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.

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

  1. The very next time I read a blog, Hope­ful­ly it doesn’t fail me just as much as this one. After all, I know it was my choice to read through, nonethe­less I real­ly thought you would prob­a­bly have some­thing help­ful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of moan­ing about some­thing that you can fix if you weren’t too busy look­ing for atten­tion.

  2. I’m amazed, I have to admit. Sel­dom do I encoun­ter a blog that’s both educa­tive and enter­tain­ing, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The prob­lem is some­thing too few folks are speak­ing intel­li­gent­ly about. I am very hap­py that I found this in my search for some­thing con­cern­ing this.

  3. This is the right blog for every­one who wish­es to find out about this top­ic. You under­stand a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I real­ly would want to…HaHa). You def­i­nite­ly put a fresh spin on a sub­ject that’s been dis­cussed for decades. Great stuff, just excel­lent!

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  10. 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

  11. 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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