Kony 2012 : the power and the pitfalls of social media.

Even the staunchest social media advocate invariably stresses the importance of planning for the worst through the implementation of social media guidelines and issues management procedures.

As if by design, Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 exploded into the public consciousness and provided the perfect case study on the power and the pitfalls of social media.

Invisible children’s poignant video and call to action led to a collective cleansing of conscience as millions around the globe purchased bracelets and signed online petitions.

The documentary’s YouTube statistics alone are staggering. The video racked up approximately 50 million views in five days and, at the time of writing, has been viewed over 83 million times.

It is an extraordinary example of how quickly an idea can spread in a digital world where people from all corners of the globe are more closely connected than ever before.


Yet with mass exposure comes mass scrutiny, and in Kony 2012‘s case the rebuttal was swift and highly critical of Invisible Children’s motivations, agenda and relevance.

Irrespective of the righteousness of your message (I’ll leave this for you to decide) there will always be those who disagree with you and are willing to air their opinions in a public forum.

The way in which Invisible Children reacted to this criticism is a fine example of how to handle a social media crisis.

Before their opponent’s voices had the opportunity to reach fever pitch, Invisible Children took to television and social media acknowledging the concerns raised by their critics.

The Kony 2012 website was updated to include a critiques page “to briefly answer the most common questions about this very complex issue”.

Invisible Children did not moderate criticism, nor did it shy away from it, Invisible Children confronted the issues and answered its critics in a considered manner giving the impression that they had nothing to hide.

It is a lesson in the value of transparency and more importantly preparation.

Be prepared for a social media crisis by:

  • Preparing social media guidelines
  • Educating staff of their roles and responsibilities
  • Monitoring social media channels
  • Knowing your key stakeholders
  • Identifying the channels both on and offline through which you will communicate to your stakeholders
  • Identifying the key messages to be delivered to your stakeholders and audiences
  • Planning for contingencies – what could go wrong and how would you respond

Ellis Jones can help you protect your reputation and reap the benefits of social media engagement. Find out more about social media issues management.

image credit : Christopher Dandrow