I wrote about Invisible Children in January 2011 as part of my Getting the Word Out series spotlighting non-profits’ use of social media. This week the organization and their new film Kony 2012 has been making news big time. The film, with its 15599387 Views, has once again established their understanding of social media and their ability to use it well. It is a powerful use of video to give a name and a face to the large-scale problem of how children are affected by the war in east Africa.
Yes, it has been a controversial sort of success. There has been criticism of the organizations financial allocation and of the possible neo-colonial message of the film; there have been questions about Invisible Children’s advocacy of violent solutions as opposed to peace talks, and whether several people clicking Like or Retweet should count as advocacy. All are, of course, valid questions. The organization has got the limelight it was hoping for, and now it has to address all the questions.
This whole story is like a case-study in action for other non-profits. Kony 2012 has got the kind of over-night exposure that most causes can only dream of; however, with that kind of rapid spread, there’s little control over the core message and its nuances. It can seem like scary territory for those who like the message to be packaged in the proper context. Does this mean non-profits have to be wary of social media? I don’t think so.
Any organization engaging in advocacy understands the need for transparency; it is best to adopt a “Caesar’s wife has to be above suspicion” philosophy in managing non-profits. This is probably more amplified in the context of social media, but the core idea applies in the real world as well. So, there’s no reason to fear social media or to avoid it for fear of how things will appear. It makes more sense to embrace it with enthusiasm and use it as an opportunity to address all aspects of the organization from mission and vision to philosophy and finances. Here are tools that can help you take your message to more people than ever before; here are platforms that take away the reality of physical distance; here are instruments that can accelerate change. The promise they hold far outweighs the problems.
Awareness is better than ignorance. Engagement is better than apathy.