Within the first 24 hours of its release, 'Kony 2012' garnered millions of views on YouTube. For a 30-minute film, dedicated to the capture of an African warlord few in the West had ever heard of, the response to 'Kony 2012' was astounding.
Yesterday the same group responsible for the first viral video, Invisible Children, released a follow-up video titled, 'Kony 2012: Part 2.' In the first 24 hours it has received a less than stellar 302 views.
There are a number of possible reasons for the success of the first film, followed closely by the failure of the sequel. First, as any Hollywood producer will tell you, sequels almost never fare as well as the films which inspire them. But I think the problem runs a little deeper than that.
Second, the very public meltdown of the first film's narrator and co-founder of the 'Kony 2012' campaign, Jason Russell, has certainly damaged the reputation of the campaign to some degree. It can be argued also that Russell's public meltdown in the midst of mounting criticism of Invisible Children was a sign that something was not quite right with the group.
Third, but far from least, is the short attention span of most social media users. The fact that the original 'Kony' campaign needed more than a week or so (about the maximum amount of time you can hope to capture someone's attention with a viral message) to be accomplished has been working against them from the beginning. People who use social media have become accustomed to immediate results. If they cannot have satisfaction quickly, or at least soon, they will lose interest and move on to the next thing.
This is what I believe has happened with the 'Kony' campaign. People don't seem overly concerned with questions about 'Invisible Children' or even the meltdown Russell suffered. But they do care that the whole thing seems like a lesson in futility. They can donate. Big deal. They donate to things all the time and yet the problems continue. What they had been hoping for, I believe, was a swift strke against Kony, his capture and an end to the conflict they had learned about in the video. When this didn't happen, and they began to realize it wasn't going to happen any time soon, they moved on.
There is a lesson here for anyone trying to use social media to capture the attention of the audience: Keep it short. Whether it is a contest or a campaign, set a specific time limit and duration for the event and be prepared to provide immediate knowledge of the results. If you don't, if you try to capture and keep their attention indefinitely, your campaign is likely doomed to failure.
Or at least, greatly diminished results.