Kony leads the social media revolution

On Tuesday afternoon a 29-minute long video was uploaded to YouTube.  Fast forward three days and it has amassed 46 million views and been tweeted by Twitter heavyweights including Stephen Fry and Kim Kardashian. Pretty impressive for a video that doesn’t feature a cat playing peek-a-boo, a skateboarding dog or a child biting its sibling’s finger.

So why was it only yesterday that the world’s media started to pay attention?

Given that roughly 48 hours of video are uploaded every minute to the YouTube, it would have been easy for this particular video to have slipped into obscurity.  But this video, produced by campaign group Invisible Children, tells the story of Joseph Kony, a Ugandan guerrilla group leader who recruits young children throughout Central Africa for his Lord’s Resistance Army.  The LRA recruits the young and the vulnerable by forcing them to kill their parents leaving them dependant on the LRA.

The film, presented by Jason Russell, centres around Jacob – a boy from Uganda he met in Africa 10 years ago who first alerted him to Kony’s regime.  Since then Russell has campaigned to get US and worldwide government attention to address the problem, stop Kony and bring him to arrest under the International Criminal Court.  I won’t go into the details of Kony’s carnages, or Jacob’s terribly sad story. Instead, I urge you to watch the video yourself and make your own judgements: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

Invisible Children want to ‘Make Kony Famous’ in 2012 – not to celebrate him, but to make the world aware of his crimes by encouraging people to watch the video and then share it with their friends via Twitter, Facebook and other social media.  It’s this element of the campaign that, from a marketing perspective, has really stood out for me. Working in the communication industry, we are all aware of the power of social media and viral in creating change, whether that’s the name of a type of bread in Sainsbury’s or Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign

As Russell points out in the film, 20 years ago it was just a handful of powerful people with huge amounts of money that influenced the media and the governments, who in turn influenced the people. But if 2011’s Arab Spring taught us anything, it’s that the power of the people and social media can change the status quo and decide what is written about in the press. Invisible Children has capitalised on this. Through its utilisation of social media and word of mouth, what began as a small group in California was able to make the world sit up and listen and now has hundreds of thousands of members.

Whilst ‘Kony’ has been trending worldwide on Twitter since Tuesday, ITN, The Huffington Post, Telegraph.co.uk, The Guardian and The Evening Standard only started running the story over the past 36 hours – more than 24 hours after the video was first posted online. This drives home the growing superiority of online and social media in producing news, generating buzz and content creation. The Guardian, in fairness, has captured this perfectly in its new Three Little Pigs ad

In an age where our trust in traditional media is at an all-time low (News International, I’m looking at you), the social media revolution can offer us the chance to help create, contribute and form news agendas much faster than traditional media ever can.  ‘Make Kony Famous’ is the perfect example of this and I encourage you all to watch and share the link and become part of this particular social media revolution.