Kony2012: The Flip Side of Viral Success


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The internet has been atwitter (no pun intended) with Kony2012, the 30 minute documentary style video, highlighting the situation in the landlocked East African country of Uganda.

For years, children in Uganda have been kidnapped, taken from their families and forcibly enlisted in the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony.

The video, produced by Invisible Children, a not-for-profit advocacy group based out of San Francisco, California, highlights the plight of Uganda’s children and has become an internet sensation.

If you haven’t seen the video yet, here it is:

According to their website

KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.

But despite their laudable intentions, the success of their video has create somewhat of a backlash.

There are questions regarding the authenticity of this call for the apprehension of Joseph Kony, who hasn’t been particularly visible for years.

There are also questions regarding how Invisible Children has utilized the donations they’ve received and how much of the money they’ve raised actually aids children in Uganda.

The last organization to come under this kind of scrutiny, as a result viral or successful social media, was Wyclef Jean’s organization, Yele.

In the wake of the earthquake in Haiti, Yele received millions of dollars from online and mobile donations.

Overnight, Yele went from being the relatively obscure non-profit organization of a hip hop musician to one of the lead aid organizations responding to the crisis in Haiti.

There was, however, an unanticipated (and unwanted) flip side to the success of their campaign.

The intense response caused folks to focus not only on the crisis in Haiti, but on the various aid organizations receiving these funds.

Yele, which didn’t have the best track record, found itself under intense scrutiny, for their questionable use of funds and even more questionable accounting practices.

At the end of the day, the story stopped being about helping victims in Haiti, and became instead, a story about how Yele’s principals were ‘helping themselves.’

As Invisible Children find themselves in similar cross hairs, I’m certain they didn’t plan for this type of scrutiny from the success of their video.

They should be buoyed, however, by the fact that this scrutiny will (eventually) pass, and they can get back to making advocacy films.

Hiring a PR agency may help too.

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1 Comment

Filed under digital advocacy, opinion, social media

One response to “Kony2012: The Flip Side of Viral Success

  1. Pingback: Kony2012: The Flip Side of Viral Success | Stephen Chukumba - Wyclef Jean President!

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