Thursday, April 26, 2012

KONY 2012 - a Campaign Gone Without a Trace?

It became YouTube’s most-watched video practically overnight.

Perfect in both execution and articulation; ripe for social media proliferation – it drew rapid promises of activism from millions of people. Our nation, spoiled by comparison, gobbled up the do-good message; committing to get involved in local grass-root activities for Invisible Children’s “make Kony famous” campaign.

I mean, it even played up the two-party stagnation plaguing this country!
The date was set – Friday, April 20th.

The assignment was clear – blanket your city with Kony posters, murals and stickers, wear self-devised Kony tshirts and face paint. GET THE WORD OUT at any cost.

While over 3.5 million people had pledged to “cover the night,” the actual turnout—almost everywhere—proved lackluster at best and in some cases non-existent.

Traveling on business, I was afforded the opportunity of seeing fruit of the campaign’s labors in both Chicago and Denver. I use the term “seeing” loosely, as one had to really look hard to notice anything; the occasional poster taped to a bus station or fence post, a spattering of sidewalk chalking, and a few poorly concepted red Anvil t-shirts.

4/21 Denver - Millennium Bridge
So much hype. So much hope.
And yet, the “make Kony famous” campaign lost steam.

What went wrong?

Even the most passive social media user could not escape the viral propagation of “KONY 2012” – it was everywhere. What the same audience might have missed however was founder Jason Russell’s public nudity and incoherent rants, caught on video. But don’t worry - what was finally determined to be a brief reactive psychosis, an acute state brought on by extreme exhaustion, stress, and dehydration – is NOT to blame for the derailing of the “make KONY famous” campaign.

What the Social Media Gods giveth, the Social Media Gods taketh away.

KONY 2012 fell victim to, what we’re coining as, the Triple A’s (AAA) of Social Media Marketing – (yup, you heard it here first, it’s ours) – The Triple A’s (AAA) of Social Media Marketing.

Awareness and Amplification – A 1 and 2, (the upward climb).

KONY 2012 rose to fame on the backs of social media – Facebook, Twitter, even Instagram feeds were clogged with solid, powerful messaging.

You found yourself re-sharing it just to fit in – who cares about requesting a kit or making a donation – you’ll do that later, right? Hop on that bandwagon!

Attention Span (short) – 3, the quick decline into irrelevancy.

Released in early March, KONY 2012’s 4/20 call to action was nearly eight weeks out. MAJOR MISTEP. Social Media trends come and go – faster than news headlines! What’s curious and new one day, becomes annoying and overplayed the next, blocked the third and forgotten history by week’s end.

The KONY 2012 message was great – it invoked action from the darkest of cynics. But you can’t get people all rallied and riled up and ask them to sit and wait 2 months.

What could have helped?
  1. Establish a network of instant-gratification providers first: The KONY campaign should have started by assembling a network of globally dispersed consumer businesses. By arming them with t-shirts, bracelets and other collateral, they would have had a way to provide instant gratification to supporters at the height of their awareness.
  2. A more tangible countdown to 4/20: Everyone loves a larger-than life clock counting down the weeks, days, hours and seconds before a major event – instant hype. An equally iconic thermometer could have been incorporated – rising with the number of pledges and engaged parties. The KONY 2012 campaign could have augmented these with the release of new video snippets, interviews and statistics to keep feeding the masses net-new information leading up to “cover the night.”
Getting a campaign to go viral is hard. It’s about chance; stumbling on what resonates. Assuming your lucky enough to strike a nerve and invoke action, don’t blow it all by with a maligned CTA!
Keep the window tight; the pace of technology has made us impatient. Heck, at this point, instant gratification isn’t fast enough.

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