PUBLISHED: Mar 10, 2012 4 min read

How to Make a Video Go Viral on Social Media: Six Lessons Learned From Kony 2012

Wondering how to make a video go viral on social media?  We’ve put together six lessons, taken from an examination of the explosion of Kony 2012 related material that has been circulating the social sphere to hundreds of millions of people since it landed on YouTube March 5th.

How to make a video go viral - Kony 2012

What is Kony 2012?

Before we explain how to make a video go viral on social media like the Kony 2012 video did in a matter of days, we’ll need to first explain what it is in the first place.

Kony 2012 is a half hour long online documentary that “aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.”

All through the means of social media.

If for some reason you managed to find this blog before watching the Kony 2012 video, Joseph Kony is the leader of the Ugandan rebel forces and the most wanted man on the International Criminal Court for acts against humanity; abducting and brutalizing thousands of children and turning them into either sex slaves or members of his inhumane personal army.


Why did Kony 2012 go viral on social media?

There are many elements that can cause a video to go viral through social media platforms. Kony 2012 hit on just about all of them. Take some clues from the list below if you’re wondering how to make a video go viral.


It evokes emotion. Sadness, anger, disgust, hope, sympathy and empowerment are a few that may be stirring as you watch Kony 2012. A strong feeling about any piece of content is bound to result in strong engagement with the material on social media platforms. Whether it’s a ReTweet, a Like or a comment the higher the engagement, the more it appears on a home feed. The amount a piece of content is exposed on home feeds is called “EdgeRank.” Kony 2012 has an extremely high EdgeRank score.

It is positive and mind opening. While the story is sad the messaging is quite hopeful, which is an enjoyable feeling that people naturally want to share. It’s educational as well and many love broadcasting on social media channels that they are one of the first to know about the topic.

Controversy surrounds it. Again, controversy results in comments, which result in a higher EdgeRank score. We don’t need to go into all the details but there are countless articles and response videos out there criticizing the finances of Invisible Children (the organization sponsoring Kony 2012), the accuracy of the information and the messaging behind it.

It has calls to actions to sign the petition and to donate, but most importantly it asks viewers to share the video with as many people as possible. Research tells us that tweets reach farther and faster when “Please RT” or a similar message is included.

It was newsworthy and unexpected. Although Joseph Kony has been an unstoppable force for over two decades, his name was generally unknown until Kony 2012 went viral. The extraordinary story mixed with the previous mystery makes it interesting and intriguing to the masses.

Its message is straightforward. Kony 2012 keeps it real simple. It has an easy name to remember so people can refer to it and search for it easily.  It’s message #StopKony is to the point and it’s explained in a way that the narrator’s 5 year old son can understand.

It’s not a magic formula how to make a video go viral. Taking Kony 2012 as an example, the bottom line is that it needs to be interesting enough to get people talking about it and wanting to share it.  Whether you agree with Kony 2012 or not, there’s no denying that Invisible Children did an exceptional job with their social media marketing.