Invisible Children announced yesterday that it is closing its doors. You may not know the organization, but you almost certainly know their signature effort, the Kony 2012 video.
The video is very long, 30 minutes, on an obscure topic and was an instant viral sensation. It now has over 100 million views on YouTube. The video was an amazing piece of storytelling, alas, it was filled with half-truths. Moreover, the organization however was a mess roiled by mercurial and incompetent management.
All organizations should be managed better than Invisible Children or risk rightly going out of business. But there is another lesson here worth considering.
In Matterness, I discuss the need for organizations to shift their thinking from viral videos to action cascades. A viral video is a stand alone event. It certainly feels good to have lots of people watching what you have produced and sharing it with others. But there needs to be something to do baked into it. Max Siderov took the viral video of Karen Klein being bullied on a school bus outside of Rochester and turned it into an action cascade by raising money for Karen on Indiegogo. [Note: I put the link to the video of Karen being bullied here for context, but I don’t recommend watching it, it is cruel and shouldn’t be honored with a viewing.]
Organizations are too often rushing to create content that they hope will go viral without enough thought of giving people quick, easy and meaningful things to do to support an effort.There is no way to guarantee that something will go viral, but there are ways to ensure that people could take constructive action as a result of watching it. The best actions to encourage are very specific ones. Not just share the video, but send it to three friends and ask them to do the same.
The Ice Bucket Challenge was an action cascade. The effort spread so widely not because of the videos, but because of the personal challenge to other specific people to do the same or donate within 24 hours.
My advice to people creating stories is to make sure the story is emotional and well-told, but also make sure it is connected to bite-size actions to turn it into a cascade of doing.