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Unless you live in some kind of cave you’ve probably been made aware of the Kony 2012 campaign set up by Invisible Children. It’s a half hour video about a campaign to arrest central African warlord Joseph Kony who kidnaps children and uses them as child soldiers. In the days since March 5th it’s had 4 different trending topics dedicated to it worldwide, picked up over 2.4 million ‘likes’ on Facebook and currently at this time of writing has a combined 65 million views on both YouTube and Vimeo. Regardless of what you think of the campaign what with the backlash (concerning the legitimacy of Invisible Children), counter-backlash and inevitable Hitler parody (it’s big on the internet, having that Downfall Hitler parody is a sign that you’ve made it) it’s been a massive success. My Facebook was smother with friends that usually don’t post anything charitable posting links to the video and more.

But why?

Going viral as this has done isn’t something that is formulated or can be predicted, otherwise it wouldn’t be such a guessing game. They’ve tapped into a feeling of social good, similar to how NSPCC encouraged people to change their Facebook profile picture a while back.
But they also seem to broken one of the usual conventions for a viral video and that they’re all usually 2-3 minutes long. These completely shatters that and somehow compelled a vast number of people to watch it in it’s entirety. What differs this video from the other charity videos there are out there.
Well first off the video starts off nothing like a normal charity video, it talks about the power of social media and how it can change the will of governments around the world or even help overthrow them by showing clips of the Occupy protests and Arab Spring. The reason for Invisible Children’s charitable work isn’t explained until later by which time the audience has been hooked. It makes the audience feel and is incredibly good at it and doesn’t add the call to action, letting the viewers know what they can do to help until much later on.
What also helped this video go viral in a big, big way was the huge number of celebrities and national figures or as YouTube likes to call them “tastemakers” that tweeted the video. Everyone from Justin Bieber to Bill Gates has tweeted about the Kony 2012 campaign adding the momentum that it needed to take off. The videos actually been online on Vimeo for the past two weeks and it wasn’t until March 5th that it really took off and that was due to a number of celebrities tweeting about it, which then caused their fans to watch it and then to share the video on. One of the calls to action towards the end of this video was to share the video on to their friends.

Given the unique activist nature of this online campaign however it will be interesting to see if they can keep the momentum up at all throughout the year. Invisible Children have set up events worldwide called Cover The Night in which people that bought posters through the Invisible Children website would go out and plaster cities around the world and protest in the streets for the international community to accelerate the arrest of Joseph Kony. It’s a great idea and good followup to the video but the impact of Virals doesn’t really have a lifespan of years. But this video has broken so many conventions as to what makes a viral video whats to say it’s not going to work. They’ve completely secured their target demographic of the youth given that the three biggest age demographics on YouTube are girls aged 13-17, males ages 18-24 and males aged 13-17. They knew their target market and by making a incredibly well produced documentary got them.

We look forward to seeing what happens in the coming weeks and months after this video.