justin Bieber have jumped on board over the past two days as well.
And that, in a nutshell, is how you make a human interest issue go viral.