As Jason Russell shared his 30 minute documentary on social networking site Facebook, little did he know his campaign would redefine the power of user generated content in today’s society.
A social media campaign like that of Russell’s, has proven to allow an ordinary individual to “throw an event, issue or person into the public eye within hours”, (Bainbridge, 2011. pg 360) in this case being the unjust acts performed by Joseph Kony in Uganda.
Through the social media campaign and emotional appeal, viewers were simply encouraged to ‘share’ the video on their own Facebook page and/or ‘like it’, offering “audience participation not possible in the traditional media formats” (Bainbridge, 2011 pg 49). The nature of a Facebook campaign allows for a unique interaction between producers and viewers, with the fact that the video was emotional and engaging, people were easily able to become part of the national conversation and was encouraged to do so.
This is where the strength of social media lies. It is worthy to note the target market of the video considering the campaign has captured the attention of youth in Australia and globally, proving Facebook to be the perfect medium in reaching this demographic.
In effect, just five days since uploading the video on YouTube, the Sunday Telegraph (March 11 pg 30) reports it had become ‘the biggest viral clip of all time’ receiving 70 million views with more than 500 000 Australians having signed ‘a pledge calling for Kony to be captured by year’s end’. This is a clear demonstration of the rise of social media and it’s prevalence in today’s society. The world of Facebook has allowed ideas to be shared beyond boarders as social networking users called for support and action through posts and comments allowing the campaign to spread worldwide in no more than a week. Thus social media has been proven to be a powerful choice of medium in ‘making Kony famous’ due to it’s accessibility by both the content producer and consumer.
The relationship that exsits with the audience is one notably different to that of traditional media formats due to the capability offered by new media that allows viewers to connect with each other and gain the means speak out to the world. (Marcus O’Donnell, 2012)
It is through the nature of such new media, with the absence of ‘gate-keepers’ (Dr Ted Mitew, 13 March UOW Lecture) that levels of regulation and control are limited allowing any message, being bias or not, to reach a global audience. This is to the extent, like that of KONY 2012 and other controversial issues, that social media can in fact “offer an unmediated and uncensored eye into closed societies” (Bainbridge, Beasley, Tynan. 2011, pg 365).
Russell in his video claimed ‘99% of the planet’s population did not know who Kony is’ but now through YouTube and Facebook an issue that was unknown for more than 20 years has ‘got the worlds attention’ (Tod Sampson 7PM Project). It is because of such a response, the campaign then recieved the attention of mainstream media which will be discussed further on.