Tag - KONY 2012

Action Cascades Over Viral Videos
Invisible Children’s Missed Opportunity
When Social Issues Go Viral

Action Cascades Over Viral Videos

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 12.15.52 PMInvisible 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.


Invisible Children’s Missed Opportunity

Invisible Children’s effort to capitalize on the phenomenal success of KONY 2012 this past weekend with a worldwide outpouring of support on land called Covering the Night fizzled.

One news report on the fizzle described it this way: But paltry turnouts on Friday at locations across north America, Europe and Australia left cities largely unplastered and the movement’s credibility damaged. “What happened to all the fuss about Kony?” said one typical tweet. “Kony is so last month,” said another.

But I don’t think it’s a lack of interest in the cause, or that it’s so last month, or that there’s a backlash against Invisible Children. I think the organization overlooked a fundamental tenant of networked activism: do what you do best and network the rest. Invisible Children has spent years honing its expertise in online organizing. And it showed in the initial outburst of support associated with the video and tens of thousands of people signed up to participate Cover the Night (for instance, 30,000 signed up in Toronto alone.) I think it fizzled because on land organizing is simply not what Invisible Children does best. A better approach would have been to partner with an organization with the core competency of on land organizing, a group like Oxfam perhaps.

Too often, organizations that gain some momentum expand sideways and add new functions to along with their new found success. It’s a mistake and will inevitably tax their resources. An organization gains momentum because of what they do best, and very few organizations do everything well, particularly if the subject is worldwide organizing. Part of losing control and becoming more networked is to understand when it’s smart to partner with other organizations rather than try to everything alone. And, in the long run, it will be that much easier to contract, when things calm down as they inevitably will, rather than lay off staff.



When Social Issues Go Viral

This month’s Social Good podcast features Stephanie Rudat, an online activist and blogger with the Huffington Post. I love the way she describes her life right now, “can be found crawling the globe speaking, advising and working hands-on with the people she accredits for bringing meaning to her life.”

We discussed three recent social justice/action issues that went viral: Komen/Planned Parenthood (full disclosure: Stephanie and I worked together on the #takebackthepink effort in reaction to Komen’s decision), KONY 2012, Trayvon Martin.

On the podcast, we discuss the why these particular events went viral, their common ingredients and lessons for other groups.

Also, this month, I added a fun quiz at the end of the podcast. Can you guess which state has the largest nonprofits per capital? The prize is a hearty pat on the back!

Editor’s Note: [This is still me, Allison, just seemed all grown up to call this an “Editor’s Note”] The answer to the quiz according to these data from the National Center on Charitable Statistics is Montana! Basically, there’s about a nonprofit per person in the Big Sky state.



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