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With Just 7 Employees, 'Kony 2012' Firm Redefines 'Going Viral'

Joseph Kony, Uganda, Invisible Children

If you haven't heard about the "Kony 2012" campaign and viral video by now, here's the short version.

The "Kony 2012" video, created by the organization Invisible Children, details the story of Joseph Kony, leader of a Ugandan guerrilla group that has pressed tens of thousands of child soldiers into service and has killed and tortured villagers throughout Uganda and central Africa. Though he has been indicted by the International Criminal Court at The Hague for war crimes, Kony has not yet been apprehended. The video and the campaign are aimed at raising public awareness and bringing Kony to justice.

While the concept of creating a video to create public awareness isn't new, the unbelievable speed at which the video went viral is. It is rapidly approaching the 100 million view mark and the charity's website has received 8.7 million unique visits since it launched on March 5, when the campaign debuted.

While Invisible Children is responsible for producing the video itself, it was two San Diego-based companies that helped bring it to the world. One digitial marketing and technology firm called Digitaria handled ideation, strategy and UX. Another, called Fifty & Fifty was responsible for the site's design, development and management.

Fifty and Fifty, a seven-person creative studio is headed by Javan Van Gronigen. Van Gronigen who, before starting Fifty and Fifty spent three years working for Invisible Children, said Fifty and Fifty is focused on serving organizations that work on solving humanitarian problems. Digitaria has worked with Invisible Children for many years.

For the Kony 2012 campaign, Fifty and Fifty created the web platform that hosts the video and which included an innovative social media component that helped drive the campaign's immediate and enormous impact.

Van Gronigen said he was stunned by the immediate success of the video campaign.

"We had planned this to be a year-long campaign," he told BusinessNewsDaily. "We met our [viewership] goal in one day. We were in no way ready for what happened."

That strategy was aimed at targeting 20 select celebrities and 12 politicians by encouraging their own fans and followers to reach out to them via social media and encourage them to support Invisible Children's cause. These "culture makers," as Van Gronigen calls them, include everyone from George Clooney and Oprah to Angelina Jolie and President Clinton.

"Our goal was to find culture makers and policy makers who could be influential in that space," Van Gronigen said. "We wanted to keep focused."

This approach differs from traditional methods of courting high-profile, influential people through traditional public relations methods.  Instead, Fifty and Fifty leveraged the power of crowdsourcing by making it possible for social media users to galvanize celebrities via social media directly from the organization's website.

It also turns the communication between social media users and celebrities into a public discourse.

Van Gronigen said the strategy has worked better and more quickly than the company anticipated, especially considering the cost of the project.

"The traffic generated in less than five days has brought the total Web costs down to fractions of a penny per user," he said. "That's a very tangible and valuable cost that is well worth the money spent."

Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.