Patrick Gladney is the Director of Research and Insights at SMG. Follow @pgladney

This past week, unless you were sleeping under a rock, you probably learned about Joseph Kony.  The #kony2012 video produced by Invisible Children is a cross-platform news sensation scoring over 77 million views on YouTube and millions more impressions delivered by mainstream media coverage of the story. Putting all politics and social issues aside, here’s what I think social media marketers can learn from the Kony case:



1)  It all starts with great content.  If there was an Academy Award for the best directed YouTube video, Kony 2012 would win hands down. (I’m sure that if the producers had elected not to circumvent traditional means of distribution, this video would win an award.)   Quality production and artful storytelling both contribute to the viral outcome of this piece of communication, because in social media circles, the most relevant and meaningful content will find a way to reach its target.

2)The power of influence. A bit of a no-brainer here, but when you get celebrities like the big O’s (Obama and Oprah) spreading your content, it can provide a real shot in the arm

3) Targeting is Key. Most people I know first heard about Kony from somebody under the age of 16, which I find fascinating.  A story about children, with a message directed to children, in a medium where youth are spending a lot of time proved to be a powerful combination.  The Kony crisis has been happening for many years, and was frequently reported on in the mainstream press, but it wasn’t until this video came along that the story truly took off.

4) The value of transparency and authenticity.   It was fascinating to watch how quickly this story began to spin, and new angles appeared that put the creators on the spot and needing to defend themselves.  What first started as a story about a humanitarian crisis was quickly subsumed by the social media story about the viral spread of the video.  From there, people started questioning the motivations, credibility and funding model of Invisible Children.  I believe the creators stood up quite well to the pressure, saying this is our funding model,if you would rather go and support laudable organizations like World Vision, then please do so.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments.