The Trials and Tribulations of Viral Marketing Execution


The online viral campaign to bring down Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army of child soldiers, has generated extraordinary global coverage: Everyone is talking about it. Whether or not you agree with the message and means used in the “Kony 2012” campaign, it has been extraordinarily successful in raising awareness of the child soldier issue. Over 83 million people have viewed their online video in the space of two weeks, making it the most successful viral video in history.
Public reaction to the campaign highlights key challenges for any organisation engaging in social media marketing – How do you prepare your brand for public criticism, when the purpose of any campaign is to generate support? In addition, how do you measure success? So what if you have hundreds of facebook “Likes”? What’s the point of widespread publicity if it doesn’t prompt people to take action?

The newest episode in the Kony drama emphasises another social media marketing challenge.  Three days ago TMZ posted a video of Jason Russell, one of the organisation’s three founders, having a very public breakdown which saw him naked and shouting on a busy intersection in San Diego. Related footage on YouTube has already had in excess of two million views. As has been proven by the success of the Kony campaign, having a real face and personality to represent a brand can be very powerful in inspiring a human connection in the digital environment. However, any organisation that uses an individual to represent their brand and message to the public through social media opens themselves up to numerous risks.

The Kony 2012 campaign is a great illustration of what marketers need to understand when engaging in social media:

  • the risks involved
  • the strategies that can be used to manage these risks
  • how to set clear goals and KPIs
  • how to measure success
  • how to choose a communication strategy that is consistent with the company’s goals and brand
  • how to allocate resources
  • how to adapt as the campaign evolves: It can take on a life of its own.

Do you have an interesting story to share about a Social Media campaign that you have liked or which has gone wrong in some way?

ADMA’s short course in Social Media Marketing Strategy will help you address these points to prepare for successful, effective use of social media, while the Social Media Consumer Marketing course will teach you the tools of the trade and how to measure and monitor success.  Courses are commencing soon.


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