Kony campaign could be a game changer

Fri, Mar 9, 2012, 00:00

SMALL PRINT:TWITTER CONSTANTLY gets clogged with events, topics and hashtags, from a particularly important sporting event to a celebrity death, but this week it has been all about Kony.

A new social-media campaign that could either be a game changer in terms of how activism is organised online, or could peter out – or worse, face a backlash – dominated Twitter timelines and Facebook walls this week. The campaign to “Stop Kony” was kickstarted by a video (unusually long for a viral video at nearly half an hour) made by the Invisible Children organisation, a group pressing for the arrest of Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a miliary organisation that has kidnapped and recruited thousands of children.

The campaign is calling on those who watch the video to order action kits with bracelets and posters which they can use to plaster the walls in the cities where they live. The premise is that in an era where everyone is connected, issues that go under the radar can become visible through social networking, and that Kony can become “famous”, and this issue, therefore, will be talked about, campaigned on, and lobbied for. It’s a campaign with over half a decade of on-the-ground actions and lobbying already done, but now it is seeking to create an online mass that will in turn lead to a tipping point encouraging Koni’s arrest, considering he has already been indicted by the International Criminal Court.

The campaign reimagines the organic connectivity and communication the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement found online. Unlike those, however, it seeks to manufacture a similar momentum on a targeted single issue. Inevitably, questions are being asked about those involved, and their enthusiasm for American political and military intervention.

The campaign is possibly the biggest social-media test case yet for taking an issue unknown to many young people around the world and using social networking to create mass online and offline action.

Idealistic? Sure. Overly simplified? Probably. But at the very least, marketers will be keeping a close eye on Kony and co.