How KONY 2012 Went Viral

2 Years ago, in March of 2012, Invisible Children, a non-profit seeking to end armed conflict and the abduction of children by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Northern Uganda and surrounding areas, launched the video “KONY 2012” in order to expose the horrors of the LRA and its leader, Joseph Kony.(Russell, 2012)

This video, posted on March 5, 2012, reached 50 million views by March 8. That’s right, three days. It doubled itself in 6 days, reaching over 100 million views – the fastest video to reach this number of all time. Just for point of reference, it took Rebecca Black’s Friday 45 days, and “Charlie Bit My Finger” 402 days to reach that astounding number of views. According to an infographic by the Huffington Post, within days of its release, 42% of people had heard about KONY 2012. These numbers are unreal – how did almost half the world hear about this cause in less than a week?! (“How ‘KONY 2012’ Went Viral”)

The masterminds behind the campaign are not the CEO or President – instead, it’s the marketing team, who designed this campaign to be a raging success, but could never have predicted just how successful the video would actually be.

The Blog entitled “The Digital Naturalist,” which addresses the science of advocacy, seeks to explain why KONY 2012 is the most viral advocacy video ever to exist. The blog claims that the video is “a stunning example of the power of video to amplify a non-profit’s message.”(The Digital Naturalist) It analyzes 20 ways in which Invisible Children did this, including: high production value – yes, just watch it. You can tell a lot of money was put into this, and the results are spectacular; An emotional journey – IC definitely knows how to tug at your heart strings; it’s a generational initiative – their primary focus was engaging young people; it has achievable and simple goals, all with deadlines; it successfully uses celebrities (such as J. Biebs and Angelina Jolie) to endorse it; as well as successfully utilizes social media as a means of getting the word out. (The Digitial Naturalist)

Above all, Invisible Children hit a home run when they encouraged the use of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Myspace, blogs and YouTube, just to name a few. (The Digital Naturalist) And widely, I think that this is what did it for them. While this viral sharing definitely encouraged a bandwagon effect, or people just sharing merely to join a cause, you have to admit, it was a pretty great idea. Though I’ve been a loyal supporter of Invisible Children since its founding in 2003 and interned for the company this past summer, I know that a majority of my friends became aware when I posted the link to my Facebook page. On my profile alone, it got 196 likes, 74 shares and hundreds of comments wanting to know more. And that’s just one person. Creating a compelling video that advocated for youth involvement with simple goals and efficient ways to reach them was the reasoning for KONY 2012’s success.

Though many wonder how successful the campaign really was because of it died down after the initial hype, there’s good news. Kony’s LRA has disbanded, with only about 100 remaining soldiers. Though his whereabouts are still unknown, he is at the top of the International Criminal Court’s “Most Wanted” list, for gross violations of human rights. Invisible Children succeeded at getting legislation signed by President Barak Obama to increase the US’s support in capturing the warlord. (Invisible Children) So despite the criticism it received, it actually did its job, and the cause is almost non-existent any longer.

There’s definitely a reason for why this campaign is so successful, and I don’t think Invisible Children could have done it any better. KONY 2012 should serve as model for future groups as the seek to advocate for action, as this is by far the most successful campaign the world has ever seen.



The Digital Naturalist – Home – 20 Reasons Why KONY 2012 is the Most Viral                           Advocacy Video Ever. (n.d.). Retrieved from    is-the-  most-viral-advocacy-video-ev.html

How ‘Kony 2012’ Went Viral (INFOGRAPHIC). (n.d.). Retrieved from            infographic_n_1421812.html

Invisible Children (n.d.). History of Africa’s Longest-Running Armed Conflict. Retrieved from

Russell, J. (2012, March 5). KONY 2012 [Video file]. Retrieved from

One thought on “How KONY 2012 Went Viral

  1. I definitely remember watching this video two years ago, maybe a day or two after it came out, and I’m pretty sure it made me cry. It was insane how many people were talking about it. But it was even crazier to see it die out so fast. I know the IC continued its work after it faded from mainstream media, and I love the update you gave on the issue that I’m sure most people didn’t know.


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