By the time you read this, the fastest-growing viral video ever will have amassed many more millions of views. Because by the morning of March 9, the 30-minute documentary about Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony had racked up 70 million views just days after the viral campaign itself started on March 5.
It’s the fastest growing viral video in history, faster even than Susan Boyle’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” that shot her to fame, said online video measurement service Visible Measures. Her video reached 70 million views in six days; the Kony video reached that mark in five days, Visible Measures said.
The exposure came through a methodical social media strategy. Interactive agency Digitaria, though its work with non-profit Invisible Children, drove web design and partnered on the social strategy. The Kony 2012 Web site includes links and easy ways to message celebrities about the video. Very quickly, the early viewers of the video began tweeting powerful social media icons about the video including Oprah, Sean Combs, Ryan Seacrest and Justin Bieber. Within hours, they had all tweeted the video back to their millions of followers.
That’s how the video off, said Dan Khabie, CEO of Digitaria. But in many ways, the video has been five years in the making. Digitaria has worked with Invisible Children for several years on other campaigns, including one in the fall to roll out a real-time mapping technology to track Uganda’s rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army. The video is the culmination of those efforts.
One of the reasons the video has been such a viral success is the share-to-view rate, said Sarah Wood, chief operating officer and co-founder of social video platform Unruly Media, which was not involved with the campaign. “With 13% of people who watched the video going on to share it, we've never seen a video generate so many shares in such a short space of time. This is truly unprecedented.”
While other non-profits and businesses may be eager to replicate the viral success of this video, experts emphasize that it didn’t happen overnight. “[Invisible Children] has been building awareness around this cause for seven years now,” said Scot Chisholm, CEO of StayClassy, the online fundraising platform that is powering the donations for the KONY 2012 campaign. “Without those prior efforts, and the following they’ve been able to amass through those efforts, it’s unlikely that they would have been able to have such a dramatic viral effect. The point is this: create emotionally compelling content, work on using the Internet’s viral activity to spread awareness and expand your supporter base, but don’t assume that it’s easy to blow up overnight. As with most things in life, it takes work to get the results.”