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”

  1. Every week­end i used to pay a vis­it this web page, for
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  2. s respon­se may sug­gest that he or she has thought about sui­ci­dal ideation (even if they deny it).
    Exam­ine the foun­tain hoses and the con­nec­tions between the hoses
    and the foun­tain and pump. Do the agents want an excit­ing query,
    or that “straight­for­ward recita­tion”.

  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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