Kony 2012—One Man, One Video, One Historic Social Media Lesson

March 14th, 2012

Have you seen the Kony 2012 video on YouTube or heard someone mention the name Joseph Kony? Take the time to watch the social media phenomenon that has helped fuel a worldwide crusade to arrest the rebel leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Spearheaded by the group Invisible Children, the Kony 2012 movement demonstrates the power of social media. The video will go down as one of the most watched videos in history: released on March 5, within days it reportedly had 70 million views.

Kony 2012 was condensed from 3,000 hours of footage and nine years of extensive research to promote Invisible Children’s cause. Invisible Children provided such a transparent message that upon the video’s completion, viewers understand what the advocacy group wants them to do for the cause.

This same kind of transparency and access to information can be easily transitioned into the world of public safety. The Kony 2012 video demonstrates how a simple message, strategic planning and the innovative use of technology can lead to great success in the efficient dissemination of information. The “Kony strategy” also teaches other lessons for reaching millions of people around the world so quickly. Perhaps the biggest lesson is the producer’s ability to use a narrative to tug on people’s heartstrings and grab their attention and concern. The video follows Jacob, a young man from Uganda, who was rescued from LRA rebels but had to endure witnessing his brother’s execution. In one of the film’s most memorable moments, Jacob states he’d rather die than live in constant fear of being captured and killed by the LRA. This is a striking revelation to most Americans. If this happened to a child in the U.S., there would widespread outrage and constant media coverage.

The power and impact of Kony 2012 is a lesson that can be applied to all government levels for public outreach and education efforts. Can you imagine the possibilities of implementing such a campaign focused on educating citizens about natural and man-made disasters? Or if criminals or terrorists were “famous” and the public could aid local law enforcement in their arrest? As we move into a new era where social media plays a prevalent role in our global society, government and public safety agencies should consider exploring, if appropriate, new technology and innovative media strategies that could save property and people. Plus, in most cases…social media is free!

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