Anyone who has ever worked as a PR or social media consultant can relate to the following question. “How can we make our __________ video go viral?” This question probably ranks up there with my favorite questions I’m asked, right alongside “Can you get us on Oprah?” or “We want the front page of the Wall Street Journal for this incremental announcement with no news. How do we get it?”
A truly viral video is one of the truly rare feats for professional content. Unless you’re Rebecca Black, Lady Gaga or a talking baby and/or dog, your hopes of breaking a million views (let alone 100 million) are truly minimal. Add in a story about an African dictator that is nearly 30 minutes long? I would have thought it had a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming the cultural phenomenon that it is.
Michael Hoffman of See3 Communications explains why Kony 2012 broke all the rules, yet still is this year’s top social media success story. His three reasons:
• The organization told its own story first, a story of how it developed passion for the issue, how its members came together, and why it is critical for its supporters to act. The video follows a storytelling pattern developed by Marshall Ganz, a lecturer at Harvard University and is taught by the New Organizing Institute. Mr. Ganz says this pattern uses three stories: the story of self, the story of us, and the story of now.
• It made the story simple. The issues in Northern Uganda are very complicated. But Invisible Children chose to simplify those issues by focusing the video on the story of one bad guy: Joseph Kony, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, operating in Central Africa. The video places a strong focus on emotion, which, in turn, inspired many viewers to share it and take action.
• It made the viewer the hero. This video isn’t about Mr. Kony. It’s about the viewer and how that viewer can be the hero by taking action. In the video, Mr. Kony is portrayed as evil—as if he is a villain in a Batman movie. And if he is the evil villain, then you, the person fighting him, are the hero.