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By Rachel Weidinger, Rachel Dearborn, Matt Fitzgerald,

Saray Dugas, Kieran Mulvaney and Britt Bravo

http://upwell.us
Twitter: @upwell_us

Upwell Pilot Report

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
Table of Contents

I: Executive Summary Page 3

II: Introduction Page 15

III: Theory of Change and Context for Our Work Page 16

IV: Process and Methodology

Methods: Big Listening Page 25

Methods: Campaigning Page 50

V: Metrics of Impact

Attention Impacts and Graphs Page 75

Ocean Evangelist Capacity Impacts Page 96

VI: Insights

Comparative Ocean Conversation


Page 114
Analytics

Insights: Big Listening Page 138

Campaigning, Collaboration and Powerful


Page 145
Amplifiers
Network Map: Ocean Evangelists and Ocean
Page 161
Voices Online

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Executive Summary
The ocean is in crisis, plagued by overfishing, habitat loss, and acidification, among other issues.
While the ocean serves as the engine for our climate and plays a central role in the global food
system, it still fails to register for many as a relevant and primary issue. It is, quite literally, out of
sight and out of mind. The virtual invisibility of the ocean in public discourse is a major obstacle
for the ocean conservation community to adopt and implement solution-based policies.

The key to Upwell’s success—and thus, the success of the ocean conservation community—is
not to blast new, shiny information into the interwebs, but rather to nurture and bridge virtual
and real-life distributed, diverse networks, and to leverage the combined reach and power of
those networks of communicators to participate in and amplify the best content and campaigns.
In inventing a new kind of collaboration, we’ve provided the tools and the space, and relied on
the ever-growing community of ocean communicators to work together to make change.

Upwell’s array of goals—to utilize the immediacy of online communications, experiment with
ways to increase the reach of valuable content, empower and foster a broader network of ocean
communicators, and enrich our understanding of the conversational ecosystem surrounding
ocean topics—coalesced our broader vision of “conditioning the climate for change.” We
believe that by getting more people talking about ocean issues and raising the baseline of
conversation, broader audiences will be more likely to take action, change behavior, and push
for policy change that will have positive effects for our oceans.

Our primary metric for understanding the conversations analyzed in this report is what we refer
to as a “social mention” (or “social item”). Upwell defines a social mention as the text inclusion
of a monitored keyword in a post on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, blogs,
mainstream news with RSS feeds, forums/boards, YouTube or Pinterest. Social mentions are
online acts of self-expression in which individuals, organizations and other entities invest (at
least) a small amount of social capital.

Upwell employs Big Listening in order to understand the volume and character of online
conversations about ocean issues. Big Listening is the art and practice of tracking topical online
conversations over time—listening to what “the internet,” writ large, is talking about. When
combined with data-informed campaigning, Big Listening provides a methodology for
increasing both the frequency and volume of online conversation around a particular issue. The
basic idea is to identify pockets of real-time or historical conversation, wherever they may be,
and then to use that information to make the conversation bigger. Big Listening is distinguished
from traditional social media monitoring by its scale, fluidity, focus on issue or cause monitoring,
and expanded access to historical data.

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In our work to date, the team at Upwell has come to believe that there are three measurable
characteristics of the online ocean conversation. We are increasingly attentive to:

1. Constant level of conversational volume (Baseline),


2. Notable outliers in increased volume (spikes), and
3. Density of conversational hotspots (spike frequency).

Upwell practices Big Listening on English-language conversations in the following eight topic
areas: Overfishing, Sustainable Seafood, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), Oceans, Cetaceans
(whales and dolphins), Sharks, Tuna, Gulf of Mexico and Ocean Acidification. For each topic,
both real-time and historical data provide essential context for understanding the volume,
evolution and characteristics of the overall conversation.

Each topic we monitor is characterized and defined by a set of search terms (including
exclusions) that we refine on an ongoing basis. While we recognize the limitations of “keyword
groups,” such as their reliance on text-based results and the absence of contextual awareness,
they do provide a powerful tool for analyzing online attention. The development and active
refinement of keyword groups is at the heart of Big Listening methodology.

At the time of writing, our current Baseline (v3.1) is the average of the lowest 20% of social
mention values for a topic on a given day of the week. In addition to the Baseline, we track
significant increases in online attention for a particular topic, or spikes. When you graph those
social mentions, you can actually see that burst of attention ‘spike’ the graph—hence the name.
Upwell defines a spike as occurring when the social mention volume for a given day meets or
exceeds one standard deviation from the mean of all recorded values for that same day of the
week.

Upwell’s campaigning model is informed by Big Listening data and combines a few additional
key elements. Our campaigns are attention campaigns, focused on raising attention to ocean
issues. They are minimum viable campaigns, operating on short time-frames and focused on
rapid delivery of content, continuous learning and iteration. They are run and amplified across a
distributed network, rather than being housed on and amplified by way of our own platforms.

What we do with attention campaigns is drive more attention to existing content and actions
that are not on our properties. They’re not associated with our brand. We use this loosely held
connection, tying into the momentum of the news cycle and being strategically opportunistic in
the pursuit of creating spikes in attention.

Through our minimum viable campaigns, we employ ongoing, iterative, continuous delivery of
content, resisting our urges toward perfection and providing irreverent, timely, contextual
content to audiences immediately instead of strategizing for six months or a year. We focus on

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the quickest, dirtiest thing we can get out the door that we think will have a measurable effect
on a conversation.

By applying both these models, Upwell has crafted a new way of campaigning that is easily
delivered, measured, and adapts to the ever-changing sea of conversation. In summary, through
our campaigns, Upwell:

• Surfs existing conversations in order to increase and expand attention.

• Measures social mentions (rather than policy outcomes, petition signatures, or public
opinion) to evaluate the success of our campaign efforts.

• Delivers, measures, and learns from campaigns on a short time cycle, embedding lessons
and insights immediately. We sacrifice perfection.

• Collaborates with a network of ocean stakeholders and curating a diverse set of existing
ocean content, rather than building on our own brand and creating our own content. Our
campaigns are not aligned with Upwell program priorities or policy goals, but instead
amplify attention to the priorities and goals of those in our network.

• Running our campaigns across a distributed network of ocean communicators, rather than
relying on our own platforms as information hubs.

Rather than collect a large set of official MOU’s and partner logos to put up on our website, we
built a loosely held, distributed network. We’ve reached out to nodes of people who control the
communications channels that reach lots of supporters and followers who are interested in
ocean issues. We’ve been scrappy and ruthless about who we put into that distributed network,
trying to make it diverse and ensure the reach is big.

These are the values that guide Upwell in building and strengthening our distributed network:

• Trust: we share only science-based content, ensuring that other science-based


institutions know that the content we share is trustworthy.

• Transparency: we share our campaign and big listening data with our network, so they
can apply our lessons in their own work.

• Brand-agnostic: we work as willingly with Greenpeace as we do with Deep Sea News, as


we do with the Facebook page “I Fucking Love Science.” We will share an organization or
individual’s content or campaign, as long as it promotes ocean conservation goals and fits
our curation criteria (detailed below). Often, promoting content from an array of brands
means releasing control of the message.

• Issue-agnostic: We aren’t only focusing on overfishing, through GMO salmon or catch


shares, to cultivate the network. We amplify any ocean campaign or content as long as it
fits our curation criteria, raising attention for the crisis the ocean faces.

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• Personal: We build relationships with humans, not organizations. The liveliest online
conversations happen between people, not institutions. We model the authentic behavior
of the internet.

• Generous: We provide small bits of advice and feedback to help our network do better. If
their work will get more people talking about the ocean online, it fits with our mission.

Our Big Listening practice helps us understand the volume and character of ocean
conversations, individually and in relation to one another. It also helps us to strategically choose
where to invest attention. Knowing the scale of conversations—for instance, that the sharks
conversation regularly spikes to over 40,000 social mentions in a day (and often much higher),
whereas the marine protected areas/marine reserves conversation sits at about 50 per day—
helps us right-size our expectations for attention, identify pockets of audiences ripe for
engagement, and time our campaigning efforts to capitalize on the regular ebb and flow of
conversation.

We curate things to amplify that meet these criteria:

• Good science

• Socially shareable

• Conservation impact

• Building social capital

• New influencers

• Topical

• Spikeability

• Under amplified

Once we’ve identified an opportunity, choosing a tool for dissemination is only part of the battle.
We often research, curate, and create in order to provide the most shareable content. There’s no
exact science to what we do—our methods are mostly informed by years of experience
campaigning in social media. However, a few scenarios, outlined below, highlight the most
common ways we approach attention campaigning.

• Scenario 1: The science and the message is good, but the content isn’t shareable.

• Scenario 2: There’s conversation beyond the ocean community. Can we tap into it?

• Scenario 3: Team Ocean isn’t coordinated. Can we create more message redundancy?

• Scenario 4: The Upwell network doesn’t have direct access to Big Listening data. Can we
provide insights to make their campaigns more effective?

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Over time, we’ve seen the number of social mentions generated from each attention campaign
grow, concurrent with the growth of our distributed network. This is the proof in the pudding.
As we continue to expand Team Ocean and encourage networked sharing, the number of social
mentions about the ocean will increase, and ultimately increase the baselines of ocean
conversations.

Both the Sustainable Seafood and Overfishing conversations have substantially changed
since the founding of Upwell. Both distinct conversations have seen significant increases in
spike volume, spike frequency, and ratio of average daily social mentions to the average
baseline.

Sustainable Seafood
1400 1400

1200 1200

1000 1000

800 800

600 600

400 400

200 200

0 0
Oct-11 Nov-11 Dec-11 Jan-12 Oct-12 Nov-12 Dec-12 Jan-13

Baseline Spike Threshold High Spike Threshold Sustainable Seafood Baseline Spike Threshold High Spike Threshold Sustainable Seafood

Side-by-side comparison for Winter 2011 (left) and Winter 2012 (right) showing social mentions
by day for Upwell’s Sustainable Seafood keyword group, as compared to the baseline, spike
threshold and high spike threshold (Winter 2011: 10/17/2011 - 1/31/12; Winter 2012: 10/1/2012 -
1/29/13)

In Winter 2011 (above left), when Upwell began Big Listening in Sustainable Seafood, social
mention volume was an average of 423 mentions per day. By Winter 2012 (above right),
Sustainable Seafood social mention volume is up 29.9%. Spike frequency in the Sustainable
Seafood conversation increased 265%. Those spikes were not just occurring more often, they
were also getting bigger. Large volume spikes, those meeting Upwell’s high spike threshold, saw
a 475% increase.

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Overfishing
14000 14000

12000 12000

10000 10000

8000 8000

6000 6000

4000 4000

2000 2000

0 0
Oct. 17, 2011 Nov. 17, 2011 Dec. 17, 2011 Jan. 17, 2012 Oct. 1, 2012 Nov. 1, 2012 Dec. 1, 2012 Jan. 1, 2013

Baseline Spike Threshold High Spike Threshold Overfishing


Baseline Spike Threshold High Spike Threshold Overfishing

Side-by-side comparison for Winter 2011 (left) and Winter 2012 (right) showing social mentions
by day for Upwell’s Overfishing keyword group, as compared to the baseline, spike threshold
and high spike threshold (Winter 2011: 10/17/2011 - 1/31/12; Winter 2012: 10/1/2012 - 1/29/13)

In Winter 2011 (above left), when Upwell began Big Listening in Overfishing, social mention
volume was an average of 423 mentions per day. By Winter 2012 (above right), Overfishing social
mention volume is up 71%. Overfishing spike frequency increased 784%. Those spikes were
not just occurring more often, they were also getting bigger. Large volume spikes, those meeting
Upwell’s high spike threshold, also saw a similar 475% increase.

Annotated campaign graphs are included in this report, and illustrate more specifically where
and how Upwell intervened in these two conversations.

The Overfishing Conversation The Sustainable Seafood Conversation Winter 2012


Winter 2012 Upwell Campaign and Social Mention Spikes Oct 2012- Jan 2013 !
Upwell Campaign and Social Mention Spikes Oct 2012- Jan 2013 !
Gangnam Style,
CA MPAs,
Fish Tornado
1400
14000 NU-20
NU-24
Vote4
1200 Ocean
Video
12000 Antarctic Ocean (day 10)
& I Oyster NY
NU-22 Cuomo
Pacific Bluefin Oysters NY
the 96.4% 1000 Big Blue
10000 NMS 40th &
NYT Trawling
FAD Safeway NU-21 Blogs
NU-24

NU-5 NU-19
800 NU-23
8000 Vote4the
Ocean
How to Kill
a Great White
Seamounts Cuomo
JAWS vs & Rooftops Oysters NY
Sinatra
Costa Rica Big Blue 600
6000 Fin Ban Blogs

4000 400

2000 200
Antarctic Antartic
(day 1 of 15) (day 15)

0 0
Oct-12 Nov-12 Dec-12 Jan-13 Oct-12 Nov-12 Dec-12 Jan-13

Spike+1Threshold Overfishing Baseline Spike+1.0


Mean Threshold
STDEV SSSustainable Seafood
Baseline Mean STDEV OF

The Tide Report, Upwell’s blog and social media channels, topic-specific webinars, plus staff
speaking engagements, guest blog posts and project consulting have provided channels for
delivering shareable content, and practical training and tools to a diverse audience of time-

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starved ocean activists. According to our February 2013 survey, through these tools and
opportunities, Upwell has helped the community:

• Receive content that they wouldn’t come across through their usual channels

• Stay up-to-date on the hottest ocean news

• Save time by providing content that they could amplify to their community

• Made them feel like they’re part of a community

• Helped them balance humor with serious issues in their communications

Which ocean topics have the most Baseline


volume?
3000

90000
2500
80000

70000
2000
60000

50000 1500
40000

30000 1000
20000

10000 500
0
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
0
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

MPAs Ocean Acidification


Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu FriSustainable Seafood
Sat
Overfishing Gulf of Mexico Tuna
Sharks Cetaceans Ocean

Social mention Baselines for Upwell’s primary ocean topics

Perhaps not surprisingly, when we look at overall levels of conversational Baselines, the generic
“oceans” conversation is orders of magnitude larger than the conversations for its constituent
components. While to some extent this is the result of so many conversations being conducted
under the “oceans” banner, the word “ocean” is itself so widely used that, without proper
filtering, those other uses can distort the apparent size of the discussion. The next two largest of
our topics, Cetaceans and Sharks, also demonstrate comparatively high Baselines when assessed
against the others. We can see substantial differences among our lowest-volume topics. MPAs
has the lowest Baseline, Ocean Acidification and Sustainable Seafood are basically tied for
second-lowest (each exceeds the for certain days of the week), and Overfishing comes in at

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about five times higher than them.

Collectively, overfishing represents a grab bag of ocean brands. The Overfishing conversation
brings together species such as sharks, tuna, salmon and lesser known but equally important
fish, with wonkish report subjects such as fisheries management and lackluster international
conferences. The topic encompasses a relatively broad conversational area, and one that has
historically churned out quarterly bursts of dire news.

Overfishing has about five times the Baseline volume of Sustainable Seafood, and roughly two-
thirds that of our next biggest topic, the Gulf of Mexico. The comparison with Sustainable
Seafood is particularly interesting because the two topics are obviously intricately connected—
the difference is how people talk about them. Whereas sustainable seafood suffers from a
fragmented and cloudy brand identity (what is sustainable seafood, anyway?), overfishing has
charismatic ocean species such as sharks and bluefin who are in clear and present danger.

Danger is catnip to the internet. The Overfishing conversation actually benefits, from an
attention point of view, from the ongoing damage that we are doing to our oceans and fisheries.
Bad news spikes high and fast online and then it goes away. Intriguingly, the spikes within
Overfishing have been occurring more frequently as Upwell has been monitoring (and
campaigning on) the topic. Overfishing is becoming more spikey and the spikes are increasing in
volume.

The Sustainable Seafood conversation is low-volume with low-level spikes, even while the
concept is becoming increasingly well-established in consumer minds. For comparison, Marine
Protected Areas has a lower baseline than Sustainable Seafood but occasionally spikes higher
than the Sustainable Seafood max. Ocean Acidification displays the same characteristic. And
despite their obvious connections, the volume of the Sustainable Seafood conversation is only
one fifth of that of the Overfishing conversation. Good news for fisheries and consumers, it turns
out, is not as attention-generating as bad news.

The overall brand of Sustainable Seafood is fragmented, awkward and wonky. People simply do
not talk about the sustainable seafood that they ate last night, or, crucially, not in those terms.
The food service industry has recognized this: one trade publication forecasts growing demand
for sustainable seafood even as it pointed out that consumers prefer the term “wild”—which
obviously means something very different. Furthermore, “sustainable seafood” itself is not a
term well-suited for short-form platforms like Twitter—it takes too many characters and is hard
to use in a sentence that doesn’t read as dry. Taken as a whole, the fragmentation of the
Sustainable Seafood conversation means that it is more difficult to accurately capture it
accurately with keywords, and that a low volume doesn’t necessarily mean people aren’t talking.

Unlike Overfishing, which has regular media hooks through connections to Shark Week, dire
report releases and celebrity activists, the Sustainable Seafood conversation doesn’t generally
translate into spikes from live events and or big news stories. Where we do see spikes occur they

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are usually based in one of three elements: well-known brands promoting their sustainable
offerings (Safeway, McDonalds), fraud, or a bridge campaign (many of them attributable to
Upwell). One other notable burst of attention can be expected from the Sustainable Seafood
Summit—although the resulting content hasn’t been particularly shareable.

A comfort with complexity is necessary to forecast weather. Big Listening, similarly, requires
significant human skill and intuition to, first, develop robust conversational descriptors
(keywords) and then, second, to use the resulting information to identify opportunities for a
campaign to spike a given conversation. Upwell has intentionally cross-trained campaign and
listening roles so that this integration between listening and intervention is as efficient as
possible. This comes not from any computer readout but from regular, hands-on practice.
‘Weather’ forecasting of the social web is a nascent practice. Regular Big Listening to a given
conversation is essential for building an analyst’s awareness of the conversational dynamics at
play. It is most efficient to listen on an ongoing basis. Presence in the conversation is the
difference between watching a baseball game and reconstructing it through the box score.

The structure of Upwell intentionally underpins the process for doing Big Listening. Each
member of Upwell draws on a variety of tools and practices—some shared, some personalized—
to generate immediately actionable insight into each day’s online events. We supplement our
personal suite of tools and practices with shared Upwell systems (such as Radian6).

   Personal Listening Systems [human and machine-assisted]

+ Shared Listening Systems [machine-assisted and human-network-assisted]

+ Morning Meeting [humans in conversation]

= Big Listening

While the context for Big Listening is constantly shifting, we believe that current trends point to
some likely future developments. These include:

• New firehoses

• Divergent functions

• Smarter robots

• Privacy fights

• Buyer beware

• Social science catches up to social media

• More visuals

• Spike marketplaces

• More upwellings

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Emergent best practices for online campaigning from the Upwell pilot include:

• You can’t predict what will go viral.

• Timeliness and a hook are still really important, but the half-life of news online is shorter
than it used to be. Pay attention to ROI on campaigns.

• Bridge conversations, movements and communities to make your message go farther.

• Identify opportunities based on Big Listening.

• Use simple messaging.

• Think about the whole viewing and sharing experience.

• Narrow in.

• Be poised for rapid response.

• Pair content with asks, but balance asks across a spectrum of engagement.

• Celebrate victories.

• Normalize obscure issues or complex ideas with iconic imagery, cultural anchors, or tribe
signifiers.

• Define your goals and metrics based on what is actually measurable.

• Revive old stuff.

• Videos: shorter, prettier, more pithy.

• Memes: don’t try to make them from scratch.

• Celebrity promotion: not a silver bullet.

Collaboration in communications is hard, and can be expensive. Emergent best practices for
Collaboration, the Distributed Network Way from the Upwell pilot include:

• Provide brand neutral content.

• Embrace the larger ecosystem of communicators.

• Be open to ad hoc partnerships.

• Share other organizations’ and people’s content.

• Find unique high-touch activities to cultivate personal relationships.

• In difficult times, be human.

In running rapid attention campaigns, and focusing primarily on social platforms as the medium
for our ocean famous-making, Upwell has developed a few best practices that can be applied to
other small, nimble online teams.

• Develop systems to capture insights.

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• Encourage a flat structure.

• Keep the campaigning team small, but not too small.

• Keep time for developing creative assets to a minimum.

• Run lots of little campaigns, and extend the ones that work.

• Lean on the personal interests, strengths and networks of your team members.

• Recognize and admit your weaknesses.

Top insights and best practices for amplifying attention to ocean issues in general, as well as
some that are specific to those communicating about overfishing, sustainable seafood, and
marine protected areas from the Upwell pilot include:

For ocean communications:

• The ocean is out of sight and out of mind.

• We assumed there would be a lot of great ocean content. We were wrong about the ‘great’
part.

• Plan social media outreach in advance of scientific report releases.

• Lower your science hackles.

• Cross-promote social content via collaborative outlets.

• Anthropomorphize ocean creatures.

• Don’t let beautiful ocean pictures do all the talking.

Sustainable Seafood:

• Scary stories get attention.

• “It’s complicated” is a bad relationship status and a bad brand.

• The actual practice of eating sustainable seafood continues to be challenging, and news
coverage is not making it appear easier.

• Focus on specific products, brands and species rather than the overall sustainable seafood
issue.

• Recipes and fluff pieces don’t generate social mentions.

Overfishing:

• Focus on actions that are doable and close to home.

• Sensational stories make headlines.

• Sharks are the quarterback of overfishing, and Shark Week is the Super Bowl of online
ocean conversations. Don’t sleep on Shark Week.

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Marine Protected Areas:

• The MPA conversation is tiny in comparison to other ocean conversations.

• Our MPA vocabulary is fragmented, awkward and wonky.

• Share successes.

• Emphasize individual connection to MPAs as public commons to create support.

This is the final report of Upwell’s pilot phase, completed in February 2012. In it, the founding
team of Upwell documents new methodologies for conversation analysis, the shape of key
ocean conversations, the impacts of our campaign efforts, and emerging best practices for a new
era of online communications. We do so in service of the larger marine conservation sector, and
with the hope that what we have learned in our short effort will speed all our collective efforts.
The ocean is our client.

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Introduction
Ocean Conservancy and the Waitt Foundation collaboratively developed the Upwell project in
2010. The project’s goal was to increase the volume of the conversation about the ocean to
enhance awareness and support for ocean issues among mass audiences. Ocean Conservancy
initially envisioned an 18-24 month pilot phase for the project, with the incubation stage
concluding in the summer of 2013. We conducted a national search for the project’s leadership,
hiring Rachel Weidinger, and launched the fully staffed program in early 2012. During our pilot
phase, the Upwell team has enjoyed the contributions of a great number of excellent crew
members, including Kieran Mulvaney, Ray Dearborn, Matt Fitzgerald, Saray Dugas, Britt Bravo,
Lara Franklin, Aaron Muszalski and Kevin Zelnio, and interns Christine Danner, Paulina Dao,
Liana Wong, and Kaori Ogawa.  We’re grateful for the support of the Waitt Foundation, an
anonymous donor, the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, and our colleagues at the Ocean
Conservancy including Janis Jones, Melissa Ehrenreich, Shannon Crownover, Amelia Montjoy,
Julia Roberson and George Leonard. Vikki Spruill has been an important mentor for the project.

This experimental pilot project charted new territory to engage a larger and more diverse
audience in the ocean conversation and to elevate the ocean while not elevating any particular
organization or perspective. We have done this by quantifying the level of the ocean
conversation across a range of topics and measuring the impact of engagement on the issue, a
first for the strategic ocean communications initiatives. The Waitt Foundation served as Ocean
Conservancy’s lead partner to help shape the direction, finance the use of new cutting-edge
technological tools to actively monitor online conversations, and develop aggressive rapid
response campaigns to reach and mobilize new audiences to care about ocean content. At the
behest of the Foundation, Upwell focused primarily on elevating the online conversations about
overfishing and sustainable seafood during this incubation period to test the efficacy of this
innovative approach. We have had other forward-thinking funders join us in support of this
project over the past two years.

During its first year of incubation, Upwell successfully pioneered the development of new
methodologies in social monitoring, demonstrated success in elevating the ocean conversation
above the baseline, earned praise for its non-branded approach to campaigning from social
media thought leaders and attracted additional philanthropic interest in expanding the project
beyond the intent of the pilot phase across a range of environmental issues. We are grateful for
the Waitt Foundation’s significant initial investment, which provided the vision and
commitment to launch this entrepreneurial initiative and are appreciative of other funding we
have received for the project.

This is the final report of Upwell’s pilot phase, completed in February 2013.

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Theory of Change and
Context for Our Work
The ocean is in crisis, plagued by overfishing, habitat loss, and acidification, among other issues.
While the ocean serves as the engine for our climate and plays a central role in the global food
system, it still fails to register for many as a relevant and primary issue. It is, quite literally, out of
sight and out of mind. The virtual invisibility of the ocean in public discourse is a major obstacle
for the ocean conservation community to adopting and implementing solution-based policies.

The genesis of Upwell was rooted in a need, identified and articulated by Ted Waitt jointly with
Vikki Spruill of Ocean Conservancy in late 2010, to build an “ocean war room” whose core focus
was to increase attention to ocean issues among new and mainstream audiences.  The effort
would be a non-branded communications effort that would utilize new and traditional media to
build a fast, aggressive and agile strategic communications platform to increase attention to
ocean conservation issues in real-time.

Although the specific look, feel and direction had yet to be determined, some key elements
articulated in the earliest stages remain true, over two years later:

• It would be an informational effort, one that would simultaneously seek to raise the
volume of key ocean issues while elevating them above the growing cacophony of
background noise on the Internet and elsewhere.

• The effort would be, in a sense, ‘unbranded.’ It would not act as a competing entity in
ocean conservation, but would instead highlight the work in conservation and science
already being done by others. As was expressed often in internal deliberative
conversations in the project’s earliest stages, “people within the community should
ideally be fully aware we exist, and that we are a resource to be utilized; but ideally,
people in the street will never know of our existence, but simply be more aware of the
ocean than they were before.” For that reason, the project was initially referred to
internally as “Ocean Underground.”

• It needed to be fast, ready to respond to and amplify developments and news at a


moment’s notice.

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Testing the Waters
With the loose ideas of direction (detailed above) in mind, we reached out to members of the
community to gauge their levels of interest, and understand where we could be the most
effective. We spoke with many different players in the diverse ecosystem of ocean
communications: researcher/bloggers (e.g., John Bruno of the University of North Carolina),
social media experts at NGOs with a particular focus on online mobilization (e.g., Ben Kroetz at
Greenpeace), scientist-communicators (e.g., Nancy Knowlton, Jeremy Jackson and Steve
Palumbi) and many more.

We shared with them these still-nascent goals and philosophy:

We aim to raise the volume of ocean messaging, by utilizing the huge variety of outlets
now available to maintain a constant drumbeat of news and information.

We will be doing more than tweeting, blogging, and linking to every ocean story we come
across. We will also be providing context, emphasizing issues and topics of particular
import and helping ensure an understanding of the way they link to each other. In this
way, we hope to raise the volume without merely contributing to the overall background
noise.

We will not be competing for the limelight. We will not be competing for funding. We do
not intend to be another “brand” in the public eye. We shall we be a resource, a means of
highlighting, synthesizing and contextualizing ocean issues in a way that brings further
attention to those issues and to those who are researching and campaigning on them.

We will seek to operate on a multitude of levels. We will work with researchers,


organizations and others to produce original content for publication online or in print. We
will aim to work with existing outlets and to create our own. We will offer to work with,
and provide content for, outlets that need it and also to disseminate content for those who
lack such networks. We will be content aggregators, synthesizers, distributors, creators,
and magnifiers. [...]

We hope that once we become established, we’ll swiftly settle into a pattern, in which it
will become routine for members of the community to provide us with content that we
can aggregate, magnify and synthesize, and that as a result ocean issues will have no
problem being heard in the cacophony of the Internet.

Initial feedback was incredibly positive. Members of the community agreed that there was a
need for deeper understanding of the currents of ocean conversation, and a need for a new way

18
to harness the energy and content and funnel it into more effective campaigning.

A Social Focus
We decided early on during this scoping process that social media was going to be our playing
field. Campaigns in the digital age—at all levels—require the rapid communication and personal
connections that social media cultivates. We would focus on unique metrics to evaluate our
success in penetrating and motivating social networks to spread ocean content within their peer
networks to both boost the volume of online conversations focused on the ocean and to
broaden the conversation beyond the choir. We would also respect and leverage the power of
traditional media by helping to connect social content in ways that would create mainstream
media attention or extend shelf life. We would strive to make scientific research accessible to
popular audiences online and identify relevance to new social and mainstream audiences. As we
articulated in early documents:

“As an overarching goal, we have been tasked to increase the volume of ocean news,
information and issues. ...Where Ocean Underground can carve out a unique and
invaluable role is, as noted at the top of this section, cutting through that noise,
highlighting the news that is important, discarding that which is less so, and providing a
greater context for that news.”

The articulation of this goal responded to what Eli Pariser—formerly of MoveOn.org and now
founder and CEO of Upworthy—calls the “Filter Bubble”: an increased personalization of the
internet. Search engines, social media platforms and online news outlets apply highly
sophisticated algorithms to analyze our internet behaviors and customize our experience,
necessarily limiting our exposure to new ideas that might be critical to progressive social
discourse. We wanted to explore ways to circumvent and manipulate filter bubbles to broaden
the ocean conversation beyond the choir.

We also wanted to experiment with ways to modernize conservation communications, aligning


them with the language and speed of the internet. By monitoring spiking attention and online
conversation in real-time, we would quickly intervene in a conversation and inject ocean
content into popular conversations. By using humor, wit, hard-hitting facts and education and
recontextualization, we would create highly shareable content tailored to spread through social
spaces.

The Need for a Big Team Ocean

19
In our initial conversations, we learned quickly that many people in the ocean world felt they
operated in silos, focused on one topic, region, or issue. Competition in the marine conservation
space is real—“blue” organizations get only a small fraction of environmental funding. Indeed,
several of those with whom we spoke showed particular interest in and enthusiasm for our
mission when they fully appreciated that we would not be a part of that competition and would
be trying to find ways to make their work more effective. Our philosophy at Upwell is that we’re
part of a big Team Ocean that includes marine conservation organizations, marine scientists and
ocean activists. Our competition is Justin Bieber, not each other. While Team Ocean is anything
but small, most activists, researchers and free agents fly the ocean flag far below their own,
specialized flag on the pole. It was clear that we had to invent a new way to collaborate.

A primary way that we’d cut through the noise and make valuable content reach broader
audiences was to foster a bigger and more diverse network of ocean communicators. In our
early analyses of ocean conversations, we saw what nonprofit social media expert and trainer
Beth Kanter calls the rise of “free agents,” and a shift away from traditional nonprofit “fortress”
communications. Fortress institutions, Kanter asserts, “work hard to keep their communities
and constituents at a distance, pushing out messages and dictating strategy rather than listening
or building relationships.”

Welcome to the Fortress. Now please go away. Photo by Stuck in Customs

Increasingly, environmental NGOs—the fortresses—were not driving conversation. Free agents—


bloggers at Deep Sea News, managers of Facebook pages like I Fucking Love Science, and social
media savvy public figures like George Takei, to name a few—were generating conversation by
sharing irreverent content and engaging their followers in a more personal way. Citizen-led
efforts utilizing social media, like the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, are examples of

20
the power of decentralized communication.

We wanted to bridge and engage both these communities, helping organizations to chip away at
their fortress walls, and connecting free agents with the deep, science-based content that
organizations and academics could provide. Some organizations outside the ocean sector are
beginning to experiment with this. Greenpeace elevates examples of people-powered
organizing through its Digital Mobilisation Lab, and in December 2012, MoveOn.org embarked on
what they call a “bottom-up revolution,” empowering its supporters to determine what issues
and campaigns MoveOn throws its weight behind. Aside from polling members on issues to
work on, MoveOn also has a platform that allows members to upload or share content that can
bubble up into campaigns.

The key to our success—and thus, the success of the ocean conservation community—would
not be to blast new, shiny information into the interwebs, but rather to nurture and bridge
virtual and real-life distributed, diverse networks, and to leverage the combined reach and
power of those networks of communicators to participate in and amplify the best content and
campaigns. In inventing a new kind of collaboration, we’d provide the tools and the space, and
rely on the ever-growing community of ocean communicators to work together to make
change.

The Very Large Array in New Mexico harnesses a network of radio telescopes to increase its
listening power. Upwell does the same. But with social media networks rather than radio
telescopes.

21
We Shall Have Bigger Ears and Eyes
Into the Internet
If Upwell was going to operate on behalf of Team Ocean, we were going to need a way to
identify its members and assess our collective efforts. We needed a big picture perspective on
the ocean online. How many people were on our team? What were they talking about? Were we
getting our butt kicked, attention-wise, by I Can Haz Cheezburger? We needed to understand the
volume and character of online conversations about the ocean.

LOLrus: playing for both Team Ocean and Team Cheezburger [source]

Upwell recognized that the broadcast model of communications was insufficient for a
networked world in which attention and engagement are the primary currency. But we also
recognized that if online attention was a currency, the ocean was basically broke. Despite
widespread love for the actual thing, the ocean as represented online was a shadow of itself. Go
to the beach and the ocean was captivating. Go on Facebook and it was hard to find at all.

We began to develop what would become Big Listening, a methodology and philosophy, of
listening to dynamically evolving online conversations writ large. Our primary lens for assessing
success would be whether or not our shared purpose succeeded, not whether our organization
did. We would eschew the brand constraints that had crippled the ocean’s institutional voices
online and we would speak fluent internet. We would do everything we could to make the
ocean more famous on the internet, and we would use Big Listening to measure our progress.

22
Step change vs. Incremental Change [source]

Upwell entered this challenge looking for step change—a massive, discontinuous leap forward—
because the ocean needs a win that really matters. Since those initial developments, Big
Listening has gone from an abstract concept to a replicable, demonstrated methodology. Our big
window on Team Ocean has also had the fortuitous effect of developing new campaigning
techniques for which the ocean sector now has a competitive advantage. That advantage won’t
last forever.

Conditioning the Climate for


Change
As Kari Marie Norgaard notes in her book Living in Denial1 :

Before an issue can make it into a council meeting, onto picket signs, into the framing of a
local news story, or into a newspaper editorial, somebody has to start talking about it. ...
Conversation is the site for exchange of information and ideas, for human contact, and for
the building of community.

Upwell’s array of goals—to utilize the immediacy of online communications, experiment with
ways to increase the reach of valuable content, empower and foster a broader network of ocean
communicators, and enrich our understanding of the conversational ecosystem surrounding
ocean topics coalesced into our broader vision of “conditioning the climate for change.” We
believe that by getting more people talking about ocean issues and raising the baseline of
conversation, broader audiences will be more likely to take action, change behavior, and push
for policy change that will have positive effects for our oceans.

1 Norgaard, K. M. Living in Denial. 2011, Kindle Edition, location 809.

23
Metrics: Social Mentions
Our primary metric for understanding the conversations analyzed in this report is what we refer
to as a “social mention” (or “social item”). Upwell defines a social mention as the text inclusion
of a monitored keyword in a post on a social media platform like Twitter, Facebook, a blog,
mainstream news with an RSS feed, a forum/board, YouTube or Pinterest. Social mentions are
online acts of self-expression in which individuals, organizations and other entities invest (at
least) a small amount of social capital.

Social mentions have more in common with the


Other Metrics
Social Mentions metric of media hits than they do with the more
(not social mentions)
common, older PR and marketing metric of
Tweets and retweets Impressions impressions. Upwell focuses on counting and
analyzing social mentions (rather than
Mainstream news
articles with RSS Views impressions or online mentions) because we
feeds and comments believe that the number of people who choose
to take an action to create or share content is a
Posts, shares and better indicator of engagement than the number
comments on Clicks
of people who have simply seen (or could have
Facebook
seen) that content.
Likes / Loves / Favs
Blog posts and
[Facebook, Tumblr, It is worth noting that, while it is theoretically
comments
Twitter] possible to accurately count every single social
Re-blogs on tumblr mention on a topic, Upwell’s Big Listening
methodology focuses on characterizing
Forum or board posts conversations just thoroughly enough to
campaign successfully within them.

Furthermore, Upwell believes that social mentions are a


better leading indicator of willingness to take action for the What About “Likes”?
oceans than other communications metrics. This is because Likes, loves, and faves (different
social mentions represent actions, the choice of an terminology for different social
individual to risk a small amount of social capital by media platforms) are in a middle
associating their online identity with a piece of online ground. While they are not social
content. In aggregate, the volume of social mentions not mentions (as people are not
only represents the amount of attention being paid to a creating new content), they are
topic, but a forecast of potential campaign success. also not as passive as views or
impressions. While likes, loves,
The strength of a community, by our standards, is measured and faves are not counted by
not by its size, but rather by its engagement level. For Radian6, Upwell does measure
example, if one tweet has 12,000 impressions (the number them, when possible. However,
of people who follow the account that posted the tweet), for the purposes of this report we
we count the tweet the same way that we would count a have omitted these metrics since
tweet with 200 impressions. If a person or organization is they constitute only minimal

network-oriented, it would follow that their content would public engagement and can
require laborious, resource-
lead to more retweets, replies and/or mentions. If a tweet
intensive manual calculation.
goes out to 12,000 followers but gets zero retweets, it is less
of an indicator of willingness to take action than a tweet
that goes out to 200 followers and gets 10 retweets.

24
Methods: Big Listening
Introduction
Upwell employs Big Listening in order to understand the volume and character of online
conversations about ocean issues.

In our work to date, the team at Upwell has come to believe that there are three measurable
characteristics of the online ocean conversation. We are increasingly attentive to:

1. Constant level of conversational volume (Baseline),

2. Notable outliers in increased volume (spikes), and

3. Density of conversational hotspots (spike frequency).

Over time, we want to come to understand the role of all three as they contribute to
conditioning the climate for change. This section details the current state and maturity of
Upwell’s Big Listening practices, including our Baseline methodology and spike quantification
methodology.

What is Big Listening?


“Take things as they are. Punch when you have to punch. Kick when you have to kick.”
- Bruce Lee

As more and more of our conversation moves


online, the potential of big data to help advocacy
organizations understand the environment for their
works also increases. To seize this opportunity fully
requires setting aside preconceptions and engaging
with the world as it is, right now, not as it was
assumed to be nine months prior in a grant proposal.
In the words of Bruce Lee, you have to “take things
as they are,” and use immediate insights to inform
your actions.
Bruce Lee, strategic opportunist
Since November 2011, Upwell has been monitoring
the online ocean conversation on a daily basis to identify opportunities to use our distributed
network for online campaigning. We listen to eight primary ocean topics: Overfishing,
Sustainable Seafood, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), Oceans, Cetaceans (whales and dolphins),

25
Sharks, Tuna, Gulf of Mexico and Ocean Acidification. Our method of conversational analysis has
been called Big Listening, first by Micah Sifry of Personal Democracy Forum, and later by
nonprofit social media expert Beth Kanter.

Typically, Upwell has used Big Listening to inform campaigns that are then implemented across
our distributed network of evangelists, influencers and social media managers in order to spread
the marine conservation conversation beyond the "ocean sector" (beyond ocean conservation
organizations and marine scientists). During and after our campaigns, we use the same Big
Listening methodology to measure how many social mentions (e.g., tweets, Facebook posts,
blog posts) happened in real time.

Big Listening is the art and practice of tracking topical online conversations over time—
listening to what “the internet,” writ large, is talking about. When combined with data-informed
campaigning, Big Listening provides a methodology for increasing both the frequency and
volume of online conversation around a particular issue. The basic idea is to identify pockets of
real-time or historical conversation, wherever they may be, and then to use that information to
make the conversation grow bigger. Big Listening is distinguished from traditional social media
monitoring by its scale, fluidity, focus on issue or cause monitoring, and expanded access to
historical data.

We are not alone in innovating in online conversation. Big corporations, their brands and the
military are all attempting to make sense of the new networked landscape, whether we realize
it’s there or not. From Target predicting a teenage girl was pregnant through her purchase
pattern, or the Obama campaign stitching together millions of voter records with proprietary
consumer datasets, this cloud-based, networked, indexable world is here to stay.

At Nestle, the largest food company in the


world, they have gotten the message. After
reaching the peak (or perhaps the trough) of
social media mismanagement during a
Greenpeace campaign that targeted the use of
palm oil in Kit Kats, the company dramatically
ramped up their online listening through their
Digital Acceleration Team. As profiled in a
recent Reuters story, the team operates out of
a social media war room. Radian6 widgets
gleam on wall-mounted flat screen monitors
as employees fight for the reputation of,
A view inside Nestle’s Digital Acceleration among other Nestle products, the plastic
Team water bottle industry.2

2 http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/10/26/uk-nestle-online-water-idUKBRE89P07Q20121026

26
Our war room is a little different. Instead of monitoring a corporate brand or a product, we
monitor the brand of the ocean, focusing on sustainable seafood and overfishing. Whereas
Nestle’s listening topics are comparatively static and focused on their company properties, ours
flow and evolve with the dynamic cause or movement-based conversations that we monitor.
This distinction in listening, between the static product and brand conversations typified by
Nestle, and the shape-shifting, dynamic ocean conversations that Upwell follows, is significant,
and a key distinction of Big Listening as we define and practice it. We should note that when
Nestle D.A.T. members monitor the plastic water bottle conversation as a whole, rather than
their company’s share of it, they are practicing something more similar to what we do at Upwell.

Baseline Methodology
What is a Baseline?
Upwell practices Big Listening on English-language conversations in the following eight topic
areas: Overfishing, Sustainable Seafood, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), Oceans, Cetaceans
(whales and dolphins), Sharks, Tuna, Gulf of Mexico and Ocean Acidification. For each topic,
both real-time and historical data provide essential context for understanding the volume,
evolution and characteristics of the overall conversation.

Each topic we monitor is characterized and defined by a set of search terms (including
exclusions) that we refine on an ongoing basis. While we recognize the limitations of “keyword
groups,” such as their reliance on text-based results and the absence of contextual awareness,
they do provide a powerful tool for analyzing online attention. The development and active
refinement of keyword groups is at the heart of Big Listening methodology.

We use Big Listening in order to:

• identify and target high-value items for campaign purposes,

• compare the relative size of different ocean sub issues (e.g. sharks vs. whales), and

• measure the impact of our campaigns.

Since Upwell is a campaign agency (among other things), we needed a way to characterize these
conversations as they exist, absent our interventions. Enter the Baseline. Baselines help us to
anchor campaign performance targets in measures of past conversational volume. We set goals
informed by the Baseline (as well as by spikes), and then campaign to meet and exceed those
targets.

Upwell informally defines a conversation’s Baseline at the point below which the daily volume
doesn’t drop. It can be thought of as a floor (although it is often quite high—in the tens of
thousands for a conversation like Cetaceans) or as the number of social mentions performed

27
each day by the topic’s diehard conversationalists. If
everyone else left the party, the Baseline would still be
there, dancing by itself.

The Baseline: Up Close and


Personal
Upwell’s Baseline methodology has evolved to capture
the highly dynamic conversations we watch, especially
cyclical variations by day of the week. These cyclical
variations often result from usage and posting patterns.
For example, people tend to talk on the internet when
Robyn: euro popstar, solitary dancer,
they’re at work. Over the course of our pilot phase,
human Baseline metaphor
Upwell has used three different version of Baseline
methodology to better measure the dynamic online
conversation space:

• Baseline v1.0: The lowest level of daily social mentions for a given conversation, for a given
period (implemented using Upwell topical keyword groups) [in use through late August
2012]

• Baseline v2.0: The median daily social mentions for a given conversation/keyword group
for a given period [in use through mid-November 2012]

• Baseline v3.0: The average of the lowest 10% of social mention values for a topic on a given
day of the week [in use through early January 2013]

• Baseline v3.1: The average of the lowest 20% of social mention values for a topic on a
given day of the week [currently in use]

Our Baseline quantification methodology was created with input from leaders in the field
including: K. D. Payne, Chairman & founder of Salience/ KDPaine & Partners, and co-author of
the recently released Measuring The Networked Nonprofit; leading nonprofit technologist and
Packard Fellow, Beth Kanter; and a senior educational policy analyst for a leading national
measurement/ social statistics firm contracted by the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation
and the U.S. Department of Education.

To calculate the Baseline for a particular topic we begin by compiling all available social
mention data for the period since we started monitoring it (mid-October 2011 or later, depending
on the topic). We then disaggregate the data by the day of the week in order to deal with cyclical
variations in post volume and compare Mondays to Mondays, and Sundays to Sundays. Once
that’s done we calculate the average (mean) of the lowest 20% of values for each of the seven
days. Taken together, those day-of-the-week values are what we refer to as the Baseline.

28
We selected the mean to establish a specific value for each day of the week for three reasons.
First, the mean is the starting point for calculating standard deviations used in our spike
quantification methodology. Second, given the small size of most ocean conversations, the
mean is the most typically consistent and available measurement when analyzing the
conversation on a by day-of-the-week basis.

Baseline Social Mentions by Day-of-Week for Upwell’s Sustainable Seafood keyword group
(10/17/11 - 1/29/13).

These daily Baseline values are then graphed against social mention data over time. The graph
below shows the result.

29
Social mentions for Upwell’s Sustainable Seafood keyword group vs. Upwell’s Sustainable
Seafood Baseline, June 1, 2012 - August 1, 2012.

Context and Challenges for Baseline


Quantification
As seen in the overfishing and sustainable seafood conversations, day-of-the-week periodicity is
highly evident in social mention volume, largely driven by mention increases during U.S.
working hours across Eastern to Pacific time zones, and with substantial drop offs on weekends.
Using the current Baseline as a reference for setting campaign goals removes the disincentives
present in previous Baseline quantifications to campaign on lower volume days, and gives a
more accurate picture of success on all campaign days.

Our campaign efforts, along with unexpected conversational developments (e.g., the release of a
new report or a natural disaster) require us to add new terms to the relevant keyword group so
that our work, or online mentions of a relevant, unanticipated event, is captured in our search
terms. In the inevitable cases where we find noise in the results returned by particular terms (old
and new), we respond by tightening or removing those terms from the keyword group.

30
Since keyword groups have keywords added and subtracted on an ongoing basis, there are some
inherent challenges. How should Baseline calculations account for these changes? How and
when should Baselines be refreshed? Should campaign targets be refreshed retrospectively?
How should we treat a spike that loses or gains volume with a refreshed keyword group?
Moving forward, Upwell will continue to drive innovations in our Baseline methodology and in
the integration of that methodology into our campaign process.

Finding the Baseline


Developing a Baseline for a topic or conversation requires an iterative process of definition,
testing and measurement. And once you’ve got it, you have to refresh it to account for
conversational evolutions. It’s like a marriage in that way, or so we’re told.

Measuring something requires you to define it. The trick in measuring a conversation is that
conversations change over time as participants engage in dialogue. As conversations
dynamically evolve over time, so too do the methods of expression (i.e. terminology, imagery,
metaphors, etc.), the composition of participants, and the accompanying platforms. Much like
species evolution, these changes are not always in a direction that we perceive to be fruitful.
Evolution can lead to progress just as it can lead to dead-ends or fragmentation. Because of this,
no conversational “listening” can ever be exhaustive (as some elements of the conversation will
always be overlooked), nor can it be perfectly accurate (as noise will always creep in). This is
why we continue to add and subtract terms to our Baseline keyword groups. Ongoing
monitoring and modification of a Baseline keyword group is the most effective way to keep that
keyword group refreshed and accurate. Since designing a keyword is as much about selective
addition as selective omission, our ability to effectively evolve keywords and keyword groups is
informed just as much by our listening practice with Radian6 as it is by our personal listening,
professional network and subject matter expertise. No robot can do this, although some are
trying, and interns probably can’t do it either.

In “baselining” a conversation, Upwell begins by developing a conceptual framework for the


topic in question. For the purposes of explanation, let’s imagine our topic is marine debris. We
would begin our Baseline development process by outlining the conceptual and temporal
boundaries of analysis for marine debris. The temporal aspect is important because a keyword
group developed for one time period may lose significant accuracy (and utility) when applied to
another period. For the conceptual outlines we often make use of a mind map such as the one
for Oceans shown below.

31
Upwell mind map for Oceans keywords, January 2012

For marine debris the concept map would include items such as marine trash, the pacific gyre,
marine plastics, great pacific garbage patch, seaplex (minus exclusions for the botanical
shampoo of the same name), albatross AND plastic. The concept map would also include people,
campaigns, expeditions and organizations such as Miriam Goldstein (a marine debris expert),
The Trash Free Seas Alliance, the Plastiki, and Seaplex.

The concept map becomes a design artifact for further conversations about the conversation.
Although we sometimes shortcut this process in the interests of time, we refine the map
through a series of discussions and email exchanges with subject matter experts and
knowledgeable people in the industry or industries at play.

Once we have a solid map of the conversation, we turn the map into a series of keywords.
Keywords are textual search terms, much like something you might google. A keyword for
Upwell, for example, would be “Upwell.” It might also be a distinctive phrase (or fragment
thereof) such as our tagline, “the ocean is our client.” A keyword, in this way, can actually be a
number of elements (such as multiple words in a phrase) despite its singular form. This fact will
become more important as we discuss more of those elements. A collection of keywords is
called a keyword group, and search results for keyword groups are the foundational output of
Big Listening.

A couple wrinkles make the construction of keywords and keyword groups significantly more
challenging than one might expect. The first is noise. When you type something into a Google
search bar and click on a result, you are deploying a potent combination of Google’s massive

32
computational power, billions of dollars in said company’s algorithmic investments, and the
concentrated smarts of your own interpretive brainpower. The last element is particularly
important. Whereas Google displays dozens, if not thousands of search results for you to choose
from—and then asks you to filter those results—the keyword queries we construct for Big
Listening must be built so as to filter out as much noise as possible. To return to friend-of-
Upwell Miriam Goldstein, mentioned above for her marine debris expertise, a well-constructed
keyword group for that subject would probably not include her name as a standalone keyword—
the reason being that she talks about other, non-marine-debris subjects as well. Entering
“Miriam Goldstein” as a keyword nets you any mention of her full name, whether that takes the
shape of a blog post about ocean trash or a friend’s tweet referencing her attendance at a
particularly yummy brunch meeting. What you leave out of a keyword or keyword group is as
important as what you put in.

Pruning out extraneous results through proper keyword construction brings us to the second
wrinkle: exclusions. Exclusions are also textual search terms, but their purpose is to filter out
results that match their terms. Exclusions can be tied to specific keywords or to entire keyword
groups. A well-constructed (or scoped) exclusion can be the difference between finding online
mentions of sharks, the creatures, or finding online mentions of the San Jose Sharks, the hockey
team (creatures of a different sort). Exclusions can filter out things beyond keywords (such as
entire categories of website domains, particular geographies of origin, or what a computer
determines to be a particular language) using a variety of tools used in Big Listening—source
filters, to give one example.

Another wrinkle in keyword construction is proximity. Proximity is not available in every tool
that might be applied in a Big Listening process but it is present in Radian6, our tool of choice at
the moment. Proximity is a modifier that can be applied to two or more words in a keyword, say
“marine” and “debris.” Proximity, denoted by “~”, tells the tool/service how close a set of words
must be in order to return a match. Closeness basically means: how many other words come in
between? If we were to set proximity to zero for “marine debris,” Radian6 would return only
items that include that exact phrase. If we set proximity to three, for example, we might get
results such as “marine layer clotted with debris.” That distinction becomes increasingly
important when Radian6 scrapes long forum discussions, news articles or blog posts in which a
topic might be mentioned in an extremely peripheral manner. Proximity provides another tool
to scope a given keyword and focus the results in a particular way.

Keyword development feeds into an ongoing measurement process of Scope / Test / Adapt /
Share. The cycle is presented below.

33
SCOPE
Initial investigation

• Outline the conceptual and temporal boundaries of analysis for the topic

• In consultation with subject-matter experts and other stakeholders, create a seed list of
topics, subtopics, potential online influencers, and known online sources, events, and
campaigns

TEST
Generating preliminary keywords

• Use the seed list to develop initial keyword inputs for online search and social media
monitoring services

• Develop a more detailed set of keywords

• Verify keyword accuracy and relevance using Radian6 to graph and spot-check search
results, adding exclusion terms to filter extraneous results/noise, or various degrees of
proximity to widen the net

34
ADAPT
Refining keyword groups

• Share keyword lists with key informants (subject experts, foundation staff, campaigners
etc.) and incorporate feedback (e.g., additional terms, scope adjustments)

• Repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 with updated keywords

Cultivating and maintaining keywords

• Campaign or otherwise monitor keyword group results on an ongoing basis

• Update Baseline keyword groups with new inclusions and exclusions based on current
events, campaigns and other developments (while always testing for the introduction of
noise, per step 5)

• On an as-needed basis, generally after at least three months of listening, share Baseline
keyword groups with subject matter experts and other groups to gather feedback and
potential improvements

SHARE
Exporting and preparing data

• On a monthly, quarterly or to-order basis, export Big Listening data based on the most
current keyword groups

• Recalculate Baseline values

• Graph and annotate charts with spike identifications

Packaging and distributing insights

• Create reports, blog posts and other types of synthesis for external audiences

Improving the methodology

• Gather feedback and process what we’ve discovered

• Iterate our overall set of procedures

A crucial detail of the final stage of this process is the fact that exporting the data freezes it in
time. To offer a contemporary example, all of the data in this report was current as of the end of
January 2013, and then it was frozen in a spreadsheet. It’s important to remember that the
conversations we monitor continue to change, even as we’re measuring and reporting on them.

Because the exported data is a snapshot of results for a particular conversation’s keyword group,

35
as it existed at a particular time (of export), from a particular tool (or combination of tools), the
resulting values cannot and should not be separated from the keyword group that produced
them. Furthermore, due to the item volume returned by some of the larger keyword groups,
exporting data will sometimes produce variations in measurements for the same hour, day or
time period. This variation is due to the tools we use and is generally extremely small given the
scale of the topics we’re monitoring. These two factors combine to reinforce our belief that Big
Listening data can only be fully interpreted if the underlying keywords are available—anything
less is a black box.

Spike Quantification
What is a Spike?
A spike is a significant increase in online attention for a particular topic. When you graph those
social mentions, you can actually see that burst of attention ‘spike’ the graph—hence the name.

We have been observing spikes in the wild, so to speak, since the beginning of Upwell. It’s a
concept that is at least somewhat familiar to anyone who has ever described a video as “viral,”
or checked out the list of the most shared articles on the New York Times website. A lot of
people sharing one thing over a short time creates a spike. In the world of Big Listening, that one
thing they share can actually be a large number of different things on the same topic, but the
general point remains the same. Surges in attention create spikes. So how do you measure one?

Let’s revisit that graph of the Sustainable Seafood keyword group that we looked at earlier.

36
Social mentions for Upwell’s Sustainable Seafood keyword group vs. Upwell’s Sustainable
Seafood Baseline, June 1, 2012 - August 1, 2012.

It seems pretty clear that there are two spikes in this time period. One appears on June 8, the
other on June 16. But what about the other days? How far above the Baseline does social
mention volume have to be in order to qualify as a spike? We set out to find a way to compare
spikes that would answer the question.

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that social mention volume for a given day is a
construct. We decided to use a day as the operating unit of time both because the tools we have
available to us use that temporal distinction, and because a day as a unit of measurement is
widely understood. That is not to say that one couldn’t decide to measure spikes by the hour, by
the minute, or by some other amount of time. We made a conscious decision to build our initial
definition of a spike around the day, but infinite other options exist as well.

A second caveat is that focusing on spikes may obscure what is actually making up the long tail
of post volume. Upwell talks about, and quantifies, much of this activity as the Baseline, but
there may be other small-to-medium bursts of attention that last more than a day and
consequently don’t visually ‘spike’ a graph in the same way (think of a multi-day increase in

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attention as a hump or a mesa, rather than the taller, more angular spike). Spikes look good on
charts, and they help push conversations into the wider internet, but they are not the whole
story of an online topic. We long for a day when tools for Big Listening allow us to view topic
volume graphs like geologists look at cross-sections of rocks—that day is not here yet.

With those caveats out of the way we can return to our earlier question: what is a spike?
Remember from our discussion of Baseline quantification that Upwell’s analysis is designed to
inform a set of interventionist activities. We:

• identify and target high-value items to campaign on;

• compare the relative size of different ocean sub issues (e.g. sharks vs. whales); and

• measure the impact of our campaigns.

Spike quantification informs our campaigning and provides one measure of results. We’re not
interested in just contributing to the noise around a given ocean topic, we actually want to help
a signal to emerge. Spikes are those signals. Evaluating opportunities to campaign becomes a
much more concrete activity when you know exactly how many social mentions are needed to
break through the regular volume of conversation.

After examining historical social mention volume for our Sustainable Seafood and Overfishing
keyword groups, we calculated a variety of statistical thresholds for the exported data and
compared the results to our measured campaign and spike data. As discussed earlier, Upwell’s
Baseline calculations are derived from the insight that our primary ocean topics each
demonstrate a weekly periodicity. Similarly, in calculating potential thresholds for what
constitutes a spike, we started with that same insight and then calculated various multiples of
standard deviation above the average (mean) value for that day of the week. Because standard
deviation measures how spread out the values within a data set are, using it to measure a
particular value’s variation from the “normal” value of that data set is a good way to test for a
spike. Spikes are visible because they’re outliers, and that’s what the standard deviation
threshold(s) tests.

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Day-of-the-week values for the Sustainable Seafood Baseline, along with the Sustainable
Seafood mean, and mean +1x, +1.5x and +2x standard deviations (10/17/11 - 1/29/13). [Source]

As seen above, the standard deviation thresholds are higher than both the Baseline and the
mean. Graphing those thresholds against our campaign and event records revealed that the one
standard deviation threshold was the most accurate representation of what we were observing
on a day-to-day basis.

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Social mentions for Upwell’s Sustainable Seafood keyword group vs. Upwell’s Sustainable
Seafood Baseline vs. ‘Mean + 1 Standard Deviation’ Spike Threshold (June 1, 2012 - August 1,
2012)

Upwell defines a spike as occurring when the social mention volume for a given day meets or
exceeds one standard deviation from the mean of all recorded values for that same day of the
week.

While a critic might accuse us of working backwards to find the threshold that gives the best fit,
we would actually agree. Sustainable Seafood and Overfishing are the topics that we know the
best—because we’ve monitored them and campaigned on them with the most focus—and we
were looking for a metric that would have practical implications for attention campaigns. As
mentioned before, we remain open to other spike quantification approaches but this one is our
preferred option, given what we know right now.

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What Does Spike Quantification Tell Us?
Upwell’s spike quantification methodology is in alpha, so to speak, and going forward we will
look to improve it. The possibilities for more comparative measures of success are numerous.
One thing is certain, however: applying a spike quantification lens to our work is illuminating.

Spike comparison beta methodology?

The graphs on the following pages show our first Winter in 2011 and most recent Winter in 2012
working in the Overfishing and Sustainable Seafood conversations. Both one standard deviation
and two standard deviation threshold lines are included for reference.

The comparison in time periods for both conversations is dramatic. There is a noticeable
increase in spike frequency (the number of spikes), spike volume or  “spikiness” (see: the number
of spikes exceeding two standard deviations), and in the overall volume of conversation in the
time period as measured against the Baseline. To be blunt: this is what success looks like.

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Sustainable Seafood: Winter 2011

Social mentions by day for Upwell’s Sustainable Seafood keyword group, as compared to the
Sustainable Seafood Baseline, as well as to spike thresholds of one standard deviation and two
standard deviations above the day-of-the-week mean (10/17/2011 - 1/31/12). Total post volume:
45,255 social mentions over 107 days. Average volume / day: 423 social mentions.

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Sustainable Seafood: Winter 2012

Social mentions by day for Upwell’s Sustainable Seafood keyword group, as compared to the
Sustainable Seafood Baseline, as well as to spike thresholds of one standard deviation and two
standard deviations above the day-of-the-week mean (10/1/2012 - 1/29/2013). Total post volume:
66,456 social mentions over 121 days. Average volume / day: 549 social mentions.

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Overfishing: Winter 2011

Social mentions by day for Upwell’s Overfishing keyword group, as compared to the Overfishing
Baseline, as well as to spike thresholds of one standard deviation and two standard deviations
above the day-of-the-week mean (10/17/2011 - 1/31/12). Total post volume: 211,799 social
mentions over 107 days. Average volume / day: 1,979 social mentions.

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Overfishing: Winter 2012

Social mentions by day for Upwell’s Overfishing keyword group, as compared to the Overfishing
baseline, as well as spike thresholds of one standard deviation and two standard deviations
above the day-of-the-week mean (10/1/2012 - 1/29/13). Total post volume: 409,692 social
mentions over 121 days. Average volume / day: 3,386 social mentions.

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Keyword Sets
The following search terms are Upwell Radian6 keyword sets for Upwell’s primary campaign
topics—Sustainable Seafood and Overfishing—as of the writing of this report, along with a brief
description of what each keyword group is designed to capture. As online content and context
continually changes, keyword groups should ideally be monitored and refined on an ongoing
basis as well. A keyword that returns noise-free results for one period of time may be filled with
unrelated results for another. Upwell’s keyword groups were designed for the time periods
specified in each description.

Fishing and Seafood: Sustainable Seafood


Primary Keyword Group: Sustainable Seafood
Earliest Data: 10/17/2011
Keywords: "#seafoodsummit", "#ss12hk", "@leodicaprio" AND "@upwell_us", "@seafoodwatch",
"@upwell_us" AND "vote4stuff", "alaska salmon", "alaskan salmon", "aquaculture dialogs",
"aquaculture dialogues", "aquaculture stewardship council", "barton seaver", "big listerner",
"bitly.com/wppomr", "bittman" AND "tuna" AND "safeway", "cannibal endtimes lobster"~6,
"cannibalistic lobsters" AND "end times", "cannibalistic lobsters overfishing"~20, "casson trenor",
"catch limits", "catch shares", "chefs collaborative" AND "seafood", "cruel new fact of crustacean
life" AND "lobster cannibalism", "davidsuzukifdn lobsters into cannibals"~9, "dungeness crab",
"environmentally responsible seafood", "f.a.d.-free" AND "tuna", "f.a.d.-free tuna comes to
safeway", "fad-free" AND "tuna", "fao" AND "fisheries", "fishing quotas", "fishphone", "fishwatch",
"food and agriculture organization" AND "seafood", "friend of the sea", "green chefs blue ocean",
"how safeway ended up selling cheap, responsibly-caught store brand tuna", "http://
bittman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/02/fad-free-tuna-comes-to-safeway-affordably/", "http://
twitpic.com/bli9ak", "http://www.bethkanter.org/listener/", "h"#biglistener", ttp://
www.fastcoexist.com/node/1680610", "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmkevhbejla",
"https://bitly.com/wppomr", "international seafood sustainability foundation", "issf" AND
"fishing", "kanter" AND "big listener", "kanter" AND "big listening", "lack of predators lobster-on-
lobster violence", "leodicaprio" AND "upwell", "marine stewardship council", "maximum
sustainable yield", "menhaden" AND "sustainability", "menhaden" AND "sustainable", "no
overfishing guaranteed"~4, "ocean acidification" AND "google earth", "ocean wise", "ocean-
friendly aquaculture", "ocean-friendly seafood", "oysters" AND "sustainability", "oysters" AND
"sustainable", "political porpoise", "precautionary principle" AND "seafood", "responsibly caught
tuna"~3, "reuters" AND "lobster cannibalism", "safeway sustainable tuna"~15, "seafood choices
alliance", "seafood consumer guide", "seafood ecolabel", "seafood fraud is a serious issue",
"seafood pocket guide", "seafood ratings", "seafood summit", "seafood sustainability", "seafood
watch", "seafoodwatch", "sustainable fisheries", "sustainable fisheries act", "sustainable
fisherman", "sustainable fishermen", "sustainable fishery", "sustainable seafood", "sustainable
seafood"~9, "sustainable sushi", "sustainable" AND "tilapia", "the lobsters in maine are eating

46
each other", "upwell_us" AND "big listener", "upwell_us" AND "big listening", "vote4ocean",
"vote4stuff" AND "ocean", "vote4theoceans", "why your nonprofit should be a big listener"

EXCLUDES (on the keyword group level): n/a

Fishing and Seafood: Overfishing


Primary Keyword Group: Overfishing - All
Earliest Data: 10/17/2011
Keywords:"#ioysterny", "#jointhewatch", "#saveoursharks", "#savesharks",
"#whofishesmatters", "@4fishgreenberg on #sandy and the missing oysters", "@4fishgreenberg"
AND "oysters", "@georgehleonard" AND "#prop37", "@leodicaprio" AND "@upwell_us",
"@livestrong" AND "shark", "@livestrong" AND "sharks", "@livestrong_com" AND "shark",
"@livestrong_com" AND "sharks", "@upwell_us" AND "vote4stuff", "a requiem for proposition
37", "an oyster in the storm", "aquaculture", "atlantic salmon" AND "endangered", "atlantic
salmon" AND "sustainability", "atlantic salmon" AND "sustainable", "atlantic salmon" AND
"unsustainable", "big listerner", "bigeye tuna", "biomass" AND "fish", "biomass" AND "fisheries",
"biomass" AND "fishery", "biomass" AND "seafood", "bitly.com/wppomr", "bluefin down 96"~9,
"bluefin drop 96"~9, "bluefin tuna", "bottom trawling", "bycatch", "cannibal endtimes lobster"~6,
"cannibalistic lobsters" AND "end times", "cannibalistic lobsters overfishing"~20, "catch limit",
"catch limits", "catch shares", "cathay pacific" AND "shark", "cathay pacific" AND "sharks",
"cathay" AND "shark", "cathay" AND "sharks", "cathaypacific" AND "sharkfin", "cathaypacific" AND
"sharkfinning", "ccamlr" AND "antarctic", "charting a course to sustainable fisheries", "chile
fishing reforms seamounts"~12, "chile seamount protect"~12, "chile seamount protects"~12,
"chilean seabass", "chn.ge/rywaqp", "conserve fish", "cruel new fact of crustacean life" AND
"lobster cannibalism", "daniel pauly", "davidsuzukifdn lobsters into cannibals"~9, "decline" AND
"fish" AND -"fish oils" AND -"fish oil", "d"#biglistener", ecline" AND "fisheries", "decline" AND
"fishery", "declining" AND "fisheries", "deep sea perch", "defend your right to protect america’s
#ocean fish", "depletion of fisheries", "derek riley" AND "garbage", "derek riley" AND "ignorance",
"destructive fishing practices", "don't restrict my access to information about managing our
ocean fish", "fin-free" AND "shark", "fin-free" AND "sharks", "fish stocks" AND "depleted", "fish
stocks" AND "depletion", "fishageddon", "fishery" AND "collapse", "fishery conservation",
"fishery" AND "declining", "fishery policy", "fishery regulation", "fishing ban", "fishing policy",
"fishing quota", "fishing quotas", "for storms to come, we’d better start planting a lot more
oysters", "gangnam gp_warrior"~12, "gangnam greenpeace"~9, "gangnam" AND "rainbow
warrior", "genetically engineered salmon in our food supply?", "gmo salmon", "great white" AND
"this is not a parody", "guardian" AND "kreyola", "guardian" AND "rapper" AND "shark", "harvest
control rule" AND "fisheries", "harvest control rules" AND "fisheries", "health of the fishery", "how
social media can save sharks", "how to kill a great white", "http://grist.org/food/beyond-red-lists-
the-power-of-community-supported-fisheries/", "http://gu.com/p/394bh/tw", "http://
newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/09/25/how-social-media-can-save-sharks/", "http://
twitpic.com/baoium", "http://twitpic.com/bli9ak", "http://vimeo.com/45490562", "http://

47
www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2012/jul/17/shark-fin-rap", "http://www.smh.com.au/
opinion/blogs/the-tiger-of-happiness/how-to-kill-a-great-white-20121101-28lpt.html", "http://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmkevhbejla", "https://bitly.com/wppomr", "https://
www.change.org/petitions/livestrong-com-stop-featuring-sharks-as-food", "https://
www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=551400681552421&set=a.
462046150487875.121490.414612275231263", "https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?
fbid=551400681552421&set=a.462046150487875.121490.414612275231263&type=1&theater",
"huffpostgreen ted damson blogs about chile's fishing reforms"~9, "huffpostgreen ted danson it
takes political courage"~9, "i got a bad reputation because i'm a shark", "i (oyster) ny", "i oyster
ny", "ifq" AND "fish", "ifq" AND "fisheries", "ifq" AND "fishery", "ifq" AND "seafood", "illegal" AND
"fishing" AND -"illegal immigrant" AND -"illegal immigrants", "illegal" AND "unreported" AND
"unregulated" AND "fishing", "incidental catch", "individual fishing quota", "individual
transferable quotas", "itq" AND "fishing", "iuu" AND "fishing", "jaws vs frank sinatra", "kanter"
AND "big listener", "kanter" AND "big listening", "koolkidkreyola" AND "shark", "kreayshawn" AND
"shark fin", "kreyola" AND "shark" AND -"crayon", "kreyola shark"~20, "lack of predators lobster-
on-lobster violence"~9, "leodicaprio" AND "upwell", "livestrong" AND "shark", "livestrong" AND
"sharks", "livestrong.com" AND "shark", "livestrong.com" AND "sharks", "magnuson stevens",
"magnuson-stevens", "me and my shark fin", "missionmission" AND "pangeaseed",
"missionmission" AND "shark mural", "monkfish" AND "endangered", "monkfish" AND
"sustainability", "monkfish" AND "sustainable", "national marine fisheries service", "nmfs", "no
more shark fin", "no more shark fins", "no shark fin", "no shark fins", "no to shark fin", "no to
shark fins", "orange roughie", "orange roughy", "over fishing", "over-fishing", "overfish",
"overfished", "overfishing", "oysterny", "panel says oyster beds can help protect ny from storms",
"patagonian toothfish", "plummet" AND "fisheries", "plummet" AND "fishery", "political porpoise",
"predator's defense" AND "rapper", "predator's defense shark"~9, "protect sharks", "protecting
sharks", "red roughie", "red roughy", "report shows pacific bluefin tuna population down 96.4
percent", "reuters" AND "lobster cannibalism", "sandy commission set up by @nygovcuomo
believes in oysters", "save sharks", "saving" AND "fisheries", "saving" AND "fishery", "say no by
voting yes" AND "37", "say no by voting yes" AND "prop37", "scrapes the seafloor smooth",
"scraping the seafloor smooth", "shark airline"~10, "shark airlines"~10, "shark cargo"~10, "shark"
AND "endangered", "shark fin" AND "ban", "shark fin" AND "banned", "shark fin" AND "banning",
"shark fin" AND "bans", "shark fin" AND "cause", "shark fin" AND "consume", "shark fin" AND
"eat", "shark fin" AND "export", "shark fin" AND "exporting", "shark fin" AND "exports", "shark fin"
AND "illegal", "shark fin" AND "import", "shark fin" AND "importing", "shark fin" AND "imports",
"shark fin" AND "industry", "shark fin" AND "issue", "shark fin" AND "menu", "shark fin" AND
"outlaw", "shark fin" AND "products", "shark fin rap"~9, "shark fin" AND "report", "shark fin" AND
"restaurant", "shark fin" AND "restauranteur", "shark fin" AND "sales", "shark fin soup", "shark fin"
AND "study", "shark fin" AND "supplier", "shark fin" AND "supply", "shark fin" AND "trade", "shark
fin traders", "shark finning", "shark finning" AND "rap", "shark fins" AND "ban", "shark fins" AND
"banning", "shark flights"~10, "shark planes"~10, "sharkfin", "sharkfinning", "sharks as food",
"sharks" AND "cites", "sharks" AND "endangered", "slimehead", "stop russia (@mfa_russia) &
korea (@mofatkr_eng)", "storm panel recommends major changes in new york",
"suspendthefishery", "sustainable fisheries act", "swordfish" AND "endangered", "swordfish" AND

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"sustainability", "swordfish" AND "sustainable", "swordfish" AND "unsustainable", "the lobsters in
maine are eating each other", "toro" AND "sashimi", "toro" AND "sushi", "total allowable catch",
"trawling" AND "fish", "troubled fisheries", "turtle excluder device", "twitpic.com/baoium",
"unagi" AND "endangered", "unagi" AND "sustainability", "unagi" AND "sustainable", "unagi" AND
"unsustainable", "unassessed fisheries", "unsustainable fish", "unsustainable fish"~6,
"unsustainable fisheries"~6, "unsustainable fishing", "unsustainable seafood", "unsustainable
seafood"~6, "upwell_us" AND "big listener", "upwell_us" AND "big listening", "vote4ocean",
"vote4stuff" AND "ocean", "vote4theoceans", "want to protect new york from future storms?
plant some oysters.", "what are seamounts? and why does chile want to protect them?", "white
hake", "whitetip" AND "@interior", "whitetip" AND "cites", "whitetip" AND "congress", "who fishes
matters", "why your nonprofit should be a big listener", "withering" AND "fisheries", "withering"
AND "fishery", "yellowfin tuna"

EXCLUDES (on the keyword group level): "hugh jackman", "snapback"

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Methods: Campaigning
The mission of Upwell is to condition the climate for change in marine conservation, and ready
people to take action. In order to do this, our team sifts through the vast amount of real-time
online content about the ocean and amplifies the best of it. Upwell’s campaigning model
capitalizes on the insights we glean from Big Listening and other curation efforts, and responds
to the currents of online conversation. And through an iterative process of lots and lots of
campaign testing, we find ways to create spikes of attention in conversations, and we hope
ultimately to raise the day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, year-to-year baseline of
those conversations.

What is an Upwell campaign?


Upwell’s campaigning model combines a few key elements. Our campaigns are attention
campaigns, focused on raising attention to ocean issues. They are minimum viable campaigns,
operating on short time-frames and focused on rapid delivery of content, continuous learning
and iteration. They are run and amplified across a distributed network, rather than being housed
on and amplified by way of our own platforms.

The Attention Campaign


The nonprofit community has deeply-held ideas of what constitutes a campaign. Often,
organizations build campaigns with institutional goals (e.g., awareness, list-building, advocacy
and fundraising campaigns) and compete with other entities in the same sector/issue space.
Upwell’s attention campaigns operate on a different plane, one in which success (greater
attention) elevates the work of everyone in Team Ocean and is tied to no particular institutional
outcome other than generating conversation.

What we do with attention campaigns is try to drive more attention to existing content and
actions that are not on our properties. They’re not associated with our brand. We use this loosely
held connection, tying into the momentum of the news cycle and being strategically
opportunistic in the pursuit of creating spikes in attention.

We focus on shareability, and measure our success by the same, simple attention metric we use
to measure online conversations: social mentions. Social mentions are the currency of attention,
and represent small bits of action. In contrast, awareness is a less meaningful measurement,
representing what someone thinks they might do, not what they have done.

Over time, we believe that increased attention to ocean issues will raise the daily baseline of
conversation about ocean issues. We have been experimenting with trying to understand what

50
makes baselines go above the expected or historical level (i.e., what causes spikes in
conversation), with an eye toward making these increases in attention sustainable.

The Minimum Viable Campaign


“You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you
get it built, they'll want something new.” - Steve Jobs 3

On the advice of Sean Power, Data Scientist at I Can Haz Cheezburger, Upwell has adapted an
agile development principle from the  lean startup movement—the minimum viable product.
Our campaign lifecycle embodies the Build-Measure-Learn cycle that software developers have
used in order to quickly release products with the minimum amount of functional features, in
order to gather immediate insight that can inform later iterations.

The cycle of agile software development

Through our minimum viable campaigns, we employ ongoing, iterative, continuous delivery of
content, resisting our urges toward perfection and providing irreverent, timely, contextual
content to audiences immediately instead of strategizing for six months or a year. We focus on
the quickest, dirtiest thing we can get out the door that we think will have a measurable effect
on a conversation.

Our campaigns have short lifecycles—anywhere from a couple hours to a few days, and they are
inspired and informed by hot news that feels really immediate to those campaigns. We move
very rapidly through a process of hatching an idea, finding or creating the campaign product(s),
putting it out into the world and getting back data. We are constantly learning how to be more
effective. In our first year running over 160 minimum viable attention campaigns, we have
learned that even a tiny bit of effort can make a huge difference in how campaigns get picked
up.

3 http://www.inc.com/magazine/19890401/5602.html

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Combining These Models
The minimum viable campaign model could be applied to not just attention campaigns, but also
fundraising, advocacy, or other types of campaigns. Likewise, an attention campaign could
certainly be run at different time scales. For instance, there is no reason why Red Cross couldn’t
start doing minimum viable campaigns. Keeping everything else the same, they could tighten up
their campaign time cycles and run experimental campaigns to engage their base in different
ways. Red Cross could also start running attention campaigns. If they believed that Ushahidi was
doing really good work, they could run an attention campaign, pointing at Ushahidi’s work and
amplifying attention to it. This could turn out to be a faster path to achieving their own mission.

By applying both these models, Upwell has crafted a new way of campaigning that is easily
delivered, measured, and adapts to the ever-changing sea of conversation. In summary, through
our campaigns, Upwell:

• Surfs existing conversations in order to increase and expand attention.

• Measures social mentions (rather than policy outcomes, petition signatures, or public
opinion) to evaluate the success of our campaign efforts.

• Delivers, measures, and learns from campaigns on a short time cycle, embedding lessons
and insights immediately. We sacrifice perfection.

• Collaborates with a network of ocean stakeholders and curates a diverse set of existing
ocean content, rather than building on our own brand and creating our own content. Our
campaigns are not aligned with Upwell program priorities or policy goals, but instead
amplify attention to the priorities and goals of those in our network.

• Runs campaigns across a distributed network of ocean communicators, rather than relying
on our own platforms as information hubs.

The Upwell Network


The key to our campaigns’ success is in our network. Our attention campaigns are amplified not
by us or by a dedicated base of supporters we’ve built over the years, but rather by the network
of ocean communicators that we regularly contact through the Tide Report, our social media
channels and our blog. We call this “running a campaign across a distributed network.” It’s more
of a syndication model than a direct-to-consumer model.

We built our network proactively to respond to several trends. With the rising cacophony of the
internet, the rapidly increasing pace at which news spreads and the shift toward people finding
news through their friends on social media channels rather than getting it directly from “official”

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channels,4 we decided to approach network campaigns in a new light. It would have been cost
prohibitive to buy the attention (through ads or purchasing email lists) or build a world-class,
unbranded media hub. Rather than collect a large set of official MOU’s and partner logos to put
up on our website, we built a loosely held, distributed network. We’ve reached out to nodes of
people who control the communications channels that reach lots of people who are interested
in ocean issues. We’ve been scrappy and ruthless about who we put into that distributed
network, trying to make it diverse and ensure the reach is big.

Campaigning across a distributed network means that we have that golden ticket of
communications—message redundancy—but those redundant messages are tailored by the
individual nodes in our network for their audiences. It’s the job of the individual people in our
network to know their audience really well. They take our messages and content and they
translate them out to their audiences through the communications channels they maintain.

As a point of comparison, Upworthy, a similar effort that launched just after Upwell and shares
our goal of making social change content more shareable and “viral,” approached the problem of
distribution from a different angle. Rather than build a network through which they could
distribute the content they curate, they built their own media hub, repackaging content under
the Upworthy banner and rapidly scaling up an audience and brand of their own. This model
certainly brings eyes to worthy content, but doesn’t (yet) effectively pass on engagement to the
organizations and individuals it supports—it retains that engagement for its own channels.

We wanted to build an issue-specific network, and through our networked campaigns,


strengthen our network’s members’ and supporters’ potential for future action.

These are the values that guide Upwell in building and strengthening our distributed network:

• Trust: we share only science-based content, ensuring that other science-based


institutions know that the content we share is trustworthy.

• Transparency: we share our campaign and big listening data with our network, so they
can apply our lessons in their own work.

• Brand-agnostic: we work as willingly with Greenpeace as we do with Deep Sea News, as


we do with the Facebook page “I Fucking Love Science.” We will share an organization or
individual’s content or campaign, as long as it promotes ocean conservation goals and fits
our curation criteria (detailed below). Often, promoting content from an array of brands
meant releasing control of the message.

4 http://stateofthemedia.org/2012/mobile-devices-and-news-consumption-some-good-signs-for-journalism/what-
facebook-and-twitter-mean-for-news/

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• Issue-agnostic: We aren’t only focusing on overfishing, through GMO salmon or catch
shares to cultivate the network. We amplify any ocean campaign or content as long as it
fits our curation criteria, raising attention for the crisis the ocean faces.

• Personal: We build relationships with humans, not organizations. The liveliest online
conversations happen between people, not institutions. We model the authentic behavior
of the internet.

• Generous: We provide small bits of advice and feedback to help our network do better. If
their work will get more people talking about the ocean online, it fits with our mission.

How We Built the Network


As detailed in the Theory of Change and Context for our Work section, we spent about a year
before initially launching, getting feedback from veterans in the ocean conservation space and
making sure that we would have the opportunity to have collaborative relationships with the
people who run campaigns and provide content in the marine conservation sector.

Many of those initial contacts were the original subscribers to the Tide Report. We focused on
providing high-value content tailored to our subscribers, and word of mouth helped to build that
list beyond those initial 50-100 people. After the Tide Report launched in April 2012, we
continued to engage in face-to-face activities to grow our subscriber list, which is in many ways
a proxy for our network. We attended conferences like the Blue Ocean Film Festival, Oceans in a
High CO2 World, and Science Online. We provided in-depth feedback and data to groups like The
Ocean Project and Conservation International on efforts like World Oceans Day and the Ocean
Health Index. We sent our most loyal Tide Report subscribers postcards on a weekly basis,
thanking them for being part of Team Ocean. We conversed with our peers on Twitter and
retweeted their content when we couldn’t feature it in a Tide Report.

We also did some strategic work to better connect the lingerers and lurkers in our network. We
analyzed our Tide Report subscriber list against our Twitter followers and Facebook fans to
understand how to more deeply engage people that were only aware of some of our activities.
For example, each month, we used Twitonomy to identify our new Twitter followers with the
greatest reach, cross-referenced them with our Tide Report subscriber list, and contacted the
non-subscribers via email, or Twitter direct message to encourage them to join.

We also created niche resources like the Shark Week Sharkinars, Big Blue Blog list, Sustainable
Seafood Twitter List, and World Turtle Day Pinterest Board to highlight the work of specific
communities, and provide campaigning tools to individual and organizational ocean
conservation activists. These types of resources drew people into the Network who are
passionate about specific issues (e.g. sustainable seafood, sharks, turtles), as well as a range of
time-starved ocean activists looking for resources to make their work more effective.

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Through small bits of consultative work (the full list of organizations we consulted is in the
Ocean Evangelist Capacity Impacts section of this report), we developed personal relationships,
built trust, and shared knowledge. These range from informal conversations to more
sophisticated collaborations. Usually these consultations were quite lightweight and didn’t take
much time from the team. We provided advice to peers when we saw a potential for it to
increase social mentions about the ocean. In a way, providing consulting help became a back-
channel method of attention campaigning, ensuring more socially shareable and data-informed
content from conservation organizations, turning up the volume of conversation in a
measurable way.

We also reached beyond the obvious members of Team Ocean, looking for opportunities to align
our issues with people interested in and talking about other issues, like food, climate change,
online organizing and global development. Many of our Tide Report subscribers don’t consider
themselves to be “ocean conservationists,” but have begun sharing more ocean content as a
result of being brought into the Upwell network. This fits within our broader vision to diversify
and embiggen Team Ocean, moving beyond those in the choir and embracing communicators
that have even only a small awareness of the crises the ocean faces.

For more information on the growth of our network, including quantitative data and anecdotal
feedback, see the Ocean Evangelist Capacity Impacts section of this report.

From Insight to Campaign


Our Big Listening practice helps us understand the volume and character of ocean
conversations, individually and in relation to one another. It also helps us to strategically choose
where to invest attention. Knowing the scale of conversations—for instance, that the sharks
conversation regularly spikes to over 40,000 social mentions in a day (and often much higher),
whereas the marine protected areas/marine reserves conversation sits at about 50 per day—
helps us right-size our expectations for attention, identify pockets of audiences ripe for
engagement, and time our campaigning efforts to capitalize on the regular ebb and flow of
conversation.

The first step in our campaign process is to translate insights from Big Listening and other
personal listening activities into campaign ideas. On a daily basis there is little shortage of
research, news articles, campaigns, petitions, or links about ocean issues. Our challenge is in
identifying the most shareable stuff—the stuff that we believe our network will share with their
fans and followers, and that these fans and followers will go on to share with their friends.

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Scrape! Filter! Tumble! Curate!
The first element of our campaign lifecycle is opportunity identification. Opportunities—the
pieces of content that we could amplify—are gleaned from a variety of sources: Radian6 spikes
seen through Big Listening, and also a collection of personal listening activities, like Twitter lists,
Google alerts, Paper.li digests, RSS feeds and e-mails that have been sent to our tips@upwell.us
email address. We look for spike-worthy content, whether it’s a viral video presented in just the
right way or it’s hidden under boring executive summaries or on page six of the news.

Our entire team of six participates in this effort. Campaign-worthy content is often circulated
among the team via our tips email and is always posted to our Upwell Firehose Tumblr page for
ease of viewing. Then we sit down, go through what is available, look for possible additional
topics, and brainstorm about the day’s campaigning activities.

The Morning Scrum


Each morning at 10AM PST, the team gathers over tea, Skype, and the Upwell Firehose Tumblr.
We examine these opportunities and cherry-pick the ones that are ripest for amplification.

How We Choose What We Choose


Upwell is not a newswire for the ocean. It does not exist solely to pump out out retweets and
links; if it did, it would—as noted earlier in this document—be adding to the noise without
necessarily increasing volume in a valuable way. So we subject the mass of possible topics to a
triage test.

Version 2.0 of Upwell’s curation criteria, September 2, 2012.

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The first items to be discarded are those that don’t pass the scientific smell test; if the science
isn’t credible, it’s out. Other considerations include:

Socially Shareable. In order to be as effective as possible, it’s important to select topics that lend
themselves most easily to wide and willing dissemination, and spark conversation: what we
describe as ‘liquid content.’ This can either be content that is already liquid—for example,
content that is visual, awesome, scary, funny or cute—or that we can make liquid. The
publication of a National Research Council report evaluating the federal response plan to ocean
acidification is undoubtedly important—but seriously, what are you more likely to share with
friends? That, or this:

Before-and-after pics. Good for US Weekly, good for Upwell.

Exactly.

Conservation Impact. We’re a movement with a message. Not everything we share or amplify is
Debbie Downer material. We also celebrate good news and successes and also highlight the
awesomeness of ocean life. Even so, as part of our morning triage, we prioritize campaigns that
have not just a generic conservation message, but the potential for specific impact: for example,
petitions, seafood purchasing recommendations, etc. We find that content that is paired with
action is more shareable.

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Building Social Capital. We calibrate our focus across issues, people and organizations in order
to cultivate trust, animate our network and maintain access to the most compelling ocean
content. We share content that comes from every corner of Team Ocean, with an effort toward
spreading the love in a balanced way. If an important influencer asks us to share something, we
do it. Generosity builds and maintains relationships, thereby increasing our social capital.

New Influencers. We are always looking to grow our network and expand to new audiences.
We prioritize content and campaigns that allow us to go beyond the choir and reach new
influencers to enlarge the conversation and build the network.

Topical. Sometimes the hook is an article in the New York Times that’s generating discussion on
Twitter. Sometimes there is no hook, and we have to find it, or make it. Tying ocean content
with events like the Olympics, Rio+20 or Lance Armstrong’s steroid use helps up the shareable
quotient.

Spikeability. Has a news story or piece of content already reached its saturation point? If
something has already received a lot of coverage and attention, we judge whether it's worth our
effort to create another spike in attention (like an aftershock) or if it's already been shared by as
many people as it will be (saturated). Often, the best way to judge whether something is
spikeable is to ask whether the content will be shared two or three degrees out of our network.
Will it generate interest and conversation beyond Team Ocean?

Under Amplified. We look for awesome news and content that we think has been egregiously
under-amplified. Sometimes a hot piece of news just wasn't packaged in the right way. We mine
our network and find the awesome stuff that few have seen, and we repackage it to go farther.

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Running the Campaign
Once we’ve curated a small collection of campaign ideas, we rapidly devise a campaign plan.

A campaign can last for as long as several days, or for as little as an hour. In the latter case, we
may just focus on, for example, tweeting links to a petition and engaging members of our
network in conversations. The key is to not simply post a tweet with a link and then move on.
We stimulate the online conversation by writing the tweet in a way that begs to be clicked and
retweeted, or by directing a tweet to particular people in an attempt to generate discussion.
Longer campaigns tend to focus on a particular event. For example, during the Rio+20
conference and Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, we did some initial research and planned an
array of activities which generated a significant amount of attention.

The Upwell campaign lifecycle is a neverending cycle of joy.

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Our Tools
We propagate campaign content across our network through a variety of methods. Many of
them we have already discussed: through sharing and curating good content by way of social
media networks, through engagement via webinars and other outreach. Other key elements
include:

Tide Report

The Tide Report is in many ways our key method of outreach. Subscribers elect to receive this
newsletter approximately three times a week via e-mail. Its content is determined at the
morning meeting, it both reflects our other campaign work and drives it. Tide Report content
essentially falls into four camps: main features (more campaign-focused, and which include our
suggestions for amplification), ‘Watch This’ items (very brief (i.e. one-line) summaries of and
links to news items that are worthy of mention for strengthening the network even if they don’t
lend themselves to amplification), occasional more light-hearted videos or pictures at the end
(as an occasional reward for reading to the end), and a calendar of upcoming events.

The greatest focus is on the main features. In addition to providing summaries of campaigns or
news stories, the features also include one-click pathways to amplification. We choose the
pathway for amplification that best suits the content: we use Facebook for visual content such
as images and videos, Twitter for links, and often a combination of platforms with specialized
sharing language for each. The key element is doing the work for the readers. For instance,
instead of asking them to post a tweet of their own construction, we write and code the tweet
(with the most retweetable or shareable language we can muster), so that all a reader has to do is
click on a link and post.

Upwell Facebook Page


The Upwell Facebook page is not intended to be a hub where we collect millions of fans.
However, by posting our content on our own page, we are then able to create one-click
pathways in the Tide Report for people to share those posts on their own pages. In the early
days of the Tide Report, we suggested language for Facebook and asked our readers to
download and upload images, so they could feature an original post on their page. Our
subscribers can still do that, but we started to use our own Facebook page to house content in
order to smooth the pathway toward amplification. As a bonus, we get access to all the data
from our own Facebook Insights panel. However, at the end of the day, we are more excited to

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see our content shared and commented on by our network and their networks than we are to
see new likes on our page.

Upwell Twitter
Our Twitter account is a primary way that we amplify campaigns that we can’t feature in the
Tide Report. We also post all the tweets we suggest in the Tide Report. This helps content reach
our network in case they don’t open that day’s Tide Report. The overlap between our Twitter
following and our Tide Report subscription list is significant. In many ways, Twitter serves as
another method to propagate content across our distributed network. We also use our Twitter
account to engage in conversation with our network, deepening those individual relationships.

Our Blog
Our blog has been an ongoing source for much of our data analysis, harnessing Radian6 and
distilling its revelations into easy-to-consume posts. This is the vehicle we’ve used, for example,
for our summaries of the strengths and weaknesses of social media conversations about corals,
ocean acidification, and sharks that we detail below. It is also the place where we post our
toolkits, as well as items such as a list we curated of ocean blogs.

Once we’ve identified an opportunity, choosing a tool for dissemination is only part of the battle.
We often research, curate, and create in order to provide the most shareable content. There’s no
exact science to what we do—our methods are mostly informed by years of experience
campaigning in social media channels. However, a few scenarios, outlined below, highlight the
most common ways we approach attention campaigning.

Scenario 1: The science and the message is


good, but the content isn’t shareable.
Oyster Restoration in NY: Following the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy, we noted
that several pieces, in the New York Times and elsewhere, made reference to the fact that the
city’s long-lost oyster beds previously provided protection from storm surges. Those pieces, by
the Times’ food writer Paul Greenberg (author of the book Four Fish) among others, proposed
the revitalization of historic beds as part of a multifaceted approach to mitigate future storm
damage. We tweeted links to those articles and discussed them online, but to help galvanize that
discussion, we created this:

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Greenberg himself called the image “iconic.”

We shared this via Facebook, Twitter, and the Tide Report, generating one of the biggest spikes
of any of our attention campaigns. We re-shared the image when a commission created by New
York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recommended oyster recommendation weeks later, generating
another spike in attention to this issue.  

Plastic Microbeads: Unilever announced that it would be eliminating the use of plastic
microbeads in its personal care products. While this was great news, we figured that many
people were unaware of the microbead problem, and that a visual would be more shareable
than a Unilever press release. We shared the following image in a Facebook post that informed
readers of Unilever’s decision, and then directed our Tide Report subscribers to share it with
their networks.

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An interesting chemistry experiment in the Upwell Lab.

It received over 200 shares, and comments like these:

Pacific Bluefin Stock Assessment: A scientific study of Pacific bluefin tuna was released. It was
hundreds of pages long, and the main message—that the population has declined by 96 percent
—was buried. Long research reports, and even the news articles they stimulate, are rarely
shareable on social platforms like Facebook. In this instance, we created an image in response to
work by the Pew Environment Group which analyzed a scientific study of Pacific bluefin tuna
populations:

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This is what Upwell does with a 300 page report.

The image itself was a downer, but the text we included in the Facebook post provided hope
and pathways to action:

We know exactly what to do to prevent the extinction of Pacific bluefin tuna. Here’s a better
recipe for you to follow:

1. Don’t eat bluefin (often labeled as hon maguro or toro). There are lots of yummy
alternatives.
2. Tell your chef to take bluefin off the menu.
3. Tell your elected officials to #suspendthefishery.
4. Share this with your sushi-loving friends.

Keep in touch with Pew Environment Group for more information on the latest bluefin tuna
numbers, and check out Seafood Watch for good alternatives to eating tuna!

With its simple message, actionable information, and our amplification of it via the Tide Report,
the image was shared over 500 times on Facebook—pretty good for a stock assessment!

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Scenario 2: There’s conversation beyond the
ocean community. Can we tap into it?
Vote4Stuff: In the run-up to the November 6th election, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire
created Vote4Stuff, a nonpartisan campaign that urged young voters to use video and social
media to express the issues most important to them in the upcoming election. We responded to
this challenge by making our own Vote4TheOcean video, capturing lighthearted messages about
the most troubling ocean issues We tweeted it to DiCaprio, who in turn retweeted it to his
followers, generating several hundred additional retweets and thousands of views. In addition,
we offered GoPro cameras to anyone else who came up with an idea for a suitably non-partisan,
pro-ocean video.

Olympics: During the 2012 Olympics, people were abuzz about the latest world records set and
injuries sustained by athletes. What wasn’t getting attention was the fact that the Olympic
Committee had committed to selling only sustainable seafood at the event. We rapidly threw
together this image, and shared it via the Tide Report, Facebook and Twitter, and it generated
hundreds of social mentions on Facebook.

David Beckham has not approved this message.

Rio+20: In the lead-up to Rio+20, environmental groups were collaborating on an effort to create
Twitter conversation under the hashtag #endfossilfuelsubsidies, with the goal of, well, ending
fossil fuel subsidies. The climate activist community is massive and engages often and deeply
online. They are also woefully undereducated about the issue of ocean acidification. Upwell
devised an image and a few pre-packaged tweets that tapped into the energy of the
#endfossilfuelsubsidies hashtag and introduced the idea of ocean acidification to an already-
activated audience.

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Dead coral: the new fried egg.

Scenario 3: Team Ocean isn’t coordinated. Can


we create more message redundancy?
There are many ways in which we seek to assist others’ campaigns. We do this through simple
retweeting, or sharing their content through social network platforms; featuring them in the
Tide Report (see below); or engaging in online conversations for periods of hours to days or
longer.

We also directed attention to key events we knew were of interest to several members of the
community, with a focus on lightly encouraging collaboration.

World Oceans Day: In the build-up to World Oceans Day in June 2012, we amplified the efforts
of the many organizations and individuals who contributed to this day of celebration.

Most of our World Oceans Day outreach happened by amplifying the #worldoceansday hashtag
on Twitter. We looked for interesting content shared through social media channels and jumped
into conversations about World Oceans Day.

Among the highlights:

• We helped spread the word by creating a compilation of all the online actions people
could take for World Oceans Day, coming from organizations and individuals such as The
Ocean Project, One World One Ocean, The Nature Conservancy, NRDC, The Living Oceans
Foundation, and more. We used Tumblr because it was the easiest way to collect different
types of content from multiple sources in one place and keep it updated as more actions
crossed our path.

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• We reached out to individuals who were talking about what they could do for the oceans
on Twitter and Facebook, directing them to this round-up. (Twitter outreach viewable on
Topsy)

• We created and shared a YouTube playlist of videos curated from various organizations,
and reached out to those organizations on Facebook and Twitter to let them know that
their videos were included. (Twitter outreach)

• We wrote a blog post on our website about the round-up, the playlist, and other ideas for
celebrating World Oceans Day, and shared it via Facebook and Twitter. (Twitter outreach)

• We participated in and amplified @WhySharksMatter’s (David Shiffman’s) #OceanFacts


conversation on Twitter. He asked followers to post facts about the ocean for World
Oceans Day and received hundreds of facts.

International Whaling Commission: For the annual meeting of the International Whaling
Commission (IWC) in July, we created our first attention toolkit, designed to make it easier for
individuals and organizations to amplify the IWC conversation online. The toolkit included:

• Whaling and IWC-related images and videos to amplify: We curated photographs,


infographics, and videos that brought the whaling issue to life on an IWC Pinterest board.

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• A list of, and links to, recent whaling coverage.

• On Twitter: Hashtags to use, people to follow.

• A list of organizations active at the IWC, and their websites.

• Links to background information and documents.

We learned from our network that this IWC toolkit was one of the most under-amplified
campaigns, and was not seen as valuable to our network. By measuring and learning from this
campaign, we were informed for future efforts about what would be a valuable use of our
resources.

Scenario 4: The Upwell network doesn’t have


direct access to Big Listening data. Can we
provide insights to make their campaigns more
effective?
Ocean Acidification and Corals: When the International Coral Reef Symposium convened in
July, we actively engaged in working with members of the network to stimulate and magnify
conversation on coral reef issues, and specifically the threat from ocean acidification. We
produced a toolkit focused on effective ways to drive conversation about ocean acidification. It
provided advice on how to speak about an issue that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue and that
isn’t necessarily at the forefront of public awareness.

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How are people talking about ocean acidification online these days? The wordcloud above was
generated by our resident internet trawler-in-chief using cutting-edge tools so expensive they
have their own car service.

We also mined our network for the latest in ocean acidification opinion research, and packaged
the following messaging tips in the toolkit:

• Lay the groundwork. The role of the living ocean is not well understood, help your
audience understand it.

• Be human. Use pictures, analogies and local stories to establish the problem. Introduce
real live people, and their stories, to humanize and localize the issue. Stress that ocean
acidification is happening now (not just in the future), and that is has measurable impacts.

• Science is perceived as the credible voice on this issue. Use it.

• Activate your audience.

Say this:

✔ “oceans are the lungs of the planet”


✔ “ocean acidification is the osteoporosis of the ocean”
✔ “ocean acidifciation is changing the ocean’s chemistry”

Instead of this:
X “ocean acidification is the evil twin of climate change” [catchy but may come off as
flippant]
X the words “cycles” and “resilience” (in the ocean science sense—people think the ocean is

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so big it can always bounce back)

Rio+20: Many of the communicators in our network were not actively engaged in the Rio+20
conversation, but were interested in learning how they could do so in a way that would drive
attention toward their campaigns and content. Using data from Radian6, we offered suggestions
for which twitter hashtag to use to bring attention to ocean issues during the Rio+20 conference.

Hashtag party!

Mission Aquarius: We provided analysis of Mission Aquarius mentions, and the specific sources
that drove discussion of that topic. In sharing this information with our network, we helped
them understand how different news outlets and blogs shape online conversation, and how
their impacts stack up. This helped illuminate to our network the rise of online media in
comparison to legacy media.

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Social mentions of the Mission Aquarius keyword set by main influencer July 8-July 26, 2012

Shark Week: And then there were sharks. We put


Shark Week 2012 was one of the highest
a great deal of focus on Discovery Channel’s Shark
value situations where our Big Listening
Week, hosting a webinar (which we called the
provided a forecast, and helped people in
‘Sharkinar’), to share strategies on maximizing the
our network not only be more effective,
opportunity for conservation messaging afforded but also not miss a huge opportunity for
by a week of highly-publicized programming. getting their messages out.

We dug into Shark Weeks past, and pulled out


some Big Listening insights to share with our
network. The biggest takeaway was that Shark Week is responsible for the single largest spike in
the online shark conversation for the entire year, and that spike eclipsed every other spike in
every ocean topic we monitor. Put simply: Shark Week is the Super Bowl of the online ocean
conversation. Looking at historical data, we learned that since 2009, total social mentions of
Shark Week have increased by a factor of five every year—and we were able to estimate the size
of the 2012 conversation pretty accurately.

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We also analyzed the conversation to learn what messages resonate the most during the week.
Using keyword sets, we broke down 740,000 Shark Week-related social mentions into three
categories:

• Celebratory: Shark fans, e.g., "Sharks are awesome!"

• Terror: e.g., "Sharks are violent killers!"

• Conservation: e.g., "Sharks are endangered!"

And as this pie chart shows, a very significant majority were in the celebratory camp. (or as we
call it, ‘Yay!’)

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An actual pie chart of the tone of the conversation leading up to Shark Week 2012, but in
language the internet can understand.

Upwell also did some hashtag analysis to help the network join the conversation using the most
popular terms, and created a list of the top shark influencers on Twitter so that members of our
network who were less familiar with shark issues had a source of retweetable content for the
week. (And we reached out to those influencers to let them know they were influencers—news
they shared with their networks.)

This research and analysis helped members of our network engage in this conversation. Many
hadn’t planned to engage at all, but did with the help of Upwell’s data and sharkinars. Analyzing
the data coming out of Shark Week 2012, we learned that the conservation portion of the Shark
Week conversation expanded by more than twice the amount of the overall Shark Week
conversation.

Measuring Our Campaigns


Usually when organizations run digital campaigns, they drive people to their own site(s) or social
media properties. Measurement is facilitated by looking at their own email list growth, Facebook
page Insights, Google Analytics, or donations received: things organizations have access to
because they run campaigns from their own properties.

The challenge of attention campaigning is that we are pushing attention toward content and
web properties we don’t control or necessarily have access to. Although the point of the
campaign might be to get email addresses for an Oceana campaign, we don’t actually know how
many signed up and gave their email addresses because we sent them to Oceana’s website. That
is not the kind of information that is shared publicly by nonprofits (or for profits!).

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What we can see and measure is public information that is scrapable with technology: how
much attention that campaign netted in terms of social mentions. Big Listening both informs our
campaigns and also becomes our best metric to understand if we’re being effective.

We develop keyword sets to track our campaigns within the topics we monitor, using unique
hashtags, phrases and links, and include them in our conversational analysis. That way, we can
see the spikes we create. And we like it because it’s independently verifiable. Someone else
could use the same software and verify the extent of the conversation.

We also use our Tide Report metrics (via MailChimp) to understand who in our network opened,
clicked and/or shared. We can track who the most engaged members are in our network, and
understand what types of content they are most likely to share from their own properties.

Because much of our content is visual (and thus not scrapeable by keyword searches), we often
do the hard, laborious work of manually counting the number of shares and comments on the
visual content we promote. This is very difficult, and until there is a reliable way to do image
search with tools like Radian6 or Topsy, this will continue to be a time intensive process. The
MailChimp stats help us know where to look for the initial shares from our network, and once
we track those down, we can easily track down shares two or three degrees out.

Over time, we’ve seen the number of social mentions generated from each attention campaign
grow, concurrent with the growth of our distributed network. This is the proof in the pudding.
As we continue to expand Team Ocean and encourage networked sharing, the number of social
mentions about the ocean will increase, and, ultimately increase the baselines of ocean
conversations.

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Attention Impacts and
Graphs
In previous sections, we’ve described how we characterize issue-based conversations with
keyword sets, how the conversation Baseline is measured, and why we focus on creating
measurable spikes of attention in the conversation.

This section begins by detailing before and after intervals in the two main conversations we
have invested in: Sustainable Seafood and Overfishing. We then provide annotated seasonal
graphs and lists of the conversations and our interventions.

One finding of note is that both the Sustainable Seafood and Overfishing conversations have
been substantially changed since the founding of Upwell. The narrative details significant
increases in spike volume, spike frequency, and ratio of average daily social mentions to the
average Baseline.

Primary Campaign Topics: Then


and Now
Sustainable Seafood
1400 1400

1200 1200

1000 1000

800 800

600 600

400 400

200 200

0 0
Oct-11 Nov-11 Dec-11 Jan-12 Oct-12 Nov-12 Dec-12 Jan-13

Baseline Spike Threshold High Spike Threshold Sustainable Seafood Baseline Spike Threshold High Spike Threshold Sustainable Seafood

Side-by-side comparison for Winter 2011 (left) and Winter 2012 (right) showing social mentions
by day for Upwell’s Sustainable Seafood keyword group, as compared to the baseline, spike
threshold and high spike threshold (Winter 2011: 10/17/2011 - 1/31/12; Winter 2012: 10/1/2012 -
1/29/13).

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In Winter 2011 (above left), when Upwell began Big Listening in Sustainable Seafood, social
mention volume was an average of 423 mentions per day. By Winter 2012 (above right), social
mention volume had climbed to an average of 549 per day—an increase of 29.9%. The ratio of
average daily social mentions to the average baseline value also increased by 29.9% (as one
would expect), going from 132.3% of the baseline in Winter 2011 to 171.8% of the baseline in
Winter 20125 .

Spike frequency—measured by how often social mention volume spikes equal to or greater than
Upwell’s spike threshold6 —describes how often spikes occur, on average, in a particular
conversation. Spike frequency in the Sustainable Seafood conversation increased from 2.2 spikes
every thirty days in Winter 2011, to 8.2 spikes every thirty days in Winter 2012—an increase of
265%.

Those spikes were not just occurring more often, they were also getting bigger. Upwell’s high
spike threshold, set at two standard deviations above the average social mention volume for that
day of the week, provides another indication of spike intensity. The more spikes reach the high
threshold, the more the conversation is spiking at higher volumes. In Winter 2011 there were two
high threshold spikes and the following year there were thirteen—an average of 0.5 spikes per
thirty days versus an average of 3.2 spikes per thirty days, a 475% increase.

14000 14000

12000 12000

10000 10000

8000 8000

6000 6000

4000 4000

2000 2000

0 0
Oct. 17, 2011 Nov. 17, 2011 Dec. 17, 2011 Jan. 17, 2012 Oct. 1, 2012 Nov. 1, 2012 Dec. 1, 2012 Jan. 1, 2013

Baseline Spike Threshold High Spike Threshold Overfishing


Baseline Spike Threshold High Spike Threshold Overfishing

Overfishing

5 ‘Average baseline’ generalizes Upwell’s day-of-the-week baseline values for a given topic into one mean value for the
purpose of calculations, such as this one, which require a single value.
6 The spike threshold is discussed in detail in the Methods: Big Listening section.

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Side-by-side comparison for Winter 2011 (left) and Winter 2012 (right) showing social mentions
by day for Upwell’s Overfishing keyword group, as compared to the baseline, spike threshold
and high spike threshold (Winter 2011: 10/17/2011 - 1/31/12; Winter 2012: 10/1/2012 - 1/29/13).

In Winter 2011 (above left), when Upwell began Big Listening in Overfishing, social mention
volume was an average of 1,979 mentions per day. By Winter 2012 (above right), social mention
volume had climbed to an average of 3,386 per day—a 71% increase. The ratio of average daily
social mentions to the average baseline value also rose, from 126.5% of the baseline in Winter
2011 to 216.3% of the baseline in Winter 2012.7

Spike frequency—measured by how often social mention volume spikes equal to or greater than
Upwell’s spike threshold8 —describes how often spikes occur, on average, in a particular
conversation. Spike frequency in the Overfishing conversation increased from 0.8 spikes every
thirty days in Winter 2011, to 7.4 spikes every thirty days in Winter 2012—a massive increase of
784%. The 30-day rate of high threshold spikes9 also increased, from an average of 0.6 to an
average of 3.2—a 475% increase.

Campaign Impacts
In this section, we’ll illustrate more specifically where and how Upwell intervened in the
Overfishing and Sustainable Seafood conversations. The annotated campaign graphs on the
following pages highlight spikes in these conversations and the Upwell campaigns associated
with these surges in conversational volume. As in the previous graphs, when comparing the data
from 2011 to 2013 a trend becomes clearly visible: an increase in spike frequency and a higher
number of social mentions over time.

Table of Major Upwell Campaigns


Below is a table of all major Upwell campaigns from 2011 - 2013. Please note that this list is not
inclusive of all Upwell campaigns, but rather, a representative list of the major campaigns across
the nine topic profiles that Upwell monitors. Campaigns appear in chronological order and
campaigns which appear on the annotated graphs that follow appear in bold.

Key to Profiles: OA= Ocean Acidification, SS= Sustainable Seafood, OF=Overfishing, GF=Gulf,
MPA= Marine Protected Areas, OC=Ocean, SH=Sharks, TU=Tuna

7Average baseline’ generalizes Upwell’s day-of-the-week baseline values for a given topic into one mean value for the
purpose of calculations, such as this one, which require a single value.
8 The spike threshold is discussed in detail in the Methods: Big Listening section.
9Upwell defines high threshold spikes as occuring when social mention volume for a given day is greater-than or equal-
to two standard deviations above the average social mention volume for that day of the week.

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Bold: Campaign appears on annotated graphs.

Date Campaign Title OA CT SS OF GF MPA OC SH TU

6/18/12 #EndFossilFuelSubsidies -
This is your ocean on acid

7/3/12 China Shark Fin Soup Ban

7/12/12 Ocean Acidification Before


& After Images

7/16/12 Me and My Shark Fin

7/31/12 Coral Found at Shell Drill


Site

8/2/12 David Beckham's Cod

8/10/12 Shark Week

9/7/12 Thank Cathay Pacific for


Shark Fin Ban

9/10/12 Petition to Ban Shark


-9/11/1 Recipes on Livestrong.com
2

9/12/12 Safeway FAD-Free Tuna


&
10/2/12
9/25/12 How Social Media Can Save
Sharks

9/28/12 Google Earth Ocean


Acidification Video

9/28/12 CEA report and related


research in Science

10/4/12 Vote4theOcean Video

10/10/1 Whitetip Shark Has a Posse


2 - CITES Thank You

10/12/1 Costa Rica Shark Fin Ban


2

10/18/1 Jaws vs. Frank Sinatra


2

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Date Campaign Title OA CT SS OF GF MPA OC SH TU

10/20/1 Antarctic Ocean MPA


2 Petition
-11/3/1
2
10/24/1 Shark Protections at CITES
2

10/25/1 NYT Editorial on Bottom


2 Trawling

11/2/12 How to Kill a Great White

10/29/1 I Oyster NY
2 &
11/5/12
11/5/12 Prop 37 and GMO Salmon

11/8/12 Political Porpoise

11/9/12 No Overfishing. Guaranteed

11/12/1 Big Listener - Beth Kanter


2 guest blog post

11/20/1 Giving Thanks for Australia


2 Marine Reserves

11/27/1 NYT Addresses Sea Level


2 Rise During Doha

11/27/1 Dissolving Shells:


2 Capitalizing on OA
Coverage

11/28/1 Plastic Pollution Postcard


2

12/4/12 Washington OA Plan

12/5/12 Upwell Blue Blog List


-
1/10/13
12/6/12 Bill McKibben Addresses
OA

12/6/12 Cannibalistic Lobsters

12/12/1 NY Shark Fin vs. Jumbo


2 Soda

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Date Campaign Title OA CT SS OF GF MPA OC SH TU

12/12/1 Everyday Objects Made to


2 Look Like Sea Creatures

12/18/1 Cook Islands and French


2 Polynesia Shark Sanctuary

12/18/1 Keystone Krill


2

12/19/1 Greenpeace Gangnam


2 Style

12/19/1 California MPAs


2

12/19/1 Fish Tornado Photograph


2

1/3/13 Chile Protects Seamounts

1/3/13 Shark Fin Rooftops

1/3/13 Unilever Dumps


Microbeads

1/4/13 What is a Coral?

1/8/13 Cuomo Panel


Recommends Oystering
NY

1/8/13 Polar Bear Video

1/9/13 Pacific Bluefin Decline

Non-Upwell Spikes from Graphs


In addition to the Upwell campaigns listed above, the following Non-Upwell events are labeled
as NU in light grey in the annotated graphs on the following pages.

Overfishing Graphs:

• Famous actor Jonah Hill tweets about overfishing. [NU-1, 10/25/2011]

• Fishermen fined for overfishing and CDB lawsuit vs. NMFS. [NU-2, 1/5/2012]

• Reports of radioactive tuna tied to the Fukushima disaster. [NU-3, 5/29/12]

• Sarcastic joke account @factualcat tweets against overfishing. [NU-4, 9/5/2012]

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• A single bluefin tuna sells for record $1.76M in Tokyo. [NU-5, 1/5/2013]

Sustainable Seafood Graphs:

• The James Beard Foundation (founded by the famous chef and author) publishes A Guide
to the Guides, reviewing sustainable seafood guides. [NU-6, 11/10/2012]

• The United States sets catch limits. [NU-7 - NU-9, 11/21/2012]

• TIME tweets an OpEd about non-farmed, sustainable seafood. [NU-10, 2/3/2012]

• Al Jazeera tweets about Louisiana's fishing industry re: BP oil spill. [NU-11, 3/5/12]

• Women's Health Magazine tweeted an article from Rodale about the health benefits
of Wild Alaskan salmon and wild-caught Pacific sardines. [NU-12, 3/30/12]

• Sustainable Seafood Guide NRDC retweeted a sustainable seafood guide. [NU-13, 4/23/12]

• #CFS2012 The Monterey Bay Aquarium hosts a three day event featuring sustainable
seafood and top chefs from across the country. [NU-14 - NU-15, 5/17 - 5/18/12]

• David Suzuki Foundation tweets the Top 10 Sustainable Seafood Picks. [NU-16, 6/8/2012]

• The 10th International Seafood Summit in Hong Kong [NU-17, NU-18 9/5 - 9/6 2012]

• The Dungeness crab season begins. [NU-19, 11/14/2012]

• HuffPo Sea2 Table Thanksgiving post and Vancouver Aquarium events [NU-20, 11/21/2012]

• Crab Recipes Features and recipe collections for Dungeness Crab. [NU-21, 12/4/2012]

• McDonald’s MSC certifies all McDonald’s fish sustainable. [NU-22-24, 12/23 - 1/28 2013]

• NPR series of posts covering MSC and sustainable seafood topics. [NU-24 1/28/13]

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The Overfishing Conversation Winter 2011
Upwell Campaign and Social Mention Spikes Oct 2011- Jan 2012 !

14000

12000

10000

8000
NU-1

6000
NU-2

4000

2000

0
Oct-11 Nov-11 Dec-11 Jan-12
Baseline Spike+1Threshold
Mean STDEV Overfishing
OF

The Overfishing Conversation Spring 2012


Upwell Campaign and Social Mention Spikes Feb 2012- May 2012 !

14000

12000 NU-3

10000

8000

6000

4000

2000

0
Feb-12 Mar-12 Apr-12 May-12

Baseline Spike +1
Mean Threshold
STDEV Overfishing
OF

82
The Overfishing Conversation
Upwell Campaign and Social Mention Spikes Jun 2012- Sep 2012 !
Summer 2012

14000

12000

10000
China Shark Fin
Soup Ban
8000
Cathay
Pacific
6000 Shark Week
NU-4 Livestrong

4000

2000

0
Jun-12 Jul-12 Aug-12 Sep-12

Baseline Spike+1Threshold
Mean STDEV Overfishing
OF

The Overfishing Conversation Winter 2012


Upwell Campaign and Social Mention Spikes Oct 2012- Jan 2013 !
Gangnam Style,
CA MPAs,
Fish Tornado
14000

12000 Antarctic Ocean (day 10)


& I Oyster NY
Pacific Bluefin
the 96.4%

10000 NMS 40th &


NYT Trawling
NU-5

8000 Vote4the
Ocean
How to Kill
a Great White
Seamounts Cuomo
JAWS vs & Rooftops Oysters NY
Sinatra
Costa Rica Big Blue
6000 Fin Ban Blogs

4000

2000
Antarctic Antartic
(day 1 of 15) (day 15)

0
Oct-12 Nov-12 Dec-12 Jan-13

Baseline Spike+1Threshold
Mean STDEV Overfishing
OF

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The Sustainable Seafood Conversation Winter 2011
Upwell Campaign and Social Mention Spikes Oct 2011- Jan 2012 !

1400

1200
NU-9

1000
NU-7 NU-8
NU-6
800

600

400

200

0
Oct-11 Nov-11 Dec-11 Jan-12

Baseline Spike +1.0


Mean Threshold
STDEV Sustainable Seafood
SS

The Sustainable Seafood Conversation Spring 2012


Upwell Campaign and Social Mention Spikes Feb 2012- May 2012 !

1400

1200

1000 NU-13 NU-14

NU-11 NU-15
NU-10
800 NU-12

600

400

200

0
Feb-12 Mar-12 Apr-12 May-12

Baseline Spike+1.0
Mean Threshold
STDEV Sustainable Seafood
SS

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The Sustainable Seafood Conversation Summer 2012
Upwell Campaign and Social Mention Spikes Jun 2012- Sep 2012 !

1400

1200 Google Earth


& CEA Report
NU-18
Me and My Sharkfin FAD
1000 Safeway

NU-17
David's Cod
800 NU-16

600

400

200

0
Jun-12 Jul-12 Aug-12 Sep-12

Baseline Spike+1.0
Mean Threshold
STDEV Sustainable Seafood
SS

The Sustainable Seafood Conversation Winter 2012


Upwell Campaign and Social Mention Spikes Oct 2012- Jan 2013 !

1400
NU-20
NU-24
Vote4
1200 Ocean
Video
NU-22 Cuomo
Oysters NY
1000 Big Blue
FAD Safeway NU-24
NU-21 Blogs
NU-19
800 NU-23

600

400

200

0
Oct-12 Nov-12 Dec-12 Jan-13

Baseline Spike+1.0
Mean Threshold
STDEV SSSustainable Seafood

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Campaign List
A list of major Upwell attention campaigns in chronological order.

• #EndFossilFuelSubsidies - This is your ocean on acid [June 18, 2012]

• China Shark Fin Soup Ban [July 3, 2012]

• Ocean Acidification Before & After Images [July 12, 2012]

• Me and My Shark Fin  [July 16, 2012]

• Coral Found at Shell Drill Site  [July 31, 2012]

• David Beckham's Cod [August 2, 2012]

• Shark Week [August 10 - 17, 2012]

• Thank Cathay Pacific for Shark Fin Ban [September 5 - 11, 2012 ]

• Petition to Ban Shark Recipes on Livestrong.com  [September 10-14, 2012]

• Safeway FAD-Free Tuna [September 12 - October 2, 2012]

• How Social Media Can Save Sharks  [September 25, 2012]

• Google Earth Ocean Acidification Video [September 28, 2012]

• CEA Report “Charting a Course to Sustainable Fisheries” and related overfishing


research in Science [September 28, 2012]

• Vote4theOcean Video [October 4, 2012 - present]

• Whitetip Shark Has a Posse - CITES Thank You  [October 10, 2012]

• Costa Rica Shark Fin Ban [October 12, 2012]

• Jaws vs. Frank Sinatra [October 18, 2012]

• Antarctic Ocean MPA Petition [October 20 - November 3, 2012]

• Shark Protections at CITES [October 24, 2012]

• New York Times Editorial on Bottom Trawling [October 25, 2012]

• How to Kill a Great White [November 2, 2012]

• I Oyster NY [October 29, 2012 (I Oyster NY - Greenberg) and November 5, 2012 (I Oyster NY
- Image)]

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• Prop 37 and GMO Salmon [November 5, 2012]

• Political Porpoise [November 8 - 10, 2012]

• No Overfishing. Guaranteed [November 9, 2012]

• Big Listener - Beth Kanter guest blog post [November 12 - 13, 2012]

• Giving Thanks for Australia Marine Reserves [November 20, 2012]

• NYT Addresses Sea Level Rise During Doha [November 27, 2012]

• Dissolving Shells: Capitalizing on Ocean Acidification Coverage [November, 27, 2012]

• Plastic Pollution Postcard [November 28, 2012]

• Washington OA Plan [December 4, 2012]

• Upwell Blue Blog List [December 5, 2012 - January 15, 2013]

• Bill McKibben Addresses OA [December 6, 2012]

• Cannibalistic Lobster [December 6, 2012]

• NY Shark Fin vs. Jumbo Soda  [December 12, 2012]

• Everyday Objects Made to Look Like Sea Creatures. [December 12, 2012]

• Cook Islands and French Polynesia Shark Sanctuaries  [December 18th, 2012]

• Keystone Krill [ December 18, 2012]

• Greenpeace Gangnam Style  [December 19, 2012]

• California MPAs Go Into Effect [December 19, 2012]

• Fish Tornado Photograph  [December 19, 2012]

• Chile Protects Seamounts [January 3, 2013]

• Shark Fin Rooftops   [January 3, 2013]

• Unilever Dumps Microbeads [January 3, 2013]

• What is a Coral? [January 4, 2013]

• Cuomo Panel Recommends Oystering NY [January 8, 2013]

• Polar Bear Video [January 8, 2013]

• Pacific Bluefin Decline  [January 9, 2013]

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Campaign Summaries
Campaigns on overfishing and sustainable seafood
China Shark Fin Soup Ban Upwell celebrated and popularized China’s decision to ban shark fin
soup from official functions using the “Meanwhile, in...” internet meme and a celebratory
message. [July 3, 2012]

Me and My Shark Fin When rapper Kool Kid Kreyola released his rap about shark finning in
conjunction with Pangea Seed’s West Coast tour, Upwell promoted the video to outlets such as
the Guardian and Mission Mission and annotated the raps with the help of shark scientists on
the website rapgenius.com, to bring the issue of shark finning to new audiences. [July 16, 2012]

David Beckham's Cod Upwell popularized the poorly-marketed Olympic sustainable seafood
pledge through a humorous image macro featuring David Beckham that spread the news to
audiences unfamiliar with sustainable seafood issues. [August 2, 2012]

Shark Week Upwell organized shark advocates to capitalize on the massive annual increase in
online attention provided by Shark Week. The Upwell network significantly increased the share
of conservation sentiment compared with Shark Week 2011. [August 10-17, 2012]

Thank Cathay Pacific for Shark Fin Ban In response to vocal pushback to Cathay’s shark-
friendly policy change, Upwell rapidly mobilized a Thank You campaign to support the company
and drown out opposition from shark fin traders. [September 5-11, 2012 (majority of activity,
September 7-8, 2012)]

Petition to Ban Shark Recipes on Livestrong.com Upwell successfully pressured the 2nd largest
health website in the U.S. to remove all shark recipes from its online channels. By creating a
Change.org petition and launching a supporting campaign, Upwell capitalized on
Livestrong.com’s health and wellness brand to take down recipes for overfished shark species
and to dispel harmful myths about alleged cancer-preventing qualities of shark products.
[September 10-14, 2012]

Safeway FAD-Free Tuna Upwell promoted the launch of a new brand of canned tuna to
highlight affordable, accessible, sustainable seafood to mainstream consumers. [September 12 -
October 2, 2012]

How Social Media Can Save Sharks Upwell’s popular post on National Geographic’s two blogs
illustrated the power of online conversations to drive overfishing awareness among a significant
conservation-inclined digital community. [September 25, 2012]

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Google Earth Ocean Acidification Video During Blue Ocean Film Fest / Ocean in a High-CO2
World, Upwell amplified a compelling new video from Google, thereby introducing ocean
acidification and its impacts on seafood to a broad new audience beyond the conference for
whom acidification is a relatively unrecognized issue. [September 28, 2012]

CEA Report “Charting a Course to Sustainable Fisheries” and related overfishing research in
Science Upwell reframed a highly technical print-focused report, and breaking scientific
research, to appeal to a wider audience. [September 28, 2012]

Vote4theOcean Video Upwell’s video submission to the star-studded Vote4Stuff campaign


raised the profile of overfishing and sustainable seafood for a large online audience. Both the
Vote4Stuff campaign, and its celebrity-co-founder, Leonardo DiCaprio, promoted Upwell’s video
through official online channels to a potential audience of millions. [October 4, 2012 - present]

Whitetip Shark Has a Posse - CITES Thank You Upwell translated an obscure CITES shark
listing into a sharable success story that resonated outside of the traditional shark conservation
echo chamber. [October 10, 2012]

Costa Rica Shark Fin Ban Upwell popularized an overfishing win in Costa Rica using an internet
meme and Richard Branson’s celebrity cachet. [October 12, 2012]

Jaws vs. Frank Sinatra Upwell helped popularize an obscure mashup of Sinatra and great white
sharks, securing more than 20,000 views of this new school conservation video. [October 18,
2012]

Antarctic Ocean MPA Petition Upwell supported a celebrity-endorsed campaign to stop


industrial fishing in the Antarctic, and strengthened critical relationships with high profile
influencers, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Sylvia Earle. [October 20 - November 3, 2012]

Shark Protections at CITES Upwell amplified a Shark Defenders Facebook campaign to promote
the conservation of five new shark species in need of CITES listing with dramatic sharing results.
[October 24, 2012]

New York Times Editorial on Bottom Trawling Upwell turned a New York Times editorial
highlighting new research on deep sea trawling into a consumer-focused call to action worth
sharing. [October 25, 2012]

How to Kill a Great White Confronted by a repulsive online opinion piece in the Sydney
Morning Herald, Upwell orchestrated a sea of shark-supportive comments to counter the piece’s

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anti-shark sentiment. [November 2, 2012]

I Oyster NY Upwell produced a fresh take on a New York icon promoted by literati Paul
Greenberg and spread rapidly online during a natural disaster. [October 29, 2012 (I Oyster NY -
Greenberg) and November 5, 2012 (I Oyster NY - Image)]

Prop 37 and GMO Salmon Upwell leveraged its big listening capacity to analyze support for
California’s Prop 37—one of the few ocean-related state propositions on the ballot. [November 5,
2012]

Political Porpoise Upwell created this experimental site to round up election implications for
the ocean. Lobbying restrictions limited the scope of the effort. [November 8 - 10, 2012]

No Overfishing. Guaranteed Upwell gave EDF’s new 100% observer coverage campaign a lift to
promote this promising overfishing-free program to a wider audience online. [November 9,
2012]

Big Listener - Beth Kanter guest blog post Upwell’s guest blog showcased how social media can
vault sustainable seafood and overfishing into the mainstream. The message was carried into
new digital networks by social media pros as a “must read post.” [November 12 - 13, 2012]

Upwell Blue Blog List In December, Upwell published a list of 88 ocean conservation themed
“big blue blogs” to provide a resource for the ocean conservation community, increase exposure
to ocean bloggers, and strengthen the Upwell community. The list generated such a significant
response that Upwell was able to publish a second update to the list in mid-January. Upwell’s list
made it to the top ten search results for “ocean blogs” on Google.  [December 5, 2012-Janunary
15, 2013]

Cannibalistic Lobsters Upwell amplified a study documenting cannibalistic lobster behavior due
to overfishing impacts, by hooking into the popular story and meme that was on everyone’s
mind at the time: the end times. [December 6, 2012]

NY Shark Fin vs. Jumbo Soda Upwell used a charged, regionally-focused issue to build outrage
at New York City’s decision to ban big soda in New York but not shark fin soup through a highly
sharable macro image, gaining important traction with a new audience.  [December 12, 2012]

Greenpeace Gangnam Style The original Gangnam Style video went beyond viral and has
become a piece of popular culture. Upwell promoted a Greenpeace spin-off Gangnam video
featuring dancing rainbow warriors and an anti-overfishing message that resulted in over
46,000 views. [December 19, 2012]

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Chile Protects Seamounts Upwell created a “viva Chile” tweet to celebrate the new year and
amplify Chile’s historic decision to ban bottom trawling. The ban was especially important
because it established systems to reduce bycatch, ground all fishing quotas on scientific
recommendation, and protect the country’s most vulnerable marine ecosystems. [January 3,
2013]

Shark Fin Rooftops  Upwell shared shocking photographs of thousands of shark fins drying on
rooftops in Hong Kong that were spreading on the internet like wildfire without a paired action.
We paired these visually moving images with petitions from Oceana to promote a ban on
finning. [January 3, 2013]

Cuomo Panel Recommends Oystering NY A commission formed by NY Governor Andrew


Cuomo recommended planting oysters in NY harbor as a way to protect against future storms.
Upwell took the opportunity to redeploy the I Oyster NY image that had gained traction in the
days after Sandy. [January 8, 2013]

Pacific Bluefin Decline  January was a big month for bluefin. Media channels covered back-to-
back stories, highlighting record market prices ($1.76 million or a single bluefin), as well as a new
report documenting a 96.4% decline in Bluefin stocks. Upwell kept the conversation going and
helped our network focus their efforts by providing analysis of how the coverage was unfolding
and offering suggested framing targeting a halt to the fishery. [January 9, 2013]

Campaigns on other ocean topics


#EndFossilFuelSubsidies - This is your ocean on acid Upwell created an image linking the
trending #EndFossilFuelSubsidies conversation during Rio+20 to the issue of ocean
acidification, playing on the recognizable “This is your brain on drugs” PSA, and increased
mentions of ocean acidification during the conference.  [June 18, 2012]

Ocean Acidification Before & After Images Upwell repackaged a series of before and after
images used in the International Coral Reef Symposium’s opening address to illustrate the
impacts of ocean acidification for audiences unfamiliar with the science using visual and
shareable content. [July 12, 2012]

Coral Found at Shell Drill Site Upwell worked with Greenpeace to develop a pithy image macro
that would spread awareness about the discovery of deep sea coral at Shell’s proposed Arctic
drilling site, using a message that would encourage future action on the part of activists and
keep people engaged in the Arctic drilling issue. [July 31, 2012]

Giving Thanks for Australia Marine Reserves Using a seasonal hook, Upwell promoted
Australia’s decision to establish a huge network of marine reserves in a Thanksgiving campaign

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that reminded people to be thankful for ocean MPAs during their holiday. [November 20, 2012]

NYT Addresses Sea Level Rise During Doha Upwell capitalized on international attention
around the Doha Conference, a meeting of the UN focused on climate change. Linking a NYT
article with the hashtag used to talk about the conference and an interactive map resulted in
over 3,000 social mentions across Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. [November 27, 2012]

Dissolving Shells: Capitalizing on Ocean Acidification Coverage Seeing an opportunity in the


recent uptick in news media coverage of ocean acidification (most notably on new science and
Washington State’s action plan), Upwell developed an image using a dissolving snail shell
featured in a recent scientific paper and a message that tapped into activists’ opinions on Shell
Oil. Upwell worked with Greenpeace to post the image, and encouraged other members of our
network to share that content to make sure it reached broader audiences. This campaign
capitalized on people’s familiarity with Shell and their drilling plans to increase attention to
ocean acidification. [November 27, 2012][November 27, 2012]

Plastic Pollution Postcard Upwell’s satiric e-postcard helped amplify the recent discovery of
plastic bags in the Arctic to online audiences. [November 28, 2012]

Washington OA Plan. Upwell provided an essential online lift to cresting coverage highlighting
Washington State’s gubernatorial commitment to take action on ocean acidification by rapidly
analyzed the conversation, pointing subscribers to key pieces of content about the decision, the
State’s Blue Ribbon Panel on ocean acidification, and the growing #oceanacidification
conversation on Twitter and Reddit. [December 4, 2012]

Bill McKibben Addresses OA When Bill McKibben, one of the leading environmentalists in the
country, talks, people tend to listen. Upwell took advantage of McKibben’s environmental
celebrity status to help promote a video about the scariest environmental issue he thinks no
one is talking about: the threat of ocean acidification. [December 6, 2012]

Everyday Objects Made to Look Like Sea Creatures Upwell promoted the Plastic Pacific art
series to raise awareness about the problem of marine plastics pollution. The images, which
featured “everyday household plastic objects made to look like the sea life they’re choking to
death”, were strong visual reminders the marine plastics pollution problem. [December 12,
2012]
Cook Islands and French Polynesia Shark Sanctuary  Upwell’s celebratory campaign lauded
the recent announcement by Cook Islands and French Polynesia to establish the biggest shark
sanctuary in the world, generating a strong conversation among shark advocates online.  
[December 18th, 2012]

Keystone Krill Upwell amplified social mentions of an utterly darling hand drawn video to

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increase attention to the importance of krill and the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
[ December 18, 2012]

California MPAs Go Into Effect With an impossible-not-to-love image macro of an otter,


Upwell celebrated the grand opening of the California marine protected areas implemented
under the MLPA. The image struck the right tone with our people in our network, many of
whom had worked tirelessly to see these parks implemented, and helped a hook-less
announcement go farther in social media. [December 19, 2012]

Fish Tornado Photograph  Upwell tapped into the buzz around an incredible image of a “fish
tornado” taken in Cabo Pulmo National Park by famous scientist-photographer Octavio Aburto
to increase conversation about this important marine protected area. [December 19, 2012]

Unilever Dumps Microbeads When Unilever announced plans to stop using plastic microbeads
in its products, Upwell celebrated the decision by creating a clever, original image to highlight
the abundance of plastic in microbead face wash. We paired that photo with a message
encouraging people to stay away from microbeads, spurring a series of comments from
individuals who were unaware of the issue and vowed to change their purchasing habits.
[January 3, 2013]

What is a Coral? Upwell amplified Dr. Steve Palumbi’s simple video about corals and “coral
bleaching”. The video uses tangible metaphors (e.g., stick a flower inside a coffee cup and you
have a single coral) to communicate coral biology in a fun and sharable way.  [January 4, 2013]

Polar Bear Video Upwell shared this gripping video of a close encounter with a polar bear and
tied it to protecting this majestic bear’s arctic home. The video was seen over 1.5 million
people. [January 8, 2013]

Audiences, Tools, Influencers


Audiences
• Ocean lovers and activists who care about: overfishing, sustainable seafood, climate
change, dependency on fossil fuels, coral reefs, marine protected areas, the arctic, and
marine plastics pollution.

• Scuba diving enthusiasts.

• Discovery Channel Shark Week viewers, shark advocates, and other shark fans.

• MLPA supporters and advocates for marine protected areas.

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• Sustainable seafood advocates and fin-to-tail enthusiasts.

• Seafood consumers.

• People who care about marine animals (whales, squid, corals,walrus, polar bears, krill,
penguins, sharks).

• Likely voters in the 2012 national election.

• California voters.

• Political pundits analyzing election results and effects.

• Mainstream science bloggers.

• Nonprofit techies and social media innovators.

• K-12 educators and their students.

• Celebrities’ fan bases (Leonardo DiCaprio, Richard Branson, etc.)

• Food and recipe blog writers (with a focus on those who write about seafood).

• National park visitors.

• Influencers in corporate social responsibility (CSR).

• TED audiences.

• Fitness and health advocates and readers of Livestrong.com (2nd largest U.S. health
website).

• New Yorkers and others affected by the Sandy disaster.

• New York City city planners and oyster consumers

• Online activists (for climate, food policy, international issues, anti-GMOs, and general
green issues)

• Climate activists and people concerned with the impacts of climate change: sea level rise,
ocean acidification, and coral bleaching.

• Regionally specific audiences: Washington, New York, California, Australia.  

• Upwell network of ocean conservation communicators.

Tools
Facebook, Twitter, mainstream media, Google+, YouTube, image macros, Reddit, blogs, Tumblr,
Change.org, TimelineJS, Imgur, Pinterest.

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Influencers
• Leonardo DiCaprio, actor and founder of the non-partisan Vote4Stuff campaign.

• Edward James Olmos, actor and UNICEF goodwill ambassador.

• Brooke Runnette, executive producer and director of development, Discovery Channel.

• Ariel Schwartz, senior editor, Co.Design / Fast Company.

• Mark Bittman, author and opinion columnist, New York Times.

• Andy Revkin, Dot Earth blogger, New York Times.

• Trish Hall, op-ed editor, New York Times.

• Maria Finn, author and journalist, TED, Sunset Magazine.

• Beth Kanter, speaker, author, master trainer and nonprofit innovator in networks and
social media.

• Jean Michele, Céline and Fabien Cousteau, descendents of legendary ocean explorer
Jacques Cousteau.

• Amber Valleta, model and actress.

• Scott Rosenberg, executive editor, Grist and Hanna Welch, social media manager, Grist.

• Paul Greenberg, author, Four Fish and blogger, New York Times.

• Polly Becker, artist, New York Times Magazine, New Yorker, Atlantic, Time, Rolling Stone.

• Miriam Goldstein, Craig McClain, Alistair Dove, Holly Bik, Kim Martini, marine biologists
and influential ocean bloggers at Deep Sea News.

• David Shiffman @whysharksmatter, shark researcher and influential ocean blogger at


Southern Fried Science.

• Micah Sifry, blogger and author, Huffington Post.

• Alex Hofford, photojournalist and regional representative for the European Pressphoto
Agency (EPA).

• Deb Castellana, director of communications at Mission Blue and the Sylvia Earle Alliance.

• Maggie Koerth Baker, science editor at Boing Boing and columnist for the New York
Times Magazine.

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Ocean Evangelist Capacity
Impacts
Introduction
“Don't go away! This is an incredibly useful resource that, at the very least,
ties the conservation community together.”

~ Valerie Craig, Manager, Ocean Initiative, National Geographic Society

According to a February 7, 2013 Upwell Community Survey (completed by 107 of the 612 Tide
Report subscribers), the two greatest challenges Upwell’s community members face in their
online communications work are:

• Engaging communities beyond their core online community

• Lack of time

The Tide Report, Upwell’s blog and social media channels, topic-specific webinars, plus staff
speaking engagements, guest blog posts and project consulting have provided channels for
delivering shareable content and practical training and tools to a diverse audience of time-
starved ocean activists.

According to the survey, through these tools and opportunities, Upwell has helped the
community:

• Receive content that they wouldn’t come across through their usual channels

• Stay up-to-date on the hottest ocean news

• Save time by providing content that they could amplify to their community

• Made them feel like they’re part of a community

• Helped them balance humor with serious issues in their communications

In this section, you’ll find metrics and anecdotes that demonstrate the community’s growth,
reach, and range, as well how Upwell has helped the network make the ocean more famous
online.

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Network Metrics
Tide Report
Our main channel for campaigning across our distributed network since June 5, 2012.

The Tide Report provides readers with one-click pathways for amplifying good ocean content,
analysis of online conversations, and upcoming science and ocean communications events.

MailChimp List Growth as of January 29, 2013

As of January 29, 2013, the Tide Report had 600 subscribers, and an average subscription rate of
59 per month. Its Average Open Rate was 38% per campaign (beating the nonprofit industry
standard of 14%). The average Click Through Rate was 10% per campaign (versus nonprofit
industry standard 4.2%).

Below is a sample of the range of ocean and non-ocean related organizations and individuals
represented in The Tide Report’s subscriber pool.

1. Advomatic

2. Aquarium of the Bay

3. Alaska Marine Conservation Council

4. BlackBird Jewelry

5. Bowerbird Communications

6. Blue Earth Consultants

7. Blue Planet Society

8. California Academy of Sciences

9. California State Lands Commission

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10. Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

11. Chris Eaton, Digital Media Specialist

12. Christina Choate, Filmmaker

13. Cleland Marketing

14. C O A R E

15. Communications, INC.

16. Conservation International

17. Conservation Law Foundation

18. Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

19. Earthjustice

20. EcoAdapt

21. Educational Tall Ship

22. Environmental Defense Fund

23. Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary

24. Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center

25. Greenpeace Canada

26. Greenpeace International

27. Grist

28. International Seakeepers Society

29. KSC Kreate

30. Jarrett Byrnes, Community Ecologist

31. John Curley, Photographer

32. Learn to Dive Today

33. MacGillivray Freeman Films

34. Marine Fish Conservation Network

35. Marine Conservation Institute

36. Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council

37. Mission Blue | Sylvia Earle Alliance

38. Monterey Bay Aquarium

39. Monterey Bay and Channel Islands Sanctuary Foundation

40. Moss Landing Marine Laboratories

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41. My-Planet.org

42. National Geographic Society

43. Natural Resources Defense Council

44. New England Aquarium

45. NOAA, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

46. Oceana

47. OceanGate

48. Ocean Portal, Smithsonian Institute

49. One World, One Ocean

50. Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3

51. Personal Democracy Forum

52. Pew Charitable Trust, Environment Group

53. Sailors for the Sea

54. Sanibel Sea School

55. Save the Bay

56. Seattle Aquarium

57. SeaWeb

58. Shark Angels

59. Shark Research Institute

60. Shark Savers

61. Shark Stewards

62. Sherman’s Lagoon Comic Strip

63. SOCAP

64. Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

65. UNC Chapel Hill

66. United States Coast Guard, Living Marine Resources

67. West Coast Aquatic

68. WWF

69. WWF Canada

70. Vaquita.tv

71. Vava'u Environmental Protection Association

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Upwell Twitter
A secondary channel for campaigning across our distributed network since January 31, 2012.

Upwell’s Twitter feed allows us to share up-to-the minute hot ocean content with the
community and amplify their content and campaigns.

As of February 7, 2013, our feed  had 1,659 followers and was included on 67 Twitter lists that
range from the University of Southern Florida’s College of Marine Science’s Ocean Science News
list, to Bon Appétit Management Company’s Seafoodies: sustainable seafood folks list, to the
Nature Conservancy in Maryland/DC and Virginia’s Green Voices list.

Twitter followers, April 1, 2012 - February 5, 2013 (CoTweet)

A sample of our “top” (based on number of followers) Twitter followers demonstrates the range
and reach of Upwell’s Twitter community.

1. @Salon 241,511 followers


Salon.com

2. @nature_org 159,957 followers


Nature Conservancy

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3. @NWF 123,763 followers
National Wildlife Federation

4. @jowyang 121,899 followers


Jeremiah Owyang, Industry Analyst, Altimeter Group

5. @themoceanvibe 111,711 followers


Emmy Award winning underwater cameraman

6. @grist 102,010 followers


Grist.org (environmental news)

7. @edwardjolmos 78,303 followers


Edward James Olmos, Actor

8. @surfrider 76,375 followers


Surfrider Foundation

9. @PauloQuerido 71,152 followers


Paulo Querido, Journalist/Programmer

10. @craignewmark 62,778 followers


Craig Newmark, Founder of Craigslist

11. @FAOnews 63,096 followers


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States.

12. @Oceana 61,804 followers


Oceana

13. @nokidhungry 60,525 followers


Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign

14. @iron_ammonite 57,590 followers


Paul Williams, Filmmaker, #BBC Wildlife TV AP/Director, Writer, Photographer

15. @johnhaydon 49,152 followers


John Haydon. Author, Facebook Marketing for Dummies.

16. @SciNewsBlog 47,063 followers


SciNewsBlog: Science News for Ordinary People

17. @DiscoveryComm 34,255 followers


Discovery Communications

18. @polarbeartrust 30,820 followers


Polar Bear Trust

19. @ConservationOrg 29,245 followers


Conservation International

20. @turtlenews 29,441 followers


Sea Turtle Foundation

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21. @CarloLGarcia 27,848 followers
Carlo Lorenzo Garcia. Actor and Founder of Living Philanthropic

22. @LuciaGrenna 25,317 followers


Lucia Grenna, Sr. Communications Officer and Program Manager for the World Bank's
Connect4Climate (C4C) Global Partnership Program

23. @EICES_Columbia 24,046 followers


Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability. Columbia University

24. @MontereyAq 25,358 followers


Monterey Bay Aquarium

25. @earthisland 24,999 followers


Earth Island Institute

26. @FCousteau 23,064 followers


Fabien Cousteau

27. @gpph 21,339 followers


Greenpeace Pilipinas

28. @BoraZ 19,726 followers


Blogs Editor at Scientific American. Visiting Scholar at NYU school of journalism.
Organizer of ScienceOnline.

29. @OceanDoctor 19,493 followers


David E. Guggenheim

30. @GreenpeaceAustP 17,770 followers


Greenpeace Australia Pacific

31. @NatlAquarium 17,606 followers


National Aquarium

32. @SeafoodWatch 15,394 followers


Seafood Watch

33. @Scripps_Ocean 14,122 followers


Scripps Institution of Oceanography

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TwitterReach Report for February 8-February 12, 2013.

Even when we’re not actively campaigning, the Upwell Twitter account reaches tens of
thousands of people. According to the TwitterReach Report (above), over five days (February 8-
February 12, 2013), @upwell_us was mentioned in 50 tweets, by 40 people. As a result, 60,462
unique people saw tweets that included @upwell_us.

Upwell Facebook Page


A secondary channel for campaigning across our distributed network since March 27, 2012.

The Upwell Facebook Page provides an easy way for the Upwell Community to share our
curated content with their Facebook communities.

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Facebook Page Demographics for September 23-December 21,2012

Between September 23-December 21, 2012, Upwell’s Facebook fans shared 1,296 posts,
commented on 542 posts, and liked 3,992 posts on our Facebook Page.

As of February 19, 2013, 640 people from 20 countries joined the Upwell Facebook Page.
Although the number of likes to the Upwell Facebook Page are relatively low, our reach is great.
For example, between December 11-17, 2012, 1,712 people created a “story” (a page like, a story
from our post, a mention and photo tag, a post by others, or a check-in) about the Upwell Page.
In comparison, Greenpeace’s Facebook Page, which has hundreds of thousands of likes, often
has the same number of people creating stories about its posts.

Pinterest
A secondary channel for campaigning across our distributed network since May 9, 2012.

In April 2012, Pinterest became the third most popular social network in the United States,
behind Facebook and Twitter. Upwell uses Pinterest to engage the growing Pinterest community
in Upwell’s work, provide image ideas for ocean activists’ campaigns, and push traffic towards
ocean conservation organizations by pinning, and re-pinning images from their site.

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According to PinPuff, images from our most popular board, World Turtle Day is May 23rd, were
repinned 133 times and liked 29 times. Most of the images on the board were pinned from ocean
conservation organization’s sites, or repinned from their Pinterest boards.

Upwell Klout
Upwell’s Facebook and Twitter communities’ extraordinary level of online engagement has
given Upwell a Klout score (a measure of influence in online social networks) of 61. An average
Klout score is 40. Upwell’s Klout score is based on the activity of its Facebook Page (mentions,
likes, comments, subscribers, wall posts and friends), and its Twitter feed (retweets, mentions,
list memberships, followers and replies).

Klout defines influence as, “the ability to drive action, such as sharing a picture that triggers
comments and likes, or tweeting about a great restaurant and causing your followers to go try it
for themselves.” According to Beth Kanter, Klout scores over 60 are “Fly” scores in the
Crawl>Walk>Run>Fly methodology outlined in her book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit.

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Blog
A secondary channel for communicating across our distributed network since May 9, 2012.

The Upwell blog allows us to share analysis of the ocean conversation, social media best
practices, and DIY campaign toolkits with the Upwell community that wouldn’t fit within the
space limits of a Tide Report story, a Facebook update, or a tweet.

Blog Post Sampler:

• Who’s Influencing the Shark Conversation Online? August 6, 2012.


SharedCount: Facebook: 109 likes, 21 shares, 27 comments. Twitter: 48 tweets

• Big Blue Blogs: 88 Ocean Conservation Blogs. December 5, 2012.


SharedCount: Facebook: 28 likes, 37 shares, 12 comments. Twitter: 80 tweets. LinkedIn: 1
share.

• Big Blue Bogs: 100 + Ocean Conservation Blogs (Updated). January 15, 2013.
SharedCount: Facebook: 15 likes, 6 shares, 5 comments. Twitter: 20 tweets.

• Sustainable Seafood Twitter List. January 10, 2013.


SharedCount: Facebook: 12 likes, 11 shares, 2 comments. Twitter: 27 tweets.

• Attention Toolkit: Ocean Acidification, Coral Reefs and #ICRS2012. July 9, 2012.
SharedCount: Facebook: 1 like, 2 shares. Twitter: 18 tweets.

Guest Posts
Four guests posts during the fall of 2012 and winter of 2013 helped Upwell reach new audiences
while sharing social media and big listening best practices with the ocean conservation and
nonprofit sector.

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How Social Media Can Save Sharks on National Geographic’s Ocean Views (September 25,
2012) http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/09/25/how-social-media-can-save-
sharks/

• Topsy: Twitter: 127 tweets

• SharedCount: Facebook: 198 likes, 61 shares, 13 comments. Google +: 9 +1s, LinkedIn: 8


shares, StumbleUpon: 2 stumbles.

Why Your Nonprofit Should Be a Big Listener on Beth’s Blog (November 12, 2012)
http://www.bethkanter.org/listener/ Beth’s blog has approximately 20,000 subscribers (RSS &
email).

• Beth’s Blog: Twitter: 256 tweets.  Google +: 2 +1s. LinkedIn: 49 shares. Email shares: 15. Post
comments: 10.

• SharedCount: Facebook: 6 likes, 22 shares. Delicious: 4 bookmarks. StumbleUpon:3


Stumbles.

Sharing a Cause and Data Across Multiple Orgs: Developing a High Touch, Human Platform
for Collaboration in NTEN: Change (A Quarterly Journal for Nonprofit Leaders) (December, 2012)
http://bluetoad.com/publication/?i=136336&p=27 NTEN: Change has 11,500 subscribers.

• Topsy: 11 tweets

• SharedCount: Facebook: 2 likes, 5 shares, 2 comments.

6 Reasons Your Nonprofit Should Be a Big Listener on Socialbrite (January 8, 2013) http://
www.socialbrite.org/2013/01/09/how-nonprofits-benefit-from-big-listening/ The Socialbrite
blog has 180,000 unique visitors per month and 3,600 RSS subscribers.

• Topsy: 54 tweets

• SharedCount: Facebook: 93 likes, 213 shares, 55 comments.  Google +: 1 +1. LinkedIn: 5


shares.

Requests for Help, Speaking Engagements,


Sharkinars and Love Notes

Requests for Help and Speaking Engagements


As Upwell’s network has grown, so have the number of requests we’ve received for help with
campaigning, social media best practices, social mention research, and training.

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Working with and speaking to the organizations, individuals, and audiences listed below
strengthened our relationships with our existing network, introduced Upwell to new networks,
and provided essential resources and training for the ocean conservation community and
broader social change networks.

Planned Speaking Engagements:

• Personal Democracy Forum June 6-7, 2013 (New York, NY).

• 2013 Nonprofit Technology Conference April 11-13, 2013 (Minneapolis, MN).

• SXSW Interactive March 8-12, 2013 (Austin, TX).

Completed Presentations/Consultations/Collaborations by Upwell staff:

• 2013 Greenpeace Digital Mobilisation Skillshare. February 3-7, 2013 (Girona, Spain).

• David Shiffman, author of the upcoming book, Why Sharks Matter. Untitled paper on
social media outreach and shark conservation.

• Blue Ocean Institute, “Blue Ocean’s Mercury Report.”

• Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee Meeting. December 4, 2012 (Santa
Cruz, CA).

• Environmental Defense Fund, “Ecomarkets for Conservation and Sustainable


Development in the Coastal Zone.” Paper and promotional consult with Rod Fujita,
Director of R&D, Oceans Program, Environmental Defense Fund, and Rahel Marsie-Hazen,
Howard University Fellow, Environmental Defense Fund.

• George Leonard, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Ocean Conservancy


“A Requiem for Proposition 37?” Social mention graph used in Leonard’s National
Geographic and Blog Aquatic blog posts.

• Nonprofit Software Development Summit November 14-16, 2012 (Oakland, CA).

• National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation, National Marine Sanctuaries Birthday. Micro-


campaign by Upwell.

• Conservation International, Ocean Health Index. Social Media Strategy consultation at the
Ocean Health Index retreat (Santa Barbara, CA).

• Digital Mobilisation Lab at Greenpeace, Hurricane Sandy social mention analysis for
Michael Silberman, Global Director, Digital Mobilisation Lab.

• Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Grantee Meeting October 25, 2012 (Palo Alto, CA).

• SeaWeb, 10th International Seafood Summit in Hong Kong. Campaign consult.

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• Dr. Holly Bik, Postdoctoral Researcher, Eisen Lab, UC Davis Genome Center
Blog post about social media coverage of PLOS One paper, “Dramatic Shifts in Benthic
Microbial Eukaryote Communities following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.”

• Web of Change. September 5-9, 2012 (Cortes Island, B.C.).

• Blue Ocean Film Festival. September 24-30, 2012 (Monterey, CA).

• Third International Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World. September 27-29, 2012
(Monterey, CA).

• The Ocean Project, Assembly Bill 298: California Plastic Bag Ban. Campaign consult for
Alyssa Isakower.

• CompassPoint Nonprofit Day/ YNPN National Conference August 3, 2012 (San Francisco,
CA).

• The Ocean Project, World Oceans Day. Campaign consult for Alyssa Isakower.

• David Shiffman, author of the upcoming book, Why Sharks Matter. “Twitter as a tool for
conservation education: what scientific conferences can do to promote live tweeting.”

Sharkinar
In order to help our network leverage the online attention focused on Shark Week towards their
own causes, Upwell hosted a Sharkinar (August 7, 2012), and a Son of Sharkinar (August 10, 2012).
The webinars covered the State of the Shark Conversation, where the shark conversation was
happening, shark conversational currents, top shark influencers, and the most popular Shark
Week hashtag.

Selected participants from the first Sharkinar.

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Over 50 shark evangelists and campaigners attended the webinars including representatives
from:

• i love blue sea

• Humane Society of the United States, The

• Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation

• Mission Blue/Sylvia Earle Alliance

• Monterey Bay Aquarium

• Oceana

• Ocean Conservancy

• Ocean Project, The

• Project Aware

• Pew Charitable Trusts: Pew Environment Group

• Sea Stewards

• SeaWeb

• Shark Angels

• Shark Research Institute

• Shark Savers

• Smithsonian

• Synchronicity Earth

Sharkinar Impacts:

• 61.5% said it helped them network with other shark enthusiasts

• 53.8% said it helped them with idea generation,

• 30.8% said it helped them increase their Twitter followers and/or Facebook fans

• 30.8% said it helped them increase interaction on Twitter and/or Facebook

We also received some love notes from participants:

“Excellent meeting!”
- Marie Levine, Executive Director, Shark Research Institute

“Jawsome conference guys! I'm already thinking about how we can segue Shark Week into a
broader theme of ocean conservation and prolong the impact spike from Shark Week.”

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- Deb Castellana, Director of Communications, Mission Blue/Sylvia Earle Alliance

“Great meeting. Happy to learn that you have been collecting stats on the shark conversation.
Great to learn top hashtags, I will be using them for sure!”
- Alisa Schwartz, Vice President, Shark Angels

Love Notes
We’ve showed you lots of numbers and graphs to represent the Upwell community, but nothing
can capture them more than their own words. We’ve been overwhelmed by the enthusiastic
support we’ve received from the Upwell community over the last year, and are grateful for all of
the amazing work they do to make the ocean more famous online.

“PLEASE DON’T GO AWAY. You are the best thing I get.”


- Mark Rovner, founder and CEO, Sea Change Strategies

“I just want to say that I think you are doing amazing work right now and have been an
extremely valuable addition to the national oceans conversation in general.”
- Ben Kroetz, Senior Online Strategist, Greenpeace

“Gotta tell you, I love your stuff. Goes well with morning coffee. Pleasantly edgy, avant-garde,
it’s marine conservation served fresh, urban, and fresh from the Internet. Keep up the great
work!”
- Paulo Maurin, National Education Coordinator and Fellowship Manager, NOAA Coral
Reef Conservation Program (CRCP)

“I hope to see the Tide Report back soon.”


- Justin Kenney, Director of Communications, Pew Environment Group, The Pew
Charitable Trusts

“I have really benefitted and enjoyed your reports and I hope that you will continue.”
- Matt Rand, Senior Campaign Director, Oceans, Environmental Defense Fund

“Very iconic! [I Oyster NY].”


- Paul Greenberg, Bestselling Author, Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food

“It’s [Upwell’s] very existence speaks to the importance of ocean communicators. If Mother
Earth could speak, she'd say it should be a new career category. Given the small time that Upwell
has been in existence, you've truly made your mark. I want to see (and reap the benefits of)
more.”
- Deb Castellana, Director of Communications, Mission Blue/Sylvia Earle Alliance

“I would attend any 'inar' you all put on.”

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- Martin Reed, Founder, ilovebluesea.com

Vanessa Barrington, Public Relations Manager, Save the Bay, January 28, 2013

“Bringing people together! Sharing of ideas! Great content that is easily shareable (and fun to
share). Great writing.”
-Kathi Koontz, Worldviews Network Production Coordinator (California Academy of
Sciences), Whale Entanglement Responder (National Marine Fisheries Service), and
Special Rescue Operations Program Coordinator (The Marine Mammal Center)

“Tide Report is the primary way I engage with Upwell. I appreciate that you condense ocean
current events into good "sound bites" and provide ready-made content to share with whatever
social media network I use.”
-Jill L Harris, PhD Candidate, IGERT Global Change, Marine Ecosystems and Society,
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

“I really enjoy the Tide Reports because they are a quick and entertaining way to get my ocean
news.”
- Heather Galindo, Assistant Director of Science, COMPASS

“Keep doing what you're already doing with the Tide Report. I think it's great!”
- Kelly Drinnen, Outreach Specialist & Web Coordinator, Flower Garden Banks National
Marine Sanctuary

“[Upwell] Saved me time by providing content that I could amplify to my community and
translated complex science into simple social media messages.”
- Claire Fackler,  National Education Liaison, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

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“Keep doing what you're doing - it's so important.”
- Lindsay Norcott, Social Entrepreneur Coordinator, Social Capital Markets (SOCAP)

“I really like what you are doing - keep up the great work! I do feel as a social media manager for
a small organization, with a lot of other items on my plate, the newsletter helped give me a
sense of community and direction.”
- Hilary Wiech, Program Specialist/Online Communications Lead, Sailors for the Sea

“Upwell has been inspirational as a model for more effective communication about ocean
conservation. You have raised the bar and highlighted the benefits that can be gained from great
collaboration around messaging. The environmental community in general can be so
fragmented, and we don't realize how detrimental that can be to reaching broader conservation
goals. Upwell also opened my eyes to where people are at nationally with certain terms (MPAs),
and how we need to do a better job of matching messages to our audiences.”
- Julia Townsend, NOAA's National Marine Protected Areas Center, Program Analyst

“[Upwell] Kept me thinking and learning things about an issue that I care about greatly but that
isn't my core issue (I'm am acting here as an individual activist—I run a group that teaches online
organizing, I don't work specifically in ocean or environmental issues).”
-Elana Levin, Director of Strategy and Client Relations, Advomatic

“Upwell provides an unparalleled service that delivers strong messaging at the nexus of policy,
conservation, science and humor. It's quite the talent.”
- Nicholas Mallos, Conservation Biologist and Marine Debris Specialist, Ocean
Conservancy

Chris Eaton, Digital Media & Advocacy Specialist. January 28, 2013

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Comparative Ocean
Conversation Analytics
Introduction
“All ocean topics are equal, but some are more equal than others,” is what George Orwell
might say in the unlikely circumstance that he were alive today and monitoring ocean
discussions on the Internet.

To put it another way: a topic such as ocean


acidification may be of profound importance
from an ecological management perspective,
and a topic that is at the center of a great many
earnest and concerned discussions within the
scientific and activist communities; but online,
on an ongoing basis, it may barely register. The
reasons for that may be multiple and
compounding: lack of understanding, lack of
awareness, an absence of personal connection,
or a dearth of opportunities around which to
engage in discussion, among others.

Conversely, the threats to most populations of


George Orwell visits our client, early 1930s.
cetaceans—dolphins, porpoises and whales—as
There is no historical evidence that they did
a result of direct hunting may have diminished
not discuss Big Brother and Big Listening.
significantly since commercial whaling was at
[source]
its peak, but there are a lot of people who really
like dolphins, who care about them with a
passion, who mobilize every time there is a dolphin hunt in Japan or elsewhere, and for whom
the entirely natural entrapment of several orcas by ice in Hudson Bay is a matter of international
significance requiring the mobilization of a fleet of icebreakers. Conservation NGOs have actively
nurtured this constituency by placing wildlife as the centerpiece of repeated fundraising efforts.

As a consequence of this and other factors, the Baseline level of discussion is significantly higher
for cetaceans than for ocean acidification, and the opportunities for that conversation to
experience spikes of interest are also greater (for an explanation of “Baselines,” what they are
and how they’re calculated, please see the section of this report titled Methods: Big Listening).
Understanding the different scales of online conversations and monitoring what spikes a

115
conversation is what we call Big Listening. It is not a replacement for a program officer,
campaigner or communicator’s intuition about which subjects or frames are more popular, but it
does provide a significant new quantitative input to inform their work.

The value of Big Listening is that it provides a quantitative, big-picture means of measuring the
size and evolution of online conversations, one that is able to place those conversations in
context. Many of us—individuals and organizations—have a tendency to live and campaign in a
bubble, to be focused on our particular area, and to be disproportionately pleased with
perceived increases in our reach and
influence. Our personal filters are
further compounded by the increasing
personalization of online services—an
effect Eli Pariser has dubbed “the filter
bubble.”10 Yes, it’s great if discussion of
ocean acidification spikes ten-fold, but
even those spikes are but a fraction of
the Baseline cetacean discussion. And
for a genuine reality-check, consider
that our data shows that over a six-
month period in 2012, ocean
acidification’s 70,033 total online
mentions compared far from favorably Ocean Kardashification: a frame worth konsidering?
to the 9.6 million mentions of the
Kardashian family. That’s 136 times
more Kardashian!11

In this section, we examine which ocean conversations have been the most popular, which are
most likely to spike and why, and what we can learn from these findings.

10 http://www.thefilterbubble.com/
11 http://www.upwell.us/ocean-acidification-vs-kardashians-part-deux-gulf-even-wider-online

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Which Ocean Topics Have the Most
Baseline Volume?

90000

80000

70000

60000

50000

40000

30000

20000

10000

0
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

MPAs Ocean Acidification Sustainable Seafood


Overfishing Gulf of Mexico Tuna
Sharks Cetaceans Ocean

Social mention Baselines for Upwell’s primary ocean topics

Perhaps not surprisingly, when we look at overall levels of conversational Baselines, the generic
“oceans” conversation is orders of magnitude larger than the conversations for its constituent
components. While to some extent this is the result of so many conversations being conducted
under the “oceans” banner (more on that later), the word “ocean” is itself so widely used that,
without proper filtering, those other uses can distort the apparent size of the discussion. The
next two largest of our topics, Cetaceans and Sharks, also demonstrate comparatively high
Baselines when assessed against the others.

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8000

7000

6000

5000

4000

3000

2000

1000

0
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

MPAs Ocean Acidification Sustainable Seafood Overfishing Gulf of Mexico Tuna

A closer view of the lower-value Baselines for Upwell’s primary ocean topics—note the change
in scale and the position of the “tuna” Baseline in this graph in comparison to the previous
graph.

Here we’ve altered the scale to focus in on the more specific conversations, excluding Oceans,
Cetaceans and Sharks. The first thing that can be seen is that, among these, the Tuna Baseline is
significantly higher than the others. Removing Tuna, and changing the y-axis scale yet again,
brings the lowest volume conversations more into focus.

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3000

2500

2000

1500

1000

500

0
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

MPAs Ocean Acidification Sustainable Seafood Overfishing Gulf of Mexico

An even closer view of the lowest-value Baselines for Upwell’s primary ocean topics—note the
change in scale and the position of the “Gulf of Mexico” Baseline in this graph in comparison to
the prior versions.

Here, finally, we can see substantial differences among our lowest-volume topics. MPAs has the
lowest Baseline, Ocean Acidification and Sustainable Seafood are basically tied for second-
lowest (each exceeds the other for certain days of the week), and Overfishing comes in about
five times higher.

The table below shows the individual day-of-the-week Baseline values for Upwell’s primary
monitoring topics. Topics are sorted by average Baseline social mention volume, smallest to
largest.

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Daily Baseline Volumes by Topic
Topic Average Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
(Sun-Sat)

MPAs 61 42 59 67 67 80 73 44

Ocean 301 255 296 310 326 357 313 253


Acidification

Sustainable 320 218 329 381 379 364 354 213


Seafood

Overfishing 1,565 1,309 1,628 1,649 1,695 1,763 1,650 1,262

Gulf of 2,416 1,727 2,530 2,647 2,831 2,665 2,606 1,904


Mexico

Tuna 7,020 6,196 7,381 7,481 7,653 7,587 6,935 5,907

Sharks 20,193 18,663 20,531 21,044 20937 21,001 20,204 18,971

Cetaceans 40,354 40,703 42,333 43,500 41,496 39,700 38,663 36,080

Ocean 76,671 74,970 79,670 79,763 78,384 78,382 75,716 69,816

What Does Big Listening Tell Us


About Ocean Conversations?
This section summarizes our insights into each of the primary conversations we monitor
through Big Listening. For each topic we offer a graph of social mention volume over time, a
breakdown of some of the biggest spikes in attention, and an analysis of the overall
conversational dynamics. The summaries are presented in the following order:
• Fishing and Seafood: Overfishing
• Fishing and Seafood: Sustainable Seafood
• Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
• Oceans
• Cetaceans
• Sharks
• Tuna
• Gulf of Mexico
• Ocean Acidification

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Fishing and Seafood: Overfishing
When Greenpeace International became arguably the first environmental NGO to institute a
dedicated overfishing campaign in the mid-to-late 1980s, internal organizational response was
not entirely enthusiastic. After all, “save the fish” just didn’t seem to have the same ring as some
of Greenpeace’s other campaigns. Despite the humdrum slogan, that effort marked a first serious
attempt to bring attention to overfishing as an environmental and human concern, and to
address its underlying causes. In the years since, overfishing has become perhaps the leading
issue on which ocean-themed NGOs focus their attention in various forms. Online discussion of
the topic greatly exceeds that of the related Sustainable Seafood conversation, and of course
frequently overlaps with more specific conversation topics, such as Sharks and Tuna (whose
namesakes are overfished).

Major Spikes
Please refer to the Attention Impacts and Graphs section beginning on page 73 for annotated
graphs of the Overfishing conversation and associated spikes.

• May 29, 2012: 10,871 [NU-3]: This is the same story that spiked on the same day in the Tuna
conversation: the discovery of small levels of radioactivity in Pacific bluefin. While the
spike in Overfishing was less than half the size of the spike in the Tuna conversation, the
spike suggests that at least some of the ‘radioactive tuna’ attention touched on the
impacts of overfishing on Pacific bluefin numbers.

• July 3, 2012: 7,751 [China Shark Fin Soup Ban]: The Brussels-based Ocean2012 organization
released a video entitled “Ending Overfishing”, a powerful four minutes of animation on
the impacts of overfishing, bycatch and aquaculture on marine ecosystems. MoveOn.org
posted the video on its website and tweeted the link with the headline, “Terrifying! Fifty
years from now, the oceans will look nothing like they do today.” The video was
successful because it was pithy, it explained basic concepts powerfully and cleanly
without hyperbole, and with clear and simple animation. The other big contributor to this
spike was the news that China intends to ban Shark Fin Soup from official state banquets.

• October 29, 2012: 8,716 [Antarctic Ocean (Day 10) and I Oyster NY]: An international,
celebrity-backed campaign to stop industrial fishing in the Antarctic combined with a New
York Times Op-Ed piece about oyster beds (An Oyster in the Storm) to drive this attention
spike in Overfishing.  

• December 19, 2012: 14,704 [Gangnam Style, CA MPAs, Fish Tornado]: A number of
significant stories combined to push this day to the highest spike of the year in the
Overfishing conversation, including the news, mentioned under MPAs, of California
completing an MPA network. The two biggest drivers of the spike in attention were,
however, the remarkable image of a  “fish tornado” in a marine reserve off Mexico, and a
Greenpeace “Gangnam Style” video which was embedded with overfishing campaign
messages. Also contributing that day was the news that officials in the European Union

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made very significant changes to the setting of fisheries quotas in the region—changes
widely praised by environmentalists and fisheries managers.

• January 5, 2013: 8,917 [NU-5]: The record sale of a single bluefin tuna for $1.76 M in Tokyo
propelled this spike in attention. The sale, which exceeded the record price set the
previous year, is a regular occurrence and could be anticipated as a recurring event (timed
to Tsukiji fish market's first auction of the year) in an overfishing and tuna editorial
calendar.

Analysis
Collectively, overfishing represents a grab bag of ocean brands. The Overfishing conversation
brings together species such as sharks, tuna, salmon and lesser known but equally important
fish, with wonkish report subjects such as fisheries management and lackluster international
conferences. The topic encompasses a relatively broad conversational area, and one that has
historically churned out quarterly bursts of dire news.

Overfishing has about five times the Baseline volume of Sustainable Seafood, and roughly two-
thirds that of our next biggest topic, the Gulf of Mexico. The comparison with Sustainable
Seafood is particularly interesting because the two topics are obviously intricately connected—
the difference is how people talk about them. Whereas sustainable seafood suffers from a
fragmented and cloudy brand identity (what is sustainable seafood, anyway?), overfishing has
charismatic ocean species such as sharks and bluefin who are in clear and present danger.

Danger is catnip to the internet. The Overfishing conversation actually benefits, from an
attention point of view, from the ongoing damage that we are doing to our oceans and fisheries.
Bad news spikes high and fast online and then it goes away. Intriguingly, the spikes within
Overfishing have been occurring more frequently since Upwell started monitoring (and
campaigning on) the topic. Overfishing is becoming more spikey and the spikes are increasing in
volume.

Bad news and charismatic species are chum to celebrities and campaigners. Without
questioning motives, we do feel obligated to point out that both activists (like Greenpeace) and
celebrity activists (like Richard Branson) tend to look for opportunities to make a splash, and
thus an impact. Sir Richard, in particular, has instigated a number of attention events in
overfishing through his work against shark-finning. Another celebrity, the comic actor Jonah
Hill, was able to single-handedly drive a spike with a single overfishing tweet. Because the
Overfishing conversation is relatively small, influencers who focus their audiences’ attention
there can have a substantial effect in increasing attention (though their ability to sustain it is
questionable).

Overfishing looks good on (video) camera. Several spikes were driven by compelling overfishing
video content. Those videos didn’t shy away from the brutality or devastation involved, but they
did present it in a way that felt fresh, compelling and hopeful. People are looking for solutions,

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and for most videos to be shared they have to elicit an emotion from their viewers that the
viewers want to share. The video is the medium for that transmission. If your overfishing video
is filled with bloody documentary footage of shark fins, you’re aiming for a seriously intense
emotional response from your audience. Even if they finish watching, they are unlikely to want
to expose their friends and coworkers to what is, in technical terms, a total bummer. Production
quality, aesthetics, tone and length are especially important considerations for videos of this
nature.

The Campaigning, Collaboration and Powerful Amplifiers section of this report shares additional
details and lessons that Upwell has learned from regular campaigning within the Overfishing
conversation.

Fishing and Seafood: Sustainable Seafood


As recently as fifteen—perhaps even ten—years ago, the very notion of sustainable seafood
would likely have elicited universal blank stares. Not until the mid-1990s did environmental
organizations and educational institutes make a truly concerted effort to develop a consumer
mindset for buying sustainably caught seafood. The foundation of the Marine Stewardship
Council in 1997, and the creation of seafood guides such as the one produced by the Monterey
Bay Aquarium, gradually helped make the notion of sustainable seafood a more widely-
recognized one. Even so, while the concept is becoming increasingly well-established in
consumer minds, it remains a quiet conversation online.

Major Spikes
Please refer to the Attention Impacts and Graphs section beginning on page 73 for annotated
graphs of the Sustainable Seafood conversation and associated spikes.

• September 6, 2012: 1,030 [NU-18]: This marks the opening of the International Sustainable
Seafood Summit in Hong Kong. In association with the summit’s launch, several
organizations, including WWF, launched reports and posted blogs on proposals for
enhancing the future sustainability of commercial fisheries. This was a spike caused by a
number of related stories, as well as the cumulative effect of a sustained flow of posts
from conference live-tweeters employing a shared hashtag.

• October 4, 2012: 1,093 [Vote4Stuff]: Upwell’s video submission to the star-studded


Vote4Stuff campaign raised the profile of overfishing and sustainable seafood for a large
online audience. Both the Vote4Stuff campaign, and its celebrity-co-founder, Leonardo
DiCaprio, promoted our video through official online channels to a potential audience of
millions.

• November 21, 2012: 1,312 [NU-20]: An Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown in Vancouver and
Thanksgiving sustainable seafood recipes combined (somewhat improbably) for the
biggest Sustainable Seafood spike of the year.

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• January 24, 2013: 1,276 [NU-23] and January 25, 2013: 1065 [NU-24]: McDonald’s generated
a series of spikes with its announcement that 100% of the fish served in franchises will be
certified as sustainable by MSC.  

Analysis
Sustainable Seafood is a low-volume conversation with low-level spikes. For comparison,
Marine Protected Areas has a lower baseline than Sustainable Seafood but occasionally spikes
higher than the Sustainable Seafood max. Ocean Acidification displays the same characteristic.
And despite their obvious connections, the volume of the Sustainable Seafood conversation is
only one fifth of that of the Overfishing conversation. Good news for fisheries and consumers, it
turns out, is not as attention-generating as bad news.

As we detail in Campaigning, Collaboration and Powerful Amplifiers, the overall brand of


Sustainable Seafood is fragmented, awkward and wonky. People simply do not talk about the
sustainable seafood that they ate last night, or, crucially, not in those terms. The food service
industry has recognized this: one trade publication forecast growing demand for sustainable
seafood even as it pointed out that consumers prefer the term “wild”—which obviously means
something very different. Furthermore, “sustainable seafood” itself is not a term well-suited for
short-form platforms like Twitter—it takes too many characters and is hard to use in a sentence
that doesn’t read as dry. Taken as a whole, the fragmentation of the Sustainable Seafood
conversation means that it is more difficult to accurately capture it with keywords, and that a
low volume doesn’t necessarily mean people aren’t talking.

Unlike Overfishing, which has regular media hooks through connections to Shark Week, dire
report releases and celebrity activists, the Sustainable Seafood conversation doesn’t generally
translate into spikes from live events and or big news stories. Where we do see spikes occur they
are usually based in one of three elements: well-known brands promoting their sustainable
offerings (Safeway, McDonalds), fraud, or a bridge campaign (many of them attributable to
Upwell). One other notable burst of attention can be expected from the Sustainable Seafood
Summit—although the resulting content hasn’t been particularly shareable with an audience
beyond the conference’s attendees.

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Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

6000

5000

4000

3000

2000

1000

0
Dec-11 Mar-12 Jun-12 Sep-12 Dec-12
Baseline MPAs

The Baseline and major attention spikes for the MPA conversation

To environmental planners, scientists and activists, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are an
essential and important component of ocean protection, and the debate over their correct use
and application as part of broader marine environmental strategy is a vital one. It is safe to say,
however, that on an average day the MPA discussion stays firmly rooted in the wonkosphere
with an average daily baseline of just 61 social mentions—the smallest of the ocean
conversations Upwell monitors.

Major Spikes
• June 14, 2012: 1,656: This was driven by news reports that Australia planned to establish
the world’s largest network of MPAs around its coast. The announcement was given
added juice by it being made on the eve of the Rio+20 conference. Interestingly, one of the
biggest drivers of the conversation came not directly from the Australian government but
via a press release from the Pew Environment group, which has made the establishment
of MPAs across the globe a major goal.

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• October 21, 2012: 3,065 through October 24, 2012: 2,131: This series of four sustained spikes
was led by a massive petition drive led by AVAAZ.org calling on CCAMLR to “save the
Antarctic Ocean” by establishing the world’s largest network of MPAs.

• December 19, 2012: 6,425: An incredible image of a “fish tornado” taken in Cabo Pulmo
National Park drove this spike, along with the announcement that California had
completed a comprehensive network of marine protected areas that had been years in the
making.

Analysis
There is no ongoing volume of online discussion of MPAs that reflects their policy importance
within the NGO community. When MPA spikes occur, we can generally say two things:

1. They are based not on any online activity or petitions, but on news stories that are
picked up, shared, linked to, quoted and retweeted.
2. Those stories are good news: MPAs have been established. Especially popular are stories
about MPAs that are working, complete, or growing.

One element that contributes to the remarkably low general discussion of MPAs is terminology.
Although marine reserves, marine sanctuaries, and MPAs all have very specific meanings from a
management perspective, their use can be confusing even to those within the community. MPA
sounds more wonky than marine reserves, and it seems likely that at least some MPA discussion
is taking place without the term being utilized. The conversational fragmentation of MPAs is
similar to that of Sustainable Seafood in that each topic is discussed, outside of the policy world,
in terms of the physical manifestation (the food, product or place) that a person interacts with.

The MPA conversation is also notable for its international elements. MPA announcements
coming out of Australia have generated significant spikes, as has news of the creation of other
protected areas elsewhere in the world.

MPA spikes have a demonstrated ability to go much much higher than the MPA Baseline would
suggest. When MPA news does jump outside of the MPA-specific audience it can lead to
extremely significant spikes. This characteristic of the MPA conversation is another reason why
we suspect that issues with language framing and terminology may be tamping down the
volume of Baseline conversation.

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Oceans

250000

200000

150000

100000

50000

0
Oct-11 Jan-12 Apr-12 Jul-12 Oct-12 Jan-13

Baseline Ocean

The Baseline and major attention spikes for the Oceans conversation

The ocean is of course the meta-conversation in which we are interested, and into which all
other conversations should ideally fit. But it encompasses such a wide area, and is integral to so
many human activities—from seafaring to beachgoing—that filtering out such outliers to focus in
on conversations relating to the marine environment can be tricky and time-consuming. Add in
the likes of Ocean Spray and Frank Ocean, and spikes can be misleading.

Major Spikes
• November 10, 2011: 159,883: The biggest Oceans story of the day was the 26th Southeast
Asian (SEA) Games being held in Jakarta. This spike demonstrates the limitations of
language filters, as our Radian6 keyword groups are generally set to return only English
language items. In this case the acronym for the games, “SEA,” is in English so those
mentions made it through.

• April 12, 2012: 159,472: In this case, the spike was all about the right kind of ocean: the
Indian Ocean. Specifically, a tsunami warning in the Indian Ocean, following an 8.7

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earthquake off Indonesia. Again, this is an example of how, with such a broad topic, a
number of major events can be responsible for a sudden spike.

• October 28-30, 2012: peak value 226,284: This spike series was caused by concerns over
the ocean’s impact, rather than humanity’s impact on the ocean, and with very good
cause. During this period, Superstorm Sandy was wreaking havoc along much of the mid-
Atlantic coast, and was the dominant topic for online ocean conversations. Specific ocean
mentions referred to the storm heading to land from the Atlantic, and to impacts on Ocean
City, Maryland.

Analysis
Some conversations are so broad that in order to derive meaningful insight from them, it is
necessary to filter out a wide number of similar terms. However, even when the conversations
are sufficiently filtered that they only refer to the ocean itself, the ocean affects so many areas of
life, and in particular is the source of so many storms and other events, that by itself tracking the
“ocean” conversation does not give an especially accurate view of the level of online
engagement on ocean issues. This topic provides a sense of comparative scale but not much
else, although we are exploring whether seasonal periodicity might manifest itself as in the
summer months of 2012.

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Cetaceans

80000

70000

60000

50000

40000

30000

20000

10000

0
May-12 Aug-12 Nov-12

Baseline Cetaceans

The Baseline and major attention spikes for the Cetaceans conversation

Second only to Oceans, Cetaceans is one of the largest conversations we monitor. The primary
inhabitants of the Cetaceans topic—dophins and whales—each have a number of linguistic
doppelgängers (Miami Dolphins, for example) who threaten to obscure their online mentions
with irrelevant chatter. Carefully crafted keywords with ample exclusions are therefore crucial to
emerging from Cetaceans monitoring with signal instead of noise.

Major Spikes
• July 5, 2012: 66,146: During a time—the annual meeting of the International Whaling
Commission (IWC)—when NGOs and journalists pay extra attention to whales and whaling,
South Korea announced on this day that it intended to conduct ‘scientific’ whaling. This
spike highlights two things: even in an age of new media, announcements that are made
in the physical presence of members of old media are at an advantage; and in an age

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where whaling has long been on the retreat, the notion of another country joining the
hunt is jarring and generates attention.

• November 9, 2012: 69,602: A post on a relatively obscure blog—suite101.com—detailed the


death of a captive bottlenose dolphin called Sundance, and was headlined, ‘The effects of
confinement on captive cetaceans.’ The Sundance story was not new; as the blog post
acknowledged, it had been detailed in a book chapter in 2010. But the post, which was
published on November 6, gave it new life, particularly after it was tweeted by the Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society on the 9th. This demonstrates that even relatively old
posts can be given new life, a tactic that we have employed in several of our attention
campaigns.

• December 3, 2012: 66,366: Perhaps the largest single ongoing driver of the online cetacean
conversation is the dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan. On this day, the conversation was
dominated by Sea Shepherd providing live tweets of a hunt, and by a livestreaming site—
ezearth.tv—that streamed the hunt and was linked to an astonishing 51,000 times. This
highlights the power of immediacy on the Internet: the ability to vicariously observe and
protest, in real time, against an activity—any activity, but especially something as emotive
as the killing of dolphins—is a huge driver.

• January 9-10 2013. Peak value: 83,682: This is another example of a live event causing a
spike in online discussion: in this case, a pod of orcas trapped by ice in Canada’s Hudson
Bay. The first report of the orcas came on January 9, after they were spotted by a hunter
from the Inuit village of Inukjuak in Quebec. Canadian media spread the story and it was
soon picked up online. The whales apparently swam free late on the 11th, after shifting
winds broke open a channel in the ice. The conversation was driven by many calling for
icebreakers to come and rescue the whales, of which the prime and most retweeted
example was a post by Virgin founder Richard Branson.

Analysis
A few things stand out from these figures. People like whales and dolphins. A lot. The cetacean
conversation remains at a high level relative to other ocean discussions.

Spikes are driven particularly by live, ongoing events - although interestingly, a natural event
(ice-entrapped whales) and the prospect of rescuing them created an even bigger spike than
dolphin hunts in Taiji.

The conversation began to exceed the Baseline in the first third of the year and was consistently
above it thereafter. It seems likely that ongoing reports from the Taiji dolphin hunt were largely
responsible for this; Taiji was a consistent element in every spike, even when it was wasn’t the
main driver.

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Sharks
800000

700000

600000

500000

400000

300000

200000

100000

0
Oct-11 Jan-12 Apr-12 Jul-12 Oct-12 Jan-13
Baseline Sharks

The Baseline and major attention spikes for the shark conversation. Note the huge spikes for
Discovery Channel's Shark Week.

Sharks are among the most charismatic marine animals, along with whales and dolphins. The
size of the Baseline conversation, however, is obscured in most graphs by the immensity of the
spikes that result because of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.

Major Spikes
• August 1, 2010, July 31, 2011, and August 12-13, 2012, peak value 764,858: These spikes all
represent the beginning of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, driven by advertising, word-
of-mouth, increasingly by social media, and by anticipation of an annual event. There is
simply no other single event that consistently raises the level of discussion of any ocean-
related topic the way that Shark Week does.

• May 12, 2011: 52,196: This spike appears to have been largely driven by a Roger Ebert
column, which he tweeted and which was widely retweeted, about “Sharks on a Plane:
The Movie.” The links to the column are now dead. Sharks, to some extent like oceans,

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have the kind of profile that can result in spikes that are not associated with conservation
messages.

• October 29, 2012: 154,420: Not “sharks on a plane” this time. “Sharks in New Jersey,”
instead. This spike coincided with the the immediate aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, and
specifically a popular meme that spread rapidly online, of photoshopped impact photos. A
significant subset of this meme was photoshopped images of sharks swimming in flooded
urban and suburban streets in New Jersey and New York, shared and retweeted by overly-
credulous netizens.

Analysis
The graph above looks at a longer time scale than the others, which enables us to show more
clearly three particular elements.

The trend line for the shark discussion is growing. Indeed, although it is hidden somewhat by
the longer scale and the enormity of the biggest spikes, it is one of the larger discussions on
ocean topics that we have baselined.

The Shark Week spikes are also growing; in 2012, the spike was immense. Yes, more people are
using social media now than in 2010, but even so, the scale of the increase is impressive.
Discovery Channel, with the help of shark enthusiasts, has successfully invested in a robust
social media content strategy that piggybacks on sustained TV and online promotion. Shark
Week is a bona fide, real world event. It is basically the Super Bowl of the ocean when it comes
to online attention. The shark conservation community has become more engaged over time
(see: Upwell’s Shark Week campaigns) but isn't yet responsible for a big portion of the overall
volume.

Combined with the increasing Sharks Baseline, the data suggests that Shark Week is proving
effective at not only spiking the Sharks conversation, but in lifting it consistently over a longer
period. Shark Week is making sharks more famous on the internet. For a case study of Upwell’s
Shark Week campaign efforts, see the Methods: Campaigning section of this report.

The other major spikes are, on the one hand, somewhat bizarre, but representative of the fact
that sharks are still widely perceived in a negative and predatory light; few things are more likely
to provoke attention than sharks in close proximity, be it at the beach, in New Jersey or, heaven
forbid, on a plane. Shark attacks—or shark accidents, as we prefer to call them—are also a
guaranteed attention-getter, as is the almost inevitable reactionary response from revenge-
minded humans.

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Tuna
25000

20000

15000

10000

5000

0
Feb-12 May-12 Aug-12 Nov-12
Baseline Tuna

The Baseline and major attention spikes for the Tuna conversation

In the 1980s and 1990s, tuna conversation in an environmental context was mostly focused on
yellowfin, the impacts of purse-seining on dolphins, and the development of the ‘Dolphin-Safe’
label. In this decade, “tuna” in an environmental context mostly refers to bluefin. For many
people, however, it refers simply to a piece of seafood, and online discussions are as likely to
refer to issues related to that as much as to environmental concerns, as some of these spikes
reflect.

Major Spikes
• April 16, 2012: 11,431: This is a classic tuna-as-seafood story—a fish processor recalled
yellowfin tuna after an outbreak of salmonella affected over 10 people in 20 states and the
District of Columbia. This is an example of two key elements when tracking discussion of
any fish or fishery: the majority of people are more likely to relate to fish as food than as
wildlife; and the element of that food that is most likely to engage them in conversation is
the way in which it relates to human health.

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• May 29 - 30, 2012: Peak value: 23,898: Another human health story, prompted by
publication of a research paper that found tiny amounts of radioactivity in tuna off the US
west coast that had migrated from off the coast of Japan at the time of the Fukushima
disaster. For researchers, the most interesting aspect was confirmation of tuna migration
patterns; for consumers, it prompted an online freakout about glow-in-the-dark fish. It is
hard to imagine that there is any form of contamination—even including mercury or lead—
that is more likely to lead to discussion and concern than radiation.

• September 11, 2012: 20,942: This does seem to be an environmental spike. The driver this
time: an IUCN report that global tuna stocks are reaching the limits of sustainability.
Pushes by Greenpeace and the Pew Environment group appear to have been particularly
effective in moving this dial.

• October 31, 2012 - November 1, 2012: Peak value: 24,199: Two completely unrelated events
appear to have put tuna in the news on consecutive days. On the 31st, WWF announced
that it had discovered illegal shipments of tuna through Panama, suggesting illegal catches
of bluefin could be higher than realized. As this story continued on the following day, TMZ
revealed that an X Factor contestant had been hospitalized for eating bad tuna.

• January 5, 2013: 14,267: This was a pretty big story, and a back door into conservation
discussion: a world record price for a bluefin tuna that was sold at a Tokyo fish auction for
$1.76 million. Multiple news stories were shared and retweeted. Conservation messages
that were propagated at this time were rather rudimentary, emphasizing that they are
getting more expensive because they are more rare.

• January 15, 2013: 12,684: This was a purely conservation discussion, and one solely
resulting from an effort by Pew Environment Group. Pew jumped on a dense scientific
study that was uploaded at 2AM ET, spent a day excerpting the key facts and translating
them into comprehensible language, and revealing that they found that the Pacific bluefin
tuna population had been reduced by 96.4 percent. Upwell ran a campaign to amplify
attention to this statistic.

Analysis
Despite ongoing efforts to encourage consumers to see tuna as impressive wild animals, most
people still regard tuna primarily as food. The prospect of poisoning from salmonella or
radioactivity provided two of the biggest spikes.

Big figures are good for attention (even when the implications of those figures are very very bad).
Most amount ever paid for a tuna; almost 2 million dollars! Pacific bluefin decreased by 96
percent! The math is on the wall, and in the spikes.

Three of the Tuna spikes are the result of concerted efforts by NGOs—WWF, Greenpeace, and
Pew—to find ways to push stories that otherwise might not have been noticed. The radioactive
Fukushima tuna story was propelled by a sensational ready-made headline but originally
emerged from a journal article in PLoS ONE.

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Gulf of Mexico

60000

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30000

20000

10000

0
Mar-12 Jun-12 Sep-12 Dec-12
Baseline Gulf of Mexico

The Baseline and major attention spikes for the Gulf of Mexico conversation

While of regional import, the Gulf of Mexico rarely registers as a topic of national conversation
outside of major events such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Deepwater Horizon disaster
in 2010. As can be seen from the above, it is an ongoing topic of online conversation on a low
level, but two substantial spikes elevated it significantly above its Baseline.

Major Spikes
• August 26 - 29, 2012: Peak value: 62,718: This conversation was all about tropical Storm
Isaac, which disrupted travel, caused the evacuation of oil rigs in the Gulf and briefly raised
concerns that it might be of similar size and track to Katrina. Note how conversation
gathered pace as the storm headed toward shore, peaked as it made landfall on the 28th,
and declined thereafter.

• November 15, 2012: Peak value: 28,478: This short-lived spike was driven by a fire on an oil
platform in the Gulf. At the same time, BP admitted to felonies in the lead-up to the 2010

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Deepwater Horizon fire, and agreed to pay record fines. The spike ended when the fire
was extinguished.

Analysis
There are three things that stand out here. As mentioned, the Gulf of Mexico is rarely a subject of
online conversation. When it is, it is mainly for one of two reasons: An oil rig accident or similar
news story related to Deepwater Horizon; or a big tropical storm or hurricane. That was the case
in 2012.

As noted before, the Internet loves live events. Both these conversations tracked events that
were unfolding in real-time: a gathering storm, and an oil rig fire.

Both these events gained strength from what had gone before: in the case of Tropical Isaac,
memories of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina; and in the oil rig fire, the question of
whether the accident could spiral out of control to be a Deepwater Horizon redux. In each case,
the conversation dropped off rapidly once it became clear that the danger had passed.

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Ocean Acidification

3000

2500

2000

1500

1000

500

0
May-12 Aug-12 Nov-12
Baseline Acidification

The Baseline and major attention spikes for the ocean acidification conversation.

Ocean acidification (OA) is an issue that has been garnering increasing attention from
researchers, activists and managers in the marine conservation community; a result of increased
levels of CO2 in the ocean, it is predicted to result in deterioration of shellfish shells, coral reefs,
and the skeletons of plankton, among many other changes. OA is a high impact issue, but with
an extraordinarily unsexy name; partly as a result, the background ocean acidification
conversation has yet to really register. Occasionally, however, a major story breaks through and
the spotlight briefly shines on acidifying oceans.

Major Spikes
• July 9 - 10, 2012: Peak value: 2,970: These two spikes resulted from the opening of the
International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Australia, and specifically an AP article in
which NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco called OA both “osteoporosis of the sea” and
“climate change’s equally evil twin.” The existence of the conference conditioned the
climate for the interview to take place; it is to Lubchenco’s credit that she took advantage
of that opportunity with such memorable phrases.

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• October 1, 2012: 1,775: After several days of OA interest resulting from the “Oceans in a High
CO2 World” conference, which had taken place in Monterey, California September 24-27,
the issue reached its peak spike for the week with the publication of a Washington Post
story entitled ‘Ocean Acidification Emerges as new Climate Threat.’ The article was linked
to 582 times on Twitter alone.

• November 25 - 28, 2012: Peak value: 3,105: This wasn’t one long spike, but a pair in
succession. The first stemmed from a study showing that some of the worst predicted
effects of ocean acidification were already taking place, with shells of sea snails in the
Antarctic showing signs of dissolving. This continued the following day, and on November
27 was joined by Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire ordering state agencies to
take initial steps to combat ocean acidification, following the publication of a report by a
blue-ribbon panel that generated national press coverage.

Analysis
While OA may not yet resonate widely, it has the elements that could enable it to, as is shown by
the year’s two biggest spikes. The first was fueled by powerful catchphrases that boiled down
complex science into two simple, easy-to-understand notions; and the second did not dwell on
theoretical possibilities or timelines for change but instead was able to say categorically: sea
snails are dissolving, and they’re dissolving now. The notion that we’re effecting such
demonstrable change, and doing so now, is powerful.

It should nonetheless be noted that even the spikes are low compared to the Baseline
conversations of Cetaceans and Sharks, among others. This subject has a long way to go before it
becomes a conversation in which a large segment of the community is truly engaged. Bridging
the community concerned with OA to the community concerned with climate change is a huge
opportunity, but one that carries significant strategic choices, the complexities of which should
not be underestimated. Our data suggests that Ocean Acidification is a likely candidate to “jump”
Baselines (meaning: spike values would exceed Baseline levels for higher-volume ocean
conversations), at which point supporters of OA action would be well-advised to have an pre-
existing plan in place for how to talk about it in connection to it’s equally evil twin.

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Insights: Big Listening
Big Listening as Practice
“The best forecasters, Hoke [explains], need to be able to think visually and abstractly
while at the same time being able to sort through the abundance of information the
computer provides them with. Moreover, they must understand the dynamic and
nonlinear nature of the system they are trying to study.”

Weather forecasts, contrary to most people’s assumptions, are actually a rare field in which
forecasts have been substantially improving. In his recent book, The Signal and the Noise,
celebrated stats wonk Nate Silver interviews Jim Hoke, a senior forecaster at the National
Weather Service. Hoke describes the comfort with complexity necessary to forecast weather. Big
Listening, similarly, requires significant human skill and intuition to, first, develop robust
conversational descriptors (keywords) and, second, to use the resulting information to identify
opportunities for a campaign to spike a given conversation. Indeed, Upwell has intentionally
cross-trained campaign and listening roles so that this integration between listening and
intervention is as efficient as possible. This comes not from any computer readout but from
regular, hands-on, practice.

The tech tools we use for Big Listening are incredibly powerful, yet surprisingly primitive. (These
tools are detailed later in this section.) Algorithms misread emotions, don’t understand context,
and can dress up ambiguity to look like certainty. Moreover, despite being in an industry that is
fundamentally data-driven, the service providers packaging the various firehoses of social data
offer surprisingly little information about the exact conditions and sources of the data to which
they’re selling access. It’s as if you were buying a car and the dealer would only tell you the
model and year, but not whether it had air-conditioning or seatbelts. ‘Weather’ forecasting of the
social web is a nascent practice.

Regular Big Listening to a given conversation is essential for building an analyst’s awareness of
the conversational dynamics at play. While it is technically possible to conduct retrospective
unpacking of a topic, and Upwell has done it in the past, it is much more efficient to listen on an
ongoing basis. Presence is the difference between watching a baseball game and reconstructing
it through the box score.

Team Structure
While the Upwell model is unique, there are some analogues to the team structure we evolved
within the digital teams of other innovative nonprofits. The social media strategy firm
Communicopia identified four primary forms for digital teams within mid-to-large-size

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organizations (50,000+ members), and praised what they called the “hybrid model” in which
“the most progressive organizations are learning to be like the web—they distribute digital staff
across key departments, with a core group of experts that lead key initiatives, set up
frameworks, and connect the dots while supporting others to lead.”12

Communicopia ‘hybrid’ governance model for digital teams. [Source]

Our own structure, while much smaller, replaces the hybrid model’s internal departments with
an informal, distributed network. In the Upwell context, each of our team members may also be
thought of as our own department (according to our primary role), and cross-training in Big
Listening, attention campaigning and network-strengthening allows us to recreate that
integrated core team through our shared foundational expertise.

Listening Systems
Our structure intentionally underpins the process for doing Big Listening. Each member of the
Upwell team draws on a variety of tools and practices—some shared, some personalized—to
generate immediately actionable insight into each day’s online events. We supplement our
personal suite of tools and practices (our “systems”) with shared Upwell systems (such as
Radian6).

   Personal Listening Systems [human and machine-assisted]


+ Shared Listening Systems [machine-assisted and human-network-assisted]

12 http://www.ssireview.org/blog/entry/four_models_for_organizing_digital_work_part_two

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+ Morning Meeting [humans in conversation]

= Big Listening

Our main shared listening systems are as follows:


• Radian6: an enterprise-class software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform for scraping and
analyzing online data from across the social web

• Topsy (free and Pro versions): a Twitter-focused SaaS analytics platform

• tips@upwell.us: Our community tip line, used by our network to give us a heads up

• The Upwell Firehose: a Tumblr blog that the Upwell team posts to as a kind of shared
scrapbook for notable ocean news and content

• @Upwell_us tweet Stream: The Twitter posts generated by all of the accounts Upwell
follows

• @Upwell_us Twitter Lists: Twitter posts generated by accounts Upwell follows, sorted into
topical lists (e.g. Sharks, Ocean Science!, Ocean Acidification)

Personal listening systems are as varied as our six team members but, taken together, they are
both robust and redundant. Each system draws upon that individual’s unique portfolio of
interests, as well as their personal and professional networks, to serve up a buffet of news
stories and ocean-related content for consideration as potential campaign opportunities.
Technology-aided curation services such as Paper.li, Spundge and Netvibes are just a sample of
the tools that we use in our individual systems.

Before Team Upwell assembles for our morning meeting, we have each gone through our own
listening systems and noted the best stuff to share with the group (this could be referred to as
our practice). We use the tips@upwell.us email and the Upwell Firehose Tumblr account to act
as holding tanks for our discussion later that morning. (This process is detailed further in the
Methods: Campaigning section of this report.)

During our morning meeting (a.k.a. morning scrum), we go through the queue of ocean
content complied by all team members and each person pitches the items they’ve flagged for
campaign consideration. Much like in a newspaper editorial meeting, the competition is fierce
but collaborative. Our varied interests set an initial bar for a sort of ‘necessary interestingness’
that an item must meet to be turned into an Upwell campaign. If we can’t make every person on
our team see why they should share something with their friends, then we should probably find
a better thing to amplify or campaign on. The full set of strategy screens that we to evaluate
opportunities use is detailed in the Methods: Campaigning section.

Our scrum allows us to leverage our machine-assisted systems by adding another human-
curated sort on the news of the day. We use technology to aid the news gathering, analytics and
queuing processes, but our group conversations allow us to take a number of sophisticated and

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not easily algorithmable sorting filters into account. Is there a compelling action we can pair
with this? Are we getting too sharky? Does that guy usually publish sensationalized takes on
good science? Is that underwater cow photo really LOL funny? You can’t machine sort for cool,
so we Mechanical Turk it with our own team of in house cool-sorters.

A Profile in Listening

How do you listen to your issue? Over time, Upwell has evolved a process of leveraging the
unique individual listening skills and interests of every single member of the team, and
focusing that robust listening effort into a morning editorial meeting where the day’s
campaign priorities are set in a collaborative conversation. Ray Dearborn’s personal
listening system is profiled here, as an example of just one of six diverse patterns of
personal listening on the Upwell team.

Ray wakes up between 6:45-7:30 AM. Within half an hour of waking, she spends 15-20
minutes looking at messages from tips@upwell.us, reading emails from her personal ocean
network, reviewing her Google Alerts, and scanning her personal Oceans! Twitter list. In
TweetDeck, she checks her “sustainable seafood,” “overfishing,” and “shark fin” columns.
She also has a column for folks in Upwell’s Network. Her Google Alerts include “sustainable
seafood,” “overfishing,” “marine protected areas,” “bluefin tuna,” “sharks,” journalists who
write regularly about marine conservation issues, and bloggers and journalists who Upwell
has relationships with. The alerts are set to include all results, and to deliver news “as-it-
happens,” so that content will hit her inbox moments after it is published.

Ray bikes or rides her scooter to work, and is decidedly offline during her commute. Once
she arrives, she’ll check her copy of the email digest from the Paper.li of Upwell’s Twitter
feed. It lays out the kinds of content being shared that day: top news, videos, and photos.
Because Upwell’s staff is small, she can’t check TweetDeck, Google Alerts, and email
constantly throughout the day, but she will review her Google Alerts and tips@upwell.us
emails within minutes or hours of their arrival, in case they include breaking news that can
be the focus of an attention campaign that day.

When she finds content that she feels is Tide Report-worthy, she adds it directly to the
Upwell Tumblr, or, if she is on her iPhone, she emails the story to tips@upwell.us. Other
team members add most of what comes into the tips email into the Tumblr, which is
reviewed at the morning Tide Report meeting. Because Upwell is mostly focused on United
States-based news, newsworthy items usually aren’t posted in the evening, so once the
office day is over at 6 PM, Ray closes down her listening tools for the night, and rides home
along the Bay.

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How Might We Big Listen in the Future?
While the context for Big Listening is constantly shifting, we believe that current trends point to
some likely future developments. These include:

New Firehoses. The rise of cloud-based services, combined with growing movements for
transparency in both public and private data, will continue to open new sources of information
for aggregation, connection and analysis. Big Data is already giving rise to a host of new
companies that are positioning themselves to help organizations draw insights from the data
deluge. This trend is likely to continue.

Divergent Functions. Correspondingly, if civil society wants these tools to support non-
commercial uses then funders and larger-budget organizations must make their presence felt in
the marketplace—either by supporting open-source alternatives or by becoming valued clients
for providers. As we have seen firsthand with Radian6, a tool designed to categorize every topic
as a “brand,” “competitor” or “industry” does not natively (or intuitively) support facilitate Big
Listening.

Smarter Robots. Ok, perhaps not robots in the I, Robot sense, but certainly in the sense of
improved algorithms and machine-learning. These advancements will dramatically improve
contextual and sentiment analysis for listening tools. That said, smart humans will still be crucial
for training our robot helpers, identifying more complex patterns, and applying what is learned.
Even with the bestest of super supercomputers, the National Weather Service has found that
skilled humans improve computer-only weather forecasts by double-digits.

Privacy Fights. The fight over personal privacy isn’t going away, but neither is rampant data
collection. The big question, as it relates to Big Listening, is whether new consumer protections
or heightened objections to privacy intrusions will lead to more walled gardens of data for which
third-parties (like the services we use to measure conversations from afar), simply can’t, or can’t
afford, to access.

Buyer Beware. The shift to digital-first ad buys and PR plays will bring new pressures on
firehose providers and packagers to reveal more information about the data they’re selling.
Upwell advisor K.D. Paine has helped the PR industry to develop a transparency standard that
may force the issue.

Social Science Catches Up to Social Media. The internet presents no shortage of people who
will give you their opinion on anything. The question—and this is big for Upwell—is what does
saying something online have to do with past, present or future behaviors? We theorize that it
says quite a lot (in a small but significant way), but far more research is necessary to expand
knowledge in this area. One avenue, identified by Tom Webster of Edison Research, is to target

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follow-up social science research toward a subset of people who express a particular opinion, or
participate in a particular conversation online.13

More Visuals. We like pictures. As mobile devices continue their march across the world, there
will only be more and more visual data. Search and listening tools will get better at comparing,
filtering and identifying all those cat photos and videos—because they’ll have to.

Spike Marketplaces. Has your favorite YouTube star talked (or cooked, or danced, or sung)
about your issue lately? They will—if you pay them. New markets for creators to get paid for
creating content around brands or issues will arise to help companies and organizations earn
attention in an increasingly noisy playing field. Some of these markets will inevitably be based,
or incentivized, on performance. Because [insert your thing here] is too valuable to be left to
chance.

More Upwellings. Big Listening and attention campaigning across a distributed network (see
Insights: Campaigning, Collaboration and Powerful Amplifiers) work because they’re grounded
in a networked view of an increasingly connected world. While we at Upwell may have
developed unique methodology, there is nothing to stop (and actually much to encourage) other
causes, movements, organizations, companies or campaigns from carrying out similar
approaches. Big Listening is a rational approach to learning from and responding to the world
we now live in. As Micah Sifry, Co-Founder of Personal Democracy Forum, expressed:

Thinking bigger, it would be pretty interesting if more funders copied Ted Waitt and the
Waitt Foundation and seeded similarly open, brand-agnostic listening and campaigning
hubs for other issues. Imagine an OpenWell for the transparency movement, or a UpStrike
for labor, or a FemCast for the women's movement. Entire sectors of the advocacy arena
might be transformed in the process. [source]

13 http://brandsavant.com/longitudinal-social-media-monitoring/

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Considerations for Tool Choice
Each of the various free and paid online search and online monitoring services scans different
platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, blogs, particular types of websites, etc.) using
different algorithms and search methods. Often the same search query in two different services
returns different results because of those
variations. For this reason, selecting a particular Big Listening Tool Evaluation
tool (or combination of tools) for a particular
• What does it count?
search has significant bearing on how
comprehensive search results may be. • Boolean search?

Upwell uses text-scraping tools including • Handling of inclusions/ exclusions

Radian6, Topsy (both free and Pro versions) and • Source filters

SharedCount to track a particular type of online • Influencer analysis


metric that we call “social mentions” (described • Sentiment analysis
earlier in the Theory of Change and Context for • Which data sources?
our Work section). Our meta-analysis of • Full data or samples?
conversations combines the data we gather • Source disclosure
through these three services with our in-depth • Collaboration and syncing
understanding of each tool’s strengths, methods,
• Favored API partners
gaps and limitations.

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Campaigning, Collaboration
and Powerful Amplifiers
In nine months of running nearly 200 attention campaigns, we’ve measured and learned
innumerable things. We’ve organized our biggest campaigning insights into a few broad
categories:

• Driving More Social Mentions (Campaigning Insights and Best Practices)

• Collaboration the Distributed Network Way

• Digital Team Structure and Process

• Powerful Amplifiers for Ocean Content

Driving Social Mentions


Campaigning Insights and Best Practices
You can’t predict what will go viral. As much as we’d like to try to pin down the recipe for viral
content, it’s impossible to define.

Timeliness and a hook are still really important, but the half-life of news online is shorter
than it used to be. Pay attention to ROI on campaigns. The half life of news in our own brains
(particularly ocean news in ocean brains) is much different than the measurable attention it gets
online. Most spikes last only a few hours, and even top stories only generate social mentions for
a couple days (unless it’s a massive storm or other environmental disaster). This is true for news
that organizations create as well. Many organizations spend months and thousands of dollars
investing in creating big conversations online, and those conversations may only last two days,
tops. Think about return on investment, and don’t feel that you are immune to the public’s
attention deficit. If you want to have a conversation that is a week long, think of unique,
powerful news hooks for every day that week. That may require trying 10 things per day,
because not every effort will stick.

Bridge conversations, movements and communities to make your message go farther. This
isn’t just writing a message that you think will resonate with another community. It’s also
reaching out, by hand, to build relationships with influencers in that community, bring them
into your network, and provide value to their work.

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Identify opportunities based on Big Listening. If something in your issue area is spiking, join
the conversation. Find your issue’s Super Bowl by digging into data. Campaigning questions that
Big Listening data can help to answer include: What gets people talking the most? What spikes a
conversation, and how can things be replicated? Under what circumstances do conversation
spikes last more than one day?

Use simple messaging. This is a broad communications practice, but applies even more to
online communications. Often, scientists and advocacy groups in the ocean conservation sector
want to provide too much background information. The simpler the message, the stickier. Links
can be provided for context, but the actual piece of shared content should include no more than
one or two topline messages. For example, in the image below, we could have explained the
processes behind ocean acidification, or summarized the study that had just come out that
looked at dissolving snail shells, but instead, we focused on one simple, topline message. The
Facebook post included a link for background.

Keep it simple, get shared.

Think about the whole viewing and sharing experience. Curating and sharing good content is
only half the battle. Good content won’t get shared by your followers and fans unless it appears
compelling enough for them to click. Even the best content needs attractive packaging—an
enticing headline that poses a question or cliffhanger, or a visible image that grabs attention. The
content also has to be optimized for the platform it’s being shared on. (For instance, square
images display better on Facebook). Follow your content through the whole experience. Is it

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attractive and interesting? Will people want to click? Once they click, will they want to share,
and is it easy for them to do that? Upworthy has been experimenting heavily with the power of
headlines: they write 25 headlines before settling on one. Upwell employs a similar method at
many stages of the creative process.

Narrow in. Choose conversations, issues and regions. Be strategically opportunistic. Pick the
right channels for your content and focus in on those. By narrowing in, you can be more
effective.

Focusing in on New York and the soda ban made this message about shark fin soup more
strategic.

Be poised for rapid response. Upwell’s social media monitoring capacity allows us to correct
mistakes, avoid the spread of misinformation, and respond quickly to growing conversations.
Getting your message out while people are still talking about an event is more important than
making sure everything is perfect. Monitor online conversations, and switch gears when
necessary to assemble a response. Upwell was able to respond quickly to dispel myths during
the immediate aftermath of superstorm Sandy, and also provided rapid response when Google
previewed their ocean acidification video, sending out an incorrect link on Twitter. In both those
cases, we were able to provide a valuable service to our community because of our monitoring
efforts.

When deep sea corals were discovered on Shell’s Arctic drill site, Upwell responded quickly by
releasing this image. We were told early on that the type of coral depicted in the image was a

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shallow reef coral, not the species discovered on the drill site. Although we corrected the image,
this version ended up spreading, and—surprise—most people were interested in the news and
the message, and not a single person called out the wrong species of coral in the Facebook
comments (though a few friends in the coral science world did send us emails). The obvious
photoshopping of the image lends it a scrappy feeling, more focused on the message than
accuracy. Because we were able to release it quickly, it spread rapidly, concurrent with the news
about the coral discovery.

This image got thousands of shares. No one cares that it looks photoshopped.

Pair content with asks, but balance asks across a spectrum of engagement. Great content
without a pathway to action is like a shark without its fins—it can’t swim. Several studies on
public perceptions of climate change have noted that, when presented with the problem of
global warming, people are frustrated, have a lack of clear knowledge, feel that causes are
irreversible and there is no solution. 14 We have seen the same truth emerge around
communications of other global environmental problems, like overfishing. Providing pathways
to action overcomes people’s feelings of desperation and helplessness. But if every piece of
content you post includes a link to a petition or asks your supporters to make a phone call to
their elected officials, you will wear out your audience quickly. Alternate between small asks
(“like or share this image”), medium asks (“download the Seafood Watch app”) and large asks
(“write a letter to your representative”). This provides a menu of options for your fans and
followers, and allows for them to engage in a way that feels comfortable to them.

14 Immerwahr, 1999.http://www.policyarchive.org/handle/10207/5662 Original source, referenced in Living in Denial.


Also, J. A. KROSNICK ET AL. 2006http://woods.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/files/Global-Warming-National-
Seriousness.pdf

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Celebrate victories. Invite everyone to celebrate victories with everyone! This helps you to
broaden your base of support and to encourage new advocates to stand with you the next time.

This didn’t go out to people who signed the petition. It went out to everyone with an internet
connection.

Normalize obscure issues or complex ideas with iconic imagery, cultural anchors, or tribe
signifiers. If you’ve ever watched the Daily Show, you’re probably familiar with the graphics that
appear, floating, to the left of Jon Stewart’s head. They are often takes on movie titles or cultural
references, with a twist reflecting current events. (“Hagel with a Smear,” “Halal in the Family,”
and “Barack and the Giant Speech” are just a few of the recent ones.) This provides familiar
anchoring for issues and topics that may be less familiar to the average person. Upwell has seen
success with applying similar creative solutions to wonky seafood issues.

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Because everyone knows David Beckham.

Iconic image. Shareable.

Define your goals and metrics based on what is actually measurable. Awareness is not easily
measurable and quantifiable, so “raising awareness” is an indefinite and impractical goal. Upwell
has defined a goal around increasing the number of online social mentions about the ocean
because social mentions are practical to measure with today’s tools. Defining your impact based

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on your metrics instills trust in your community and funders.

Revive old stuff. Just because a video got thousands of views six months ago, chances are most
of your fans and followers haven’t seen it yet. Keep a stockpile of content related to your issue.
Most good content is timeless. Upwell had success sharing a mockumentary video about a
plastic bag (and its journey to the ocean), even though the video had been created and
popularized back in 2010.

Videos: shorter, prettier, more pithy. Upwell has shared many a video over the last year. The
most shareable videos (based on social mentions generated) were beautiful, short (under five
minutes is good, under three is better), accessible to mobile users, and often had a touch of
humor, sarcasm, or wit. This Ending Overfishing video generated hundreds of thousands of
plays because it was easy to understand and beautiful to watch. Kool Kid Kreyola’s Me and My
Shark Fin music video generated hundreds of social mentions because it was funny, and
approached a serious issue from a new perspective. Too often, organizations produce videos
that are dry, too long, and focus more on production value than on the viewer’s experience. If
your aunt or your 13-year-old cousin wouldn’t share it, it will probably not generate volumes of
social mentions.

Memes: don’t try to make them from scratch. Memes are on the rise, and continue to grow in
popularity at an unabated pace. Better to join a popular meme than try to make one of your
own. A good meme ne’er originated from a nonprofit organization.

This image uses the popular “Meanwhile, in...” meme.

Celebrity promotion: not a silver bullet. Celebrities can create spikes in social mentions, but
often underperform on measures of true engagement. Effective celebrity campaign engagement
requires a carefully planned, long-term approach.

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Facebook
• Facebook is visual. Use image macros. They’re happening. Day after day, the most
successful (in terms of engagement) posts across social change Facebook pages are images
with text superimposed on them (“image macros”). They are portable, and are visual
without losing your message. Embrace them, don’t fear them. Simpler is better: you can
include all the background information in the text of your Facebook post.

• Facebook is still the personal social network (whereas Twitter is the professional
network). People won’t share links on Facebook just because they’re interesting or
relevant to their job—they share because they believe their friends will be interested, or
because it’s part of the personal persona they have developed on that network. Develop
content that helps supporters build that persona, like this image from Shark Defenders:

Shark Defenders got thousands of shares with this image.

• Embrace the rise of independent Facebook pages. Pages like I Fucking Love Science and
Evolution are racking up new likes at a rapid pace, and generate discussion and shares
with every post. Their seemingly independent status makes them be seen as objective
sources for interesting information about science and our planet. Organizations and other
communicators would do well to start building relationships with the proprietors of those
pages. Often, striking up a conversation over Facebook messaging, and providing share-
worthy content is all it takes. But don’t abuse the relationship, and make sure that the
content you provide to them is actually in line with what their audience wants. (For more
on the rise of I Fucking Love Science, read this profile of the page’s administrator.)

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Twitter
• Provide context with links. Don’t just share links—comment on them or include the most
salient sentence from the link.

• Opinions and inspirational quotes generate retweets. Upwell’s most retweeted tweets
were these two tweets from Shark Week:

Asking for the retweet (RT) didn’t hurt either.

• When live tweeting, don’t just report on events—provide original content, context and
reactions. When Upwell tweeted during Shark Week, we generated social mentions and
accumulated new followers by researching events on TV and providing links for context.
We also prepared content in advance, including several images that we knew would be
relevant to the conversations people were having. Our tweets added value to the
conversation, rather than just adding to the echo chamber.

Collaboration, the Distributed


Network Way
Collaboration in communications is hard, and can be expensive. Agreeing on key messages,
coordinating timing and brand competition, and defining roles are some of the few stumbling
blocks that keep large organizations from collaborating in nimble and responsive ways.

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Traditional collaboration remains a powerful method for pushing federal policy change (since
they are equally nimble processes), but is becoming less applicable and useful for the growing
world of online communications and movement building.

Very early on, Upwell learned that doing formal online communications collaboration requires a
huge time investment for a comparatively small return. We felt that it was much more effective
to just go straight to the people who actually control online channels and skip official,
organization-to-organization contractual approval processes that are a historical artifact of a
different way of working. More and more, these online channel gatekeepers are being trusted
with daily decisionmaking without approval processes—they are the voice of the brand online.
In order to survive in a landscape where so many other successful and engaging content
channels have little to no gatekeeping, these individuals must have the flexibility to share, create
and respond to content.

It feels much more modern to just go to the people who do the work, and if they think it’s
appropriate for their audience, they share it. There’s no approval process in there. The approval
process is more akin to: “That’s cool.” Click to share.

Provide brand-neutral content. Pair a brand-neutral image or video, keeping your brand-
focused messaging in the text of your Facebook post or tweet. The content can then be adapted
for other channels. Think about the brand of your issue or your movement rather than your
organizational or personal brand.

Embrace the larger ecosystem of communicators. Your collaborators may be scientists,


journalists, bloggers, individual evangelists and more. Target influencers beyond the choir, and
surface the part of their identity that aligns with yours (it’s there).  

Be open to ad hoc partnerships. If you’ve got a great idea or great piece of content, but don’t
have access to a broad network, think about starting a lightweight, ad hoc partnership with a
larger distribution channel. No need to sign a MOU, just send them your ideas and explain why
you think it might be relevant to their audience. Every node in our network has different
strengths—knowing what those are allows us to create ad hoc partnerships and distribute
content in the most effective way.

Share other organizations’ and people’s content. Be generous with your online channels.
Follow similar content channels and look for anything to share that you think your audience
would appreciate.

Find unique high-touch activities to cultivate personal relationships. Don’t be afraid to pick
up the phone, or write a greeting card. Use conferences and other meetings as opportunities to
discuss online communications strategies and talk about what’s coming down the pipeline.

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Offline actions strengthen online relationships.

In difficult times, be human. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it was hard to ignore the
emotional gestalt. Campaigning in such unusual times requires a level of sensitivity. Provide
value to the network, and take care of your connections. By doing so, you build social capital and
trust, and add to the resiliency of your network.

Digital Team Structure and Process


Digital teams are still somewhat novel things. Many organizations are experimenting with ways
to structure and hire for their online communications staff, some embedding online
communicators in their program teams, others leaving online communication to interns, even
others keeping social outreach within the control of influential individuals in the executive suite.
Many organizations have their digital team embedded within their more traditional
communications staff.

In running rapid attention campaigns, and focusing primarily on social platforms as the medium
for our ocean famous-making, Upwell has developed a few best practices that can be applied to
other small, nimble online teams. Not all of these tips and insights may be appropriate for
everyone, but they are worth exploring as you think about how to make your online
campaigning more flexible and responsive.

Develop systems to capture insights. In the world of rapid online campaigning, it’s easy to get
in the trenches and forget to record your impacts and think critically about lessons learned. This
is particularly troublesome when many of the free tools only provide 30 days of analytics on
social media (aside from analytics programs that are embedded in owned channels). It is
important to develop systems to capture insights, and be deliberate about scheduling time for
that work. Upwell experimented with using Friday as the measurement day. We sat together and
looked at the best and worst campaigns of the week, recording the number of social mentions,
audiences and influencers targeted, and insights and lessons learned. We talked about insights
in person to make sure these lessons were being taken to heart by the team members. Keeping
to this schedule was a challenge in the campaign environment, but when we did, the results
were noticeable (and saved a lot of time down the road).

Encourage a flat structure. Upwell’s team operates like a proactive news room, with everyone
surfacing ideas and the entire team collaborating each morning to narrow down the highest
value campaign opportunities. Assignments are made based on skills and interest level, but
everyone comes to the table with the same authority to bring ideas and creativity to
campaigning. The flat structure also builds in individual ownership of campaigns, and fosters an
essential environment friendly to honest and critical feedback.

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Keep the campaigning team small, but not too small. Four to five people feels like the sweet
spot for Upwell. This ensures that there is a diversity of skills and experience brought to the
table, but that there aren’t too many voices that might slow down or prevent decision-making.

Keep time for developing creative to a minimum. This is hard, once you get in the creative
mindset and are deep in developing a visual or writing a pitch. Upwell keeps a close eye on
return on investment, incorporating our Minimum Viable Campaigning methods into every step
of the process. We say the words “minimum viable image macro” at least 10 times a week. We
try to limit creative time to half an hour for a campaign. We even joke about minimum viable
lunch. Fast creative is part of our culture.

Run lots of little campaigns, and extend the ones that work. Rather than investing large
amounts of resources on a new campaign idea up front, Upwell runs anywhere from ten to 20
small campaigns a week, investing minimal resources up front, and investing further resources
into campaigns that prove viable.

Lean on the personal interests, strengths and networks of your team members. Upwell’s team
members each have their own particular ways of listening to the internet. Some of us swear by
Tweetdeck, others by HootSuite. We also each bring a diverse network of people to the
organization. By not just allowing those differences, but cultivating them, we have ensured a
variety of content sources, and have maintained a human voice for our little organization.

Recognize and admit your weaknesses. Not everyone can do everything, and that’s okay. No
one on the Upwell team is big on Reddit, and most of us don’t have access to cable television at
home. Recognizing those weaknesses has allowed us to be proactive about filling in gaps and
ensuring we can have our finger on the pulse of different communities important to ocean
conservation.

Powerful Amplifiers in the Ocean


Space
There are characterizable issue-based conversations within the marine conservation space.
There is a sharks conversation, and an overfishing conversation, each measurable with keyword
sets—and they are really different sizes. Because of this, there are particular ways to influence
those conversations, and amplify good content about specific ocean topics. Below, we have
highlighted some of the top insights and best practices for amplifying attention to ocean issues
in general, as well as some that are specific to those communicating about overfishing,
sustainable seafood, and marine protected areas.

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Talking About the Ocean
Upwell has been engaging in the broad “ocean conversation” for over a year. This has meant
amplifying content from and engaging with highly-focused issue experts as well as general
ocean enthusiasts. The insights and best practices outlined below draw on lessons learned that
feel particularly valuable to Team Ocean, and are applicable to ocean communicators across a
variety of categories.

The ocean is out of sight and out of mind. It is not in our backyard (well, unless we’re one of the
lucky ones). When people experience weather, they don’t connect it with our ocean. People
have little to no clarity on where their seafood comes from. This is a challenge we need to
embed into all of our communications efforts.

We assumed there would be a lot of great ocean content. We were wrong about the ‘great’
part. There is an abundance of compelling stories, news, and beautiful photographs, but these
pieces of content are rarely packaged in a way that makes them socially shareable.

Plan social media outreach in advance of scientific report releases. Often, social media
promotion is an afterthought in science communication. With additional thoughtfulness about
engaging influential voices online, packaging scientific findings for social media channels, and
understanding the best ways to communicate science visually, scientists and scientific
institutions can be ahead of the curve, identifying how their reports are discussed, rather than
reacting to someone else’s decisions about that. This would also help scientists reach new
audiences. This strategy should be developed concurrently with (not as an afterthought to)
traditional PR outreach strategies. This tactic is especially important given the widespread use of
social media platforms by mainstream journalists for sources and stories.

Lower your science hackles. Often, researchers are hesitant to simplify their findings for social
media channels, because it leaves room for misinterpretation. Social media is a great gateway
mechanism for sharing scientific content and getting vast communities interested in science.
Being forgiving and understanding the value of repackaging content allows scientists to build
relationships with new communities and spread knowledge.

Cross-promote social content via collaborative outlets. National Geographic’s ocean portal has
provided a great outlet for sharing Upwell’s lessons learned. Organizations should look to
aligned media groups to help spread information on socially-optimized channels.

Anthropomorphize ocean creatures. Well, not every day, but sometimes. If we learn anything
from Mitik and “the lonely whale,” it is that instilling animals with emotions and human stories
helps people connect with this out-of-sight universe. When people connect with an individual
animal, they are primed to learn more.

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Don’t let beautiful ocean pictures do all the talking. There is a deeply held narrative about the
sea, popularized by ocean greats like Jacques Cousteau, that the ocean is abundant and there are
millions of fish in the sea. Beautiful photographs showing abundance reinforce this narrative.
While there is certainly space to share photographs that inspire people to love the ocean, Upwell
believes this should be balanced with hard-hitting information that tells the truth about the
destructive relationship we have with ocean resources. Just as we don’t want doom and gloom
to run the show, we should not let abundance and beauty perpetuate a healthy ocean
stereotype that impedes action.

Sustainable Seafood
Scary stories get attention. Recent mercury reports and seafood fraud reports generate media
attention and social mentions. Find a way to hook into scary stories and insert a pathway to
action. Simply reporting on the scariness will make people feel powerless, as it does in climate
communications.15

“It’s complicated” is a bad relationship status and a bad brand. The brand of the sustainable
seafood movement is not currently an asset. It is characterized by internecine battles, complex
politics and variegated solutions. While organizations attempt to control this in traditional media
coverage, social media offers less room for control—problems with the sustainable seafood
brand are compounded in online communities, which offer space for people to complain and
voice their grievances.

The actual practice of eating sustainable seafood continues to be challenging, and news
coverage is not making it appear easier. Recent coverage in NPR highlighted the confusion
around sustainable seafood, with a particular focus on the Marine Stewardship Council ecolabel,
highlighting that even what is labeled as “sustainable” may not be considered sustainable by
many leading environmental organizations. A James Beard Foundation “Guide to the
Guides” (which generated a spike in social mentions) sought to make sifting through all the
varying recommendations easier, but actually highlighted the complexity and illuminated how
difficult it is to know what information to trust. Oceana’s work to uncover seafood fraud rates in
major U.S. cities further emphasizes that even when we try to make responsible seafood
choices, we can sometimes be foiled.

Focus on specific products, brands and species rather than the overall sustainable seafood
issue. Upwell saw success in generating social mentions around Safeway’s decision to start

2. Norgaard, K. M. Living in Denial. 2011, Kindle Edition, location 1249.

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selling responsibly-caught, FAD-free tuna in the can on its grocery shelves at a low price point.
Indeed, familiar, household brands’ actions around sustainable seafood tend to generate
significant online discussion. McDonalds recently generated a large amount of news coverage
and social mentions after it began marketing its decision to serve only MSC-certified seafood.
Upwell ran a successful campaign against Livestrong.com when the highly-recognizable brand
was promoting unsustainable shark recipes on its website. Upwell continues to experiment with
species-specific communications (“eat forage fish!”) to help solutions feel simpler and more
productive. In each of these instances, people connected and were more vocal because the story
was more focused.

Recipes and fluff pieces don’t generate social mentions. No matter how delicious that arctic
char recipe is, it’s not going to get people talking about sustainable seafood online. This type of
content can, however, more deeply engage people who are already converted on the issue.

Overfishing
Focus on actions that are doable and close to home. Like climate change, overfishing is a huge,
global problem with largely unseen actors and dauntingly large solutions. People can easily start
to feel like the solutions are out of their control. By focusing on doable actions that are close to
home (not in the proximity sense, but in the values sense), you can make people feel that they
have some level of control over the situation. Individuals then start to feel more willing to use
their voice to advocate for larger solutions.

Sensational stories make headlines. The largest spikes in the bluefin tuna conversation from
the last year were related to radioactive isotopes being found in bluefin that had crossed the
Pacific from Japan after the Fukushima disaster, and annual coverage of the record-breaking
million dollar plus tunas bought at the Tsukiji market opening as PR stunts. These are
sensational headlines, and while they cause significant amounts of attention to be paid to the
fish, they don’t easily connect with high-quality discussion about overfishing. Efforts to link the
radioactive tuna story with overfishing fell flat—it was a stretch, and people online don’t easily
fall prey to such manipulative tactics. However, the pricey tuna did provide an excellent segue to
talk about the overfishing of tuna, and the rapid follow-on of the Pacific bluefin stock
assessment surfed that wave of attention and drove it toward science-based discussion. Look
for opportunities to connect substantive conversation with sensational stories, but do it
authentically. Time scientific releases or tie-ins to coincide with or rapidly follow on big news
stories, to take advantage of the increase in attention.

Sharks are the quarterback of overfishing, and Shark Week is the Super Bowl of online ocean
conversations. Don’t sleep on Shark Week. Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is by far the
biggest online ocean conversation of the year and has historically lacked much of a conservation
component. While Shark Week sensationalism had discouraged many advocates from robustly

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engaging with the television event, Discovery Channel’s growing commitment to conservation
programming, combined with Shark Week’s unprecedented cultural presence and viewership,
represent a not-to-be-missed opportunity to reach new audiences, both on and offline. In
general, audiences are well-informed of shark overfishing and shark finning as a practice, and
shark fin bans around the world have capitalized on the public’s love and awe for the animals.
Upwell is experimenting with ways to capitalize on the shark finning and shark overfishing
conversations to draw attention to other overfishing problems.

Marine Protected Areas


The MPA conversation is tiny, in comparison to other ocean conversations. Very few people
talk about marine protected areas (and marine reserves, marine parks, etc.) on a daily basis.
Communicating in this space has a lower potential for creating large spikes in attention, because
the native attention momentum is lower. Adjust your expectations accordingly, and find ways to
connect this issue with more lively conversations that operate at a higher volume (like
overfishing or sharks).

Our MPA vocabulary is fragmented, awkward and wonky. It makes the conversation hard to
monitor, makes it hard for supporters to find each other online, and creates confusion in the
public. Much of that language is fossilized in policy, but when you are communicating online
you have an opportunity to use metaphor and more familiar language (“underwater parks”) to
clarify and reduce barriers to understanding.

Share successes. There is growing data to support the assertion that MPAs work to address an
array of ocean problems, from habitat loss to bycatch to overfishing. Certain regions of the world
—in particular, Australia—have seen incredible success with designating large areas of ocean
under varying protection levels. Share these success stories as a way to increase attention to the
issue and start growing the conversation.

Emphasize individual connection to MPAs as public commons to create support. The


Antarctic Ocean Alliance saw significant social media attention to their effort to designate
marine reserves in the Southern Ocean, which utilized a hashtag emphasizing our duty to
protect the commons (“jointhewatch”), and the TerraMar Project is seeing some growing
success in their effort to create “citizenship” for the high seas. These projects are experimenting
with ways to increase our personal connection with faraway, unseen swaths of the ocean. While
it is hard to judge their success at this point, these tactics are promising in that they make action
feel more doable and close to home.

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Network Map: Ocean
Evangelists and Ocean Voices
Online
To grow the ocean-in-crisis movement as rapidly as possible in the pilot phase, Upwell went
after the peak hubs of ocean information in order to turn up the volume on the conversation.
Malcolm Gladwell echoed this in The Tipping Point: "The success of any kind of social epidemic
is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts."
In building Upwell’s Tide Report list and network, we focused on involving one of his three types
of socially gifted people, mavens, or the "people we rely upon to connect us with new
information” for their affinity for starting "word-of-mouth epidemics.”16

For this section, we’ll illustrate snapshots in time of conversations with some specific examples,
with illustrated mechanical depictions of relationships.

16 The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell, p 19, 33, and 67

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Sustainable Seafood

NodeXL Graph: 242 Twitter users whose recent tweets contained "sustainable seafood", taken
from a data set limited to a maximum of 1,500 users. The network was obtained on Thursday, 28
February 2013 at 20:13 UTC. (Marc Smith,  http://nodexlgraphgallery.org/Pages/Graph.aspx?
graphID=3155 )

This graph was made in conversation with NodeXL researcher Marc A Smith. The technical
description of the work is as follows: “The graph represents a network of 242 Twitter users
whose recent tweets contained ‘sustainable seafood,’ taken from a data set limited to a
maximum of 1,500 users. The network was obtained on Thursday, 28 February 2013 at 20:13
UTC. There is an edge for each follows relationship. There is an edge for each ‘replies-to’
relationship in a tweet. There is an edge for each ‘mentions’ relationship in a tweet. There is a
self-loop edge for each tweet that is not a ‘replies-to’ or ‘mentions.’ The tweets were made over
the 7-day, 0-hour, 5-minute period from Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 19:55 UTC to Thursday,
28 February 2013 at 20:00 UTC.”

What this visual allows us to see is that the conversation around the keyword “sustainable
seafood” during the seven day period happens both in isolation (G1 in the upper left corner), in
isolated small pockets (G6-G12 in the lower right corner) and in four larger discrete clusters

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identified by the algorithms in NodeXL as being distinguishable. This mirrors our conversation
monitoring and campaign experience, showing pockets of dialogue from a Canadian cluster (G3),
and diverse language fragmenting the larger NPR series on MSC into distinct clusters in G2, G4
and G5.

Overfishing

NodeXL Graph: 330 Twitter users whose recent tweets contained "overfishing", taken from a
data set limited to a maximum of 1,500 users. The network was obtained on Thursday, 28
February 2013 at 20:00 UTC (Marc Smith, http://www.nodexlgraphgallery.org/Pages/Graph.aspx?
graphID=3153)

This graph was also made in conversation with NodeXL researcher Marc A Smith. The technical
description of the work is as follows: “The graph represents a network of 330 Twitter users
whose recent tweets contained ‘overfishing,’ taken from a data set limited to a maximum of
1,500 users. The network was obtained on Thursday, 28 February 2013 at 20:00 UTC. There is an
edge for each follows relationship. There is an edge for each ‘replies-to’ relationship in a tweet.
There is an edge for each ‘mentions’ relationship in a tweet. There is a self-loop edge for each
tweet that is not a ‘replies-to’ or ‘mentions.’ The tweets were made over the 6-day, 23-hour, 36-

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minute period from Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 19:48 UTC to Thursday, 28 February 2013 at
19:24 UTC.”

In it, we see substantially more isolated tweets on the left (G1), and about the same number of
very small conversations in  the lower right (G9-G11). Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s campaign
against over-fishing shows up in many of the clusters, as audiences react to the criticism in the
Guardian UK. The breakdown of common topics in the groups is as follows:

• G2: More strongly about coral reefs

• G3: More strongly about the EU and bycatch

• G4: More strongly about sharks

• G5: Mapping, bycatch and the EU

• G6: Bycatch and sharks

• G7: General conversation

The diversity of overfishing sub-topics even within clusters of conversation would seem to
support Upwell’s opportunistic strategy to engaging with conversations online. The language
used is indicative of many overfishing subtopics, and a broad audience is ready to be mobilized
for change.

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Upwell

NodeXL Graph: Represents a network of 59 Twitter users whose recent tweets contained
"upwell", taken from a data set limited to a maximum of 1,500 users. The network was obtained
on Thursday, 28 February 2013 at 19:50 UTC. (Mark Smith, http://www.nodexlgraphgallery.org/
Pages/Graph.aspx?graphID=3151)

This graph was also made in conversation with NodeXL researcher Marc A Smith. “The graph
represents a network of 59 Twitter users whose recent tweets contained ‘upwell’, taken from a
data set limited to a maximum of 1,500 users. The network was obtained on Thursday, 28
February 2013 at 19:50 UTC. There is an edge for each follows relationship. There is an edge for
each ‘replies-to’ relationship in a tweet. There is an edge for each ‘mentions’ relationship in a
tweet. There is a self-loop edge for each tweet that is not a ‘replies-to’ or ‘mentions.’ The tweets
were made over the 6-day, 19-hour, 19-minute period from Friday, 22 February 2013 at 00:29
UTC to Thursday, 28 February 2013 at 19:48 UTC.”

What’s notable about this graph, in addition to the lower volume of conversation, is that at this
scale the social groupings seem to be more easily discerned, with our immediate brand network
in G2, and second-hop our networks in G3 and G4.

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