How Did the Kony 2012 Video Go Viral So Quickly?

Illustration for article titled How Did the Kony 2012 Video Go Viral So Quickly?

The Kony 2012 video is now officially the fastest spreading viral video of all time, with over 70 million views and half a million comments to date — and by the time you finish reading this post, there's bound to be many more.

The video's growth — it only had 20 million views yesterday morning — outpaces other popular viral campaigns by far, reports the Wall Street Journal:

For comparison, the video of Susan Boyle singing "I Dreamed a Dream" for the show "Britain's Got Talent" ranks among the most-watched viral campaign of all time, with 480 million views. It took that video six days to reach 70 million views, compared to the Kony video's five, according to Visible Measures. Another popular series of online videos featuring The Old Spice Guy, captured 35 million views in the first week but didn't reach 70 million views until five months after it launched, Visible Measures says.


How ever did the Invisible Children campaign beat out Susan Boyle? You can check out Twitter employee Issac Hepworth's chart, or this WSJ Storify post, but here's a basic breakdown:

1. Invisible Children already had tons of followers on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

Invisible Children's first Facebook post about Kony received more than 5,000 likes and shares and more than 150 comments. Of course, this didn't compare to their web presence later in the week — Invisible Children had more than 329,000 Twitter followers and more than 2 million Facebook fans by Thursday — but it's not like they started from nothing. They're not social media novices, either: "They create narratives that can be boiled down to 140 characters while still engaging people emotionally," social media researcher Danah Boyd told the Times. "They create action messages that can be encapsulated into a hashtag. And they already have a strong network of people who are, by and large, young, passionate, active on social media, and structurally disconnected from one another."

2. In the video, Invisible Children's founders repeatedly beseech viewers to use social media to spread the word (in between clips of crying Ugandan children, no less)


The campaign says loud and clear, over and over, that their goal is to make Kony a "household name," and that the way to do that is share, share, share. And after hearing about how connected we all are and how horrible Kony is, what kind of asshole wouldn't send a tweet or two?

3. Invisible Children had a specific, sexy-sounding goal: FIND KONY

"We've seen plenty of people put up video for advocacy, but never to say, let's catch a guy," Allison Fine, a writer on social media and activism, told the Times. "You go from the post office, to America's Most Wanted to this. You are participating in a worldwide manhunt for what appears to be a really bad guy."


4. Friends in high places

The 2012 Vans Warped Tour's twitter was one of the first accounts with large followings (180,000) to retweet the message. It didn't take long for celebs like Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Diddy, and eventually Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber — whose followers number in the multi-millions — started tweeting hashtags like #kony2012 and #stopkony.


And that's how your viral-awareness-video-sausage gets made! "An Internet campaign seeking to make fugitive rebel leader Joseph Kony famous has worked," the Wall Street Journal concluded. If only Kony was available for comment.

How the Kony Video Went Viral [NYT]
‘Kony 2012′ Sets Mark as Fastest-Spreading Viral Video [WSJ]

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There is a single word that answers all of this: Tumblr.

And a couple addendums: teenagers, impressionable, emo, embarrassing.