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Ray Dearborn's picture

We Vote 4 the Ocean

on October 16, 2012 - 2:55pm

In an election cycle, it's even more difficult than usual to break through the noise and make your issue salient, which is why we were psyched when we saw the Vote4Stuff campaign

"a nonpartisan creation of Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire encouraging young people to register to vote and to get to the polls November 6th, wants to hear what you want to vote for, silly or serious." (Rolling Stone)

We choose our campaigns based on what we anticipate will give the highest return, so when this campaign was announced, we jumped on the opportunity to create our own #Vote4theOcean response video overnight. 

The next morning, we shared the video with our network via our Tide Report, and with the #vote4stuff campaign via YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. We also included links to conservation campaigns in our video description, and provided pathways to action for viewers.

Within hours, Leonardo DiCaprio shared with his 3.5 million Twitter followers and 3.6 million Facebook fans. We've tracked over 350 social mentions to date, and have gotten over 2000 views of the video (more than any other Vote4Stuff response video).

Our model of quick, responsive campaigning based on trending current events and online conversations is proving to be a successful way to reach new audiences on a daily basis. By de-emphasizing our brand and embracing our informal, internet-savvy voice, we are able to inject ocean conservation messaging into broader conversations.

We are also encouraging more people in the ocean community to make videos of their own. This morning, the nudibranch research lab at the California Academy of Sciences released their own video. Check it out, share it, and make your own #vote4theocean video (and don't forget to tag it with #vote4stuff!)

Ray Dearborn's picture

Attention Lab Update: Giving Cathay Pacific a Collective High-Fin

on September 21, 2012 - 4:51pm

When Upwell saw the news about Cathay Pacific banning shark fins from their cargo, we thought two things:

  • Let’s get some new audiences talking about shark finning.
  • This is a great opportunity to do a positively framed campaign, and get people to say “thank you” to Cathay Pacific. 

As always, our aim is to increase the number of people talking about shark finning. Before we jump in to what we did and what the results were, first, a graph of our Cathay Pacific & sharks profile in Radian6. 


Social mentions September 4 - 13, 2012 of the Cathay Pacific Shark Fin Ban keyword set, built by Upwell. 

The first thing that is evident from this graph is that there is a slower drop-off after the initial news bump than we usually see with similar stories. The spike lasted several days - unusual for a news item like this. 

Upwell used a two-pronged approach, first helping to spread the news about the ban, then following up the next day with a call for people to thank Cathay Pacific for their decision in our Tide Report and social media channels.

This image spread through our social media channels was shared on hundreds of Tumblrs and in hundreds of tweets. By combining a “shark love” message with an element of urgency (the shark fin traders’ protests), it effectively activated people to voice their support.


Image macro encouraging support of Cathay Pacific’s shark fin ban

We saw over 250 tweets thanking Cathay Pacific, and over 250 posts on the Cathay Pacific Facebook wall (counted by hand) congratulating the airline on a decision well made. The majority of these thank yous aren’t captured in the above graph because they don’t include keywords in our set. It wouldn’t be time efficient to sort through every mention of “thank you” on the internet.

Overall, quite a success in pulling together a quick social media storm in support of sharks. 

Ray Dearborn's picture

Shark Week's Over, But the Fun Has Just Started.

on August 20, 2012 - 4:59pm

It's been a couple weeks since we've posted an Attention Lab wrap-up, and it's been because we've been so busy prepping for and campaigning during Shark Week. You may have noticed things got a little sharky over the past couple weeks. It's pretty safe to say that the annual week-long special on the Discovery Channel was all we were focusing on. 

You can read the whole account of what we did below. Suffice it to say, we had a great time and learned a lot. 

What'd We Learn from Shark Week 2012?

The conversation is too big to chomp

Shark Week is a time when a bunch of shark fanatics jump online to say "wooo!". There's a lot of noise in the conversation - many people jump on facebook or twitter just to say "shark week!" and that's it. But there are a lot of people who are truly engaged and want to learn more about sharks. We shared a bunch of conservation-minded content and we were happy to see a lot of people responding to say things like "Shark finning? I didn't know that people did that - that's horrible!" But at the end of the day, the conversation is so big that it's hard to register at a big scale. (See "Other Results" below for more.)

Meet badassery with badassery

It's not unique for sharks - we know that image macros sail well in social media. We created several for Shark Week (see "Upwell's Campaign Efforts" below), and learned that the best way to tap into the popularity of Shark Week was to capitalize on the badassery of sharks. Using inspirational photos of shark attack survivors with lost legs, and font styles that mimic Discovery's own marketing campaign, we were able to create images that slid into the Shark Week conversation like butter.

Coordination makes us all better shark savers.

Our sharkinars helped us understand what the large majority of the universe of conservation content would look, feel and sound like during Shark Week. We set up our monitoring systems to listen to these campaigns and tried our very best to amplify and create the best social content that would bring attention to these campaigns. We sent out a survey to the individuals and organizations who registered for our sharkinars, and the sentiment of the responses we've received so far is nearly unanimous: people were excited to hear about and have an opportunity to amplify each other's campaigns, and discuss strategies to get more people excited about shark conservation. We believe that this up-front collaboration and communication was critical to helping the conservation chatter get bigger this year (which it did... more in Other Results below.)

Upwell's Sharkinars & Shark Week Toolkit

We started a couple weeks ago by analyzing the online Shark Week conversation from previous years. That analysis can be found on our blog here

The week of August 6, we held two "sharkinars," behind-the-scenes virtual gatherings of shark advocates who wanted to leverage Shark Week to bring attention to conservation efforts online.

On the sharkinars, we learned about all the awesome campaigns that were running during Shark Week, and encouraged our Tide Report subscribers and Twitter followers to amplify those campaigns.

Sharkinar participants also let Upwell know what kinds of tools and resources would help them, and we developed a toolkit to respond to those requests. The toolkit included an incredible mythbusting cheat sheet for rapidly responding to shark myths on Twitter, as well as some tips for using Twitter and Facebook effectively to spread the shark saving word

Upwell's Campaign Efforts

Upwell developed some content to help amplify the efforts of the conservation community.

Livetweeting Shark Week

On Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, we livetweeted shark week shows with interesting facts. We used our own mythbusting tool to correct myths, and we amplified great tweets. We looked specifically for people with influence that were participating in the conversation (primarily using the built-in Klout filter in Hootsuite). We also amplified great tweets that used the #savesharks hashtag. We primarily used our image macros (detailed below) as content for tweets. 

Our most successful livetweeting came on Wednesday night, during Shark Fight - the Shark Week special on shark attack survivors that was produced in conjunction with Pew. Matt Fitzgerald on our team took the lead on that. His most successful tweet resulted in 43 retweets - a sign that if you've got a compelling message, it doesn't hurt to ask people to retweet:

Reframing shark attacks via livetweeting. Totally doable.

We also sent an email to our Tide Report subscribers on Thursday urging them to do one final push on the Thunderclap. There were 16 tweets that went out after we sent our message, reaching about 11,000 people. While we weren't able to push the Thunderclap reach to 2 million, we sure did try. 

Image Macros

We put together a series of image macros (images with overlaid text - our favorite way to inspire engagement!) around Shark Week. We shared all of these images on a few channels - our own Facebook page, our Twitter feed, our Tide Reports, and the Fuck Yeah Sharks Tumblr

A side note about FYS: I acquired Fuck Yeah Sharks a month or two ago from the two guys that created it back in 2010. When Nick Weidinger alerted me that they had posted that they were ready to hand it off to a conservation group, I decided to make it my mission to get the reins. All it took was a few emails, some moxie, and a pizza delivery to their home in Chicago. The Tumblr has nearly 20,000 followers that think sharks are pretty wicked cool. I am continuing to post funny and sensational pictures to the tumblr (since that was the type of content that drew those thousands of followers), and peppering in conservation content. It's an experiment that is so far going quite well. Conservation content is getting as much or more engagement than other content. 

Giving people the tools to be shark savers. 

This is one of the first images we put together, to help educate people who care about sharks about how they can effectively use social media during shark week. On Fuck Yeah Sharks, the image has received 61 reposts and ♥s. On Facebook, it received 5 shares and 10 likes. There were 8 tweets directing to the image, and it received 165 views at its original link


Yes, we know there are typos.

Who doesn't like some facts? We threw together this image (rather quickly, hence the typos, whoops. good thing the internet doesn't seem to care) to share some interesting facts about sharks alongside some facts about human impact on sharks worldwide. We put in #savesharks to try to amplify the use of the hashtag. The image has had 407 views at its original link. There are 47 tweets of the image, 30 of which are retweets of Upwell's tweets. The most successful (most retweeted) tweets were ones that called out specific facts featured in the image. On Fuck Yeah Sharks, the image got 492 reposts and ♥s. We posted it to facebook, and it received 46 shares and 39 likes (another instance where shares were higher than likes - a sign of a very engaging piece of content!). It was also shared on the Give a Shit About Oceans fan page (which we are now in regular contact with). Their post led to 16 shares, 35 likes and 5 comments. 

Getting back in the water - now that's pretty badass.

We also made these two images to help amplify the Pew Environment campaign around the Shark Fight show. 

The Mike Coots image has had 609 views and 67 tweets (at its original link). This includes 39 retweets. There were over 70,000 impressions on Twitter. The Fuck Yeah Sharks post has 168 notes (a combination of reposts and ♥s). This image was most successful on facebook. It was shared over 650 times, including by many of our friends, like Greenpeace USA (resulting in 256 shares, 823 likes and 23 comments), Give a Shit About Oceans (216 shares, 87 likes, 7 comments) Marine Conservation Institute (46 shares and 95 likes), John Sexton (81 shares, 16 likes, 7 comments), Alisa Schwartz (46 shares, 17 likes).

The Paul de Gelder image has had 205 views at its original link. Upwell shared the image on twitter and got 16 retweets and 2 faves. On Fuck Yeah Sharks, the image received 256 reposts and ♥s.

Other Upwell campaigning efforts

Upwell also did some direct outreach to help the shark week message spread to new audiences. We reached out to fellow "Up" - Upworthy via facebook, to encourage them to spread the shark-saving word through their multiple platforms. They responded with thanks and ended up posting about Shark Week on their website with a Discovery infographic. That post led to 25 tweets.

We also sent this remixed & auto-tuned Shark Week video from Symphony of Science to Mashable, which they posted on their site on August 19. That post has received 884 tweets and 94 facebook likes. 

Other Results

Shark Defenders let us know that thanks in part to our amplification and coordination efforts, they increased their number of Twitter followers by 14% during the week!

Overall, the community of conservationists Upwell engaged with for Shark Week was able to greatly increase its voice over that same period. Our first-pass analysis of social data from Shark Week shows that while the conservation community's content and conversation was a relatively small piece of the overall Shark Week conversation, we were able to greatly increase our collective share over last year.

Year-over-year growth of social mentions of Upwell-engaged conservationists (light blue) and Shark Week (red). 

The light blue line in the above graph represents all social mentions of and by conservationist individuals and organizations active during Shark Week (technically Aug. 11 - 17, a day prior to and a day after Shark Week premiere programming). This graph shows us that Upwell-engaged conservationists' share of the overall shark conversation was rather limited. The majority of Shark Week conversation remained focused on celebratory "Yay Sharks!” and “Yay Shark Week!" posts and tweets.

However, when we drill down, we can understand a better story.

Social mentions of Upwell's shark conservation-sentiment keyword set (dark blue - 28,002 total mentions) vs. social mentions of Upwell-engaged conservationists (light blue - 36,392 total mentions)

Taking out all mentions of Shark Week, we are able to focus in on that light blue line of shark conservationists (formal and informal). Here, we've graphed that conversation alongside all social mentions that had a conservation sentiment. We pulled out the conservation sentiment by identifying a set of keywords that relate to saving sharks (e.g., conserve, endangered, save sharks, etc.). What this graph shows us is that the network of individuals and organizations that Upwell engaged represents the large majority of the conservation-oriented conversation. Our collective network was a veritable who’s who of shark conservation and engagement. We have met the network, and it is all of us.

The four biggest spikes represented in the above graph represent (left to right):

  • Unrelated social mentions containing the word “understand” as Shark Week began, e.g. “I dont understand why so many people get excited for shark week” [8/12]
  • Leonardo DiCaprio tweet referencing Oceana [8/14]
  • Shark Week Conservation Thunderclap [8/15]
  • Shark Fight premiere and survivor live-tweet [8/15]

By comparing the conversation generated by our informal conservationist network this year to last year, we are able to celebrate one more thing.

Percent increase in Shark Week social mentions from 2011 to 2012: Upwell-engaged Conservationists (+210%) vs Shark Week (+109%) 

While the overall Shark Week conversation increased by 109% percent, the shark conservation community's share of that conversation increased by 210% percent. This shows us that the shark conservation conversation is growing at a more rapid pace than the overall shark week conversation! This is great news, and bodes well for not only next year's Shark Week, but all the weeks in between.

Last but not least, ponder that fact that on a regular, non-Shark-Week day, of every 1000 social mentions of sharks, only one, a single, solitary one, is about saving them. During Shark Week 2012, on just one day, the ad-hoc conservationist network of shark lovers spiked social mentions a whopping 7,000% - and we saw comparable data all week.

Kieran Mulvaney's picture

Big Listening: Tracking Online Ocean Social Mentions

on August 17, 2012 - 2:41pm

If you've been reading our Tide Reports or our blog posts, the you've almost certainly seen graphs like this:

And this:

And even some pie charts like this:

These are the results of taking a lot of data from the wonderful world of the Interwebs, feed it into a Machine That Goes Ping AKA Radian6, and watching what it spits out. In fact, we think that the way in which we constantly monitor online social conversations about ocean issues, and then crunch the numbers and distil them into a few lines on a graph or slices in a pie chart, is one of the more important things we do at Upwell. So we thought we'd take a few minutes to explain our 'big listening' methodology.

First, Make Some Tea ...

Each morning as the tea is brewing, we fire up a program called Radian6, which we use to search for all online mentions of a number of different topic profiles. (Think of Radian6 as Google on steroids. A lot of steroids. But without the occasional eruptions of rage.) Radian6 users create their own topic profiles to monitor, and the ones that we have established so far are:

  • MPAs
  • Overfishing / Sustainable Seafood
  • Cetaceans
  • Tuna
  • Gulf of Mexico
  • Ocean Acidification
  • Sharks

and a more general catch-all category which we dub, with starling originality,

  • Ocean

Additionally, we can and do create more narrowly-focused search areas to focus on specific issues or breaking news - for example, the International Coral Reef Symposium, or the International Whaling Commission. 

Start Broad ...

Within those topic profiles, we create keyword groups, and for most of the topics we cover, those keywords are relatively straightforward and predictable. When it comes to sharks, however, we have had to be more creative, because a) of all the ocean-themed topics we monitor online, sharks are by some distance the most popular; and b) because the shark 'brand' is spread throughout culture: there are shark-named products, shark-named sports teams, and shark idioms. Radian6 doesn't distinguish between these different uses of the word - unless we ask it to.

So, for example, one of our shark keyword groups asks Radian6 to look for posts that include the words shark or sharks, but to then exclude, for example, San Jose Sharks or 'jumping the shark.'

Or Start Narrow ...

But we also have a separate shark keyword group that takes the opposite tack. It doesn't include the generic terms shark or sharks at all, but includes approximately 125 very specific search items that can only possibly refer to sharks the cartilaginous fishes and nothing else. For example:

  • Elasmobranch
  • Shark fin soup, Shark finning
  • #sharkweek
  • megalodon
  • hammerhead AND shark
  • Great white shark

The idea is that, between them, any collective spikes in social mentions of the specific topics should between them roughly equate to any spikes in the broader shark conversation. In fact, they often don't quite match perfectly, but they are close enough to suggest that our methodologies and keywords are working. So what we then do is average the findings between the two approaches.

Matt Fitzgerald's picture

Amplify Shark-saving Campaigns During Shark Week

on August 13, 2012 - 11:18am

Shark Week comes but once a year, but when it does, savvy ocean communicators seize the moment to ride the biggest online shark wave of the year. Here's a sample of how you can support and amplify shark conservationists and shark conservation campaigns this Shark Week. 

Know a campaign that should appear here? Send the info to our tips account and bask(ing shark) in your contributory glory!

Imagine Shark Week Without Great Whites

Great whites are to Shark Week what Usain Bolt is to the Olympics, what Val Kilmer is to ‘Tombstone’, what George Clooney is to ER reruns…. They are the charismatic big stars who at any moment can produce that moment of excitement. So try and imagine Shark Week without them.

As Oceana points out, “there might only be a few hundred adult great white sharks left off the Pacific coast of North America, and constant threats like fishing nets continue to kill baby white sharks in their nursery habitats.” That’s why Oceana is working with Discovery Channel gathering petitions in support of its campaign for great white sharks to be listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Amplify This:  Tweet this call for action to your supporters as a way to add more signatures to the petition.

Amplify This: Join the Shark Week Thunderclap and donate a facebook or twitter post for shark conservation. Add your voice at

Shark Fight: Shark Attack Survivors Fight for Conservation

Outside of events like Shark Week, it seems that sharks make the news a lot of the time only when one of them takes a bite out of a human diver or swimmer. For the humans involved, such attacks can be traumatic and debilitating, if not fatal. In the face of this challenge, however, an impressive and dedicated group of survivors is working with Pew Environment Group to press world leaders to act for shark conservation. So far, the survivors have been instrumental in persuading the U.S. Congress to close loopholes in the nation’s shark finning ban—a law signed by President Obama in 2011. They have supported leaders, including the presidents of Palau and Honduras, who declared their waters shark sanctuaries. And they have visited the United Nations to urge countries to develop shark sanctuaries, conservation plans, and similar measures.

Now their stories are being featured in the Shark Week series ‘Shark Fight’, and the survivors will be live tweeting during episodes.

Amplify This: Share the above video on your Facebook page with a message like, “If shark attack survivors can support shark conservation, we all can. Visit for more information.”

Amplify This: Follow the live conversations during ‘Shark Fights’ by using the hashtag #sharkfight and urge others to do the same with this tweet.

Help the Hammerhead

Of nine species of hammerhead sharks, two are listed as endangered, and one as vulnerable, on the IUCN Red List, recognition of the damage inflicted on hammerhead populations as a result of shark finning. But at the last meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), proposals to list hammerheads on CITES Appendix II were shot down by nations with an interest in the shark trade.

Shark Stewards is petitioning the US Fish & Wildlife Service to support listing hammerheads at the next CITES meeting in Bangkok in 2013.

Amplify This:  Tweet the petition to your supporters.

How To (Not) Eat Sharks

Seafood Watch has a guide to which sharks are OK to eat and which aren’t. (General tip: In most circumstances, simply pass on any shark-meat-or-fin-eating opportunities.)

Amplify This:  The Seafood Watch guide is clear and perfect for sharing. Why not post to your Facebook page? Link:

Think it’s unlikely that you might somehow ingest threatened or endangered shark species? Think again.

Obviously, if you avoid shark meat and fins altogether, you’re safe, but even shark products that may purport to be safe in fact may be made at-risk species. A  study conducted in collaboration with the Pew Environment Group found that 32 samples of shark fin soup from 14 U.S. cities included species such as the endangered scalloped hammerhead, as well as smooth hammerheads, school sharks and spiny dogfish, which are listed as vulnerable.

Credit: Pew Environment Group

Amplify This: Tweet a New York Times blog post on the findings to your supporters.

Amplify This: Post the image above to your Facebook page with the message “Americans who eat shark fin soup might unknowingly be consuming an endangered species”