Upwell’s social media monitoring secrets and superpowers

Success Kid

Today’s best ever workshop at the Digital Mobilisation Skillshare was the session on Social Media Monitoring with @Rachelannyes (Rachel Weidinger) of Upwell.

Upwell has the great tagline “The ocean is our client” and is funded to drive an increase in all kinds of action-oriented conversations about the ocean.

Health warning: What follows are rough notes. There are gaps. There will typos. 

Rachel begins with, appropriately, an ocean metaphor: “We navigate the waves of a miasma of swirling internetedness in our small boats. But we don’t have a good way to understand the currents, the winds, or the weather. If we could have a meteorology of online communications we could make better decisions.

Upwell is staffed by 6 and their principle monitoring tool is Radian6.

They cobble together weather maps of the internet by counting social mentions around action-focussed content in a topic defined by keyword sets. Since Radian6 is not good at dealing with image or video based services, and doesn’t count tags on Youtube or Flickr, they round out with social search tools like Topsy and a few others. 

Upwell’s primary metric is “social mention”:

* Unique URL (blog post, RT counts too but has less weight, Facebook share, Facebook post (not share) retweet, not a favourite, comment on blog post, comment, news article, forum post)
* on a social platform.
* that includes a keyword
Social mentions are the easiest thing to count so that’s what they use. 

— primary way the track
— across platform
— geographic localised
— language
— context specific (“Oil?” Is that olive, or crude?)

Be careful when picking them:
— spammers pick up successful ones
— noise can flood the ones you think are helpful

Guiding Principles:

They apply “Minimum viable product” theory to their test runs: Idea:test:implement;repeat -> Upwell repurposes that to minimum viable measurements: i.e. try a measurement, get some data, tweak it, build: as fast as possible.

There is a baseline of conversation: the number of conversations around a topic or keyword set never drops below that even on weekends when conversations as a whole dip. That’s where Upwell targets their whole game: bringing up that baseline. 

There is no good tool to figure out everything that’s in a spike in a keyword, but Radian6 can pull out the major drivers.

Goals: Make a spike go higher, make the wavelength longer, create echo spikes with ultimate objective of increasing the baseline conversation around your keyword set. You want longer conversations, deeper conversations, more echoes. 

Upwell is brand agnostic: doesn’t matter who spikes a conversation — the White House, National Geographic, any activist organisation — as long as it’s based on credible science, contains a path to action, and is shareable. So scientific article comes out, if nobody provides a path to action Upwell will pair it with one in a blog post or a tweet, then maybe create an image macro or an infographic or some other repackaging or retreatment, and give it to anyone (unbranded) to distribute through their own networks, or figure out some other way to extend or widen the conversation.

Upwell is issue agnostic: goal is to increase “awareness” across the range of ocean issues. They don’t focus, as most activist organisations do, on one aspect of an ocean issue: Marine Reserves, overfishing, coral reefs, Monster Boats, bycatch, turtles, whales, etc — they promote it ALL

Though Rachel jumps in with a caveat: she doesn’t believe in “awareness” as a campaign objective in and of itself. The information deficit model is the wrong way to campaign. “If only people KNEW about the decline in fish, things would be different.”

“Awareness” is bull: it’s all about action. #GPDMS
Brian Fitzgerald

Denial: as human beings we push away things that hurt. Increasing knowledge of climate change makes people step back when they realise there are no easy solutions. So information deficit campaigning may actually be damaging.

Upwell tries to build and grow attention by connecting information to action.

Serving “slippery content” to oceans evangelists gives you message repetition, but repetition that’s repackaged, revoiced, and fed to an ever-increasing network. It beats the media play because it has resiliency and redundancy (and redundancy in communications is good).

“the internet loves fire” @ wisdom at #gpdms
Johnny Chatterton

There is probably a calculable economic value to a share, a like, a comment, a retweet, a favourite. But only the old concept of impressions are actually monetized.

Upwell daily process: Team wakes up and Listens– catch up the news the feeds and use all their personal monitoring tools. By 10AM they have a morning meeting, combine personal listening systems with the Radian6 dashboards. Human processing like “THAT picture of a Jellyfish is really cool”. Every member sends stuff to the Upwell Firehose — a Tumblr. Big articles get a pull quote. The morning meeting pitches each other on what’s hot and what doesn’t have enough attention, identifies 10 campaigns per staffer that they will push.

We then broke into working groups and tried out Rachel’s process. My group was looking into what was hot about Indonesian Rainforests.

Four mini @ offices have sprung up & doing some big listening to inform campaigns. #gpdms
Camille Jensen

hacking a rainforest social media campaign 30 mins with @ @ @ — scary #gpdms
Jamie Woolley

We first scoured the interwebs for what was hot in Indonesian Rainforest. Well, this was a bit of a cheat because we knew that the story that Greenpeace had just won a major set of concessions from rainforest baddy Asian Pulp and Paper the day previous and sure enough, it was hot. 

I dove into Topsy, a social media search engine, to find what was getting big play in the Social Media world and found a Mother Jones article. Mother Jones makes big noise in Social Media themselves and has a network of really active Social Media fans, and that particular piece of content was getting major shares. 

Johnny Chatterton of Change.org dove into Google Plus and Google news and then introduced us to RT.Ly, a spiffy little real time bit.ly traffic analytics tool. 

Tristan took to the media wires and Jamie hit the blogs. We swapped stories about how we might use Crowdbooster and Social Bro.

We decided we’d pair new items and create blog content around an ask that people share the victory through their networks, but to also alert AP&P that we were going to be vigilant: they had made agreements in the past and not stuck to them. 

Then we set about on the fun part and created a set of Image Macros. I hit Memegenerator for a fast and dirty Success Kid:

Success Kid

Which Rachel rightfully described as “Sucky insider baseball — go do something my mother would share.”

We thought about the keys to success for an image macro as Rachel laid them out: Cute, Funny, Clever, Awesome. So cute: we’d go with orang-utans, or tigers. Pop culture: Eye of the tiger. Johnny turned out this:

Find an angrier tiger” was Rachel’s response. 

BUT THEN, he found this image, and Tristan won the internet with the caption idea:

While I, smarting from my rebuke and anxious to keep Rachel’s mother happy, finally hit on this:

And we were well pleased with ourselves. 

Thanks to Johnny Chatterton for sharing his notes, parts of which appear in this blog. Not the bits with typos. Those are mine.

7 thoughts on “Upwell’s social media monitoring secrets and superpowers”

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  3. thanks, brian and johnny for the great notes, and major thanks to rachel for these amazing presentations and workshops.

    Unique URL (blog post, RT counts too but has less weight, Facebook share, Facebook post (not share) retweet, not a favourite, comment on blog post, comment, news article, forum post)

    So social mentions do include:
    blog postsblog postsFacebook postsFacebook sharesCommentsnews articlesforum postsretweets (but weighted less)

    do not include:
    Facebook likes

  4. Awesome image macros, Brian!

    Cool to see you all applying our model to other issues.

    Speaking of high fives — this was one of our more successful campaigns. It may seem simple, but anthropomorphizing sea creatures has been one of the best ways for us to get audiences to connect with the “out of sight, out of mind” issues happening in the ocean. 

    Another thing to note — something I say when people ask if we are just running “awareness campaigns” is that awareness is a byproduct of our campaigns, but not the product. The product is that small bit of attention each individual pays to the issue by risking social capital and posting something original on the internet. That attention is action, however small. Some call it slacktivism, but I’d tend to disagree. If someone’s contributed a social mention toward an issue, I believe they’re more likely to take greater action in the future, by signing a petition, making more sustainable choices in their life, or supporting electoral candidates that stand on the right side of an issue. 

    Rock on! Send the #GPDMS crew love from Upwell back in SF.

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