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Going Viral

Sustainability and the Art of Going Viral: a passing fad or the real thing?

In an early April e-mail from my brother in Geneva I got excited about social media and its power to animate the hearts and minds of younger generations. Can a viral campaign raise awareness, understanding or support when it ‘goes viral’ and can it maintain the gain?

My brother’s e-mail talked about how my 11 and 9 year old nephews had actively engaged in a “conversation”.  It began with my sister-in-law commenting on KONY 2012.  I’ll let Steve tell it…….

“With the two of us off in different corners of Europe, we trade e-mails to keep the family conversations going. Her boss was excited about how a video about Joseph Kony had gone viral and the implications this has on an organization that wants to advocate things.”

Steve went on to explain: “The original video was posted on Monday. As of Tuesday night when her boss first heard about it, had 1.8 million views. When I watched it one day later after she told me about it, it was at 11.6 million, and Daniel and Joshua were now talking about it. (By April 1 it had been watched 86.5 million times.) With most of our kids now too plugged into “screens” of various sorts this was a good object lesson in media. When the anti-blogs began, the kids were exposed to issues about what NGOs do, how much they cost, and the potential of the internet to influence world events.”

Being in the Public Relations business and curious about how to skillfully incorporate social media into my communications tool box, I tuned into the Kony campaign.

When I got Steve’s e-mail I checked the video out myself and lo, I discovered that the organization called Invisible Children had already up-loaded a follow up vimeo the day before to address the groundswell of criticisms of the viral campaign to take specific action against an African warlord, Joseph Kony.  Pretty impressive ‘reputation management’ tactic, I thought.

Was it too little or too late?

What amazes me now is how fast the volume of the internet and social media buzz rose and then fell, for it seems according to an online article April 12 in the Washington Post  that the groundswell had already mostly died down.  The second video only had half a million views vs. the original one that my brother and his family were having conversations about, which peaked at 87 million views.

The campaign had been designed to spread global ‘awareness’ and it did that, according to Steve.  I would never have heard of it were it not for his e-mail.

Will the organization’s “Cover The Night Friday, April 20th” on-the-ground event be the acid test to see if all that awareness translated into understanding and then support?

We’ll soon find out if it was a passing fad or the real thing.

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Judi Gunter
About the Author - Judi Gunter
Judi Gunter BA, APR, FCPRS, L.M., Public Relations Strategist Judi blogs on the adventures of how a techno-phobic baby boomer conquers the rapidly evolving world of PR…As an honoured fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society, Judi Gunter has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of public relations. She has won several national PR awards in recognition of her expertise in planning, organizing and implementing public awareness programs.

One thought on “Going Viral

  1. I couldn’t find anything in the traditional media about Cover the Night; certainly didn’t see any sign of it on the streets of Calgary. The organizers’ expectations for on-the-ground action to show support were not realized. For me, the ‘take home’ message is that it is unrealistic to expect social media alone to achieve PR goals. Powerful though the tools can be as vehicles of communication, they aren’t “The Strategy.”

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