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Shark Week 2012: How To Drive The Shark Conversation (Without Jumping It)

Aaron Muszalski's picture
on August 7, 2012 - 3:59pm

Update: Want a personal walk-through of the State of the Shark online? Join Son of Sharkinar on Friday, August 12 at 11:00 am PT/ 2:00 ET. We'll share Shark Week campaign plans as well.

Son of Sharkinar
Friday, August 10 at 11am PST/ 2pm EST.
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Shark Week 2012 is fast approaching. If you're involved in the online conversation about sharks, Shark Week represents a major opportunity to grab some attention, and extend your social media reach. Just how big is this opportunity? And what can you do to best leverage it? Using Upwell's magic "Big Data" 8-Ball, and salty nautical insight, we're going to give you the answers.

Shark Week Is Big

In a typical week, Upwell measures between 40,000 and 70,000 mentions of sharks online. During Shark Week 2011, there were over 740,000 social mentions of sharks, 95% of which were directly attributable to Shark Week.

There's no escaping it: Shark Week is responsible for the single largest bump in the online shark conversation for the entire year.

When you see that fin-shaped spike, it's time to get into the (social media) water.

Total social mentions for Upwell's keyword groups for "Sharks" and "Shark Week", January 1st - December 31st, 2011

And Getting Bigger

Since 2009, total social mentions of Shark Week have increased by a factor of five every year. If that trend holds, this year's Shark Week could generate over 2,000,000 social mentions. Now you're talking attention apex predator!


Of course, mentions in and of themselves are only helpful if the information or sentiment they express is factual or positive. While Shark Week unquestionably promotes strong conservation messaging, does that break through the notion of sharks being eating machines with big teeth that occasionally kill or injure humans?

Fortunately, yes, We broke down those 740,000 Shark Week-related social mentions into three categories: 

  • Celebratory — 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!’)

Online Mentions of Shark Week 2011 which contained terms associated with one of the following themes: Celebratory, Terror, and Conservation

While Terror remains a popular theme in Shark marketing (Sharketing?), it's increasingly begun to receive a negative response from audiences, particularly online. Perhaps this due to the abundance of more accurate and less sensational information about sharks that's available on the Internet. Or perhaps it's a consequence of twenty-five years of Shark Week helping to change our broader cultural attitudes about the humble elasmobranch. In any case, Terror isn't a theme we reccomend that shark conservation orgs resort to, for obvious reasons.

If you want your shark content to reach the widest possible audience, "Sharks are awesome" (or beautiful, or fascinating, etc.) is the theme to use. 

Which Shark Week Hashtag is the Most Popular?

Total mentions (Twitter only) for the top Shark Week hashtags, July 5th - August 5th, 2012

With over 88% Share of Voice, #SHARKWEEK is by far the most widely used Shark Week hashtag.

There are a variety of other popular Shark Week related hashtags, most linked to a specific campaign (like Discovery's fun #PhotoChomping and #Chompie photo sharing campaigns) or event (like #VWsharkweek, Volkswagen's mobile, VW-shaped shark cage).

Mentions of these various hashtags are likely to increase as Shark Week approaches. But if you want to ensure that your content reaches the greatest possible number of shark-interested online readers, the #SHARKWEEK hashtag is clearly your best bet.

In Summary

  • Shark Week is the biggest single spike in the online shark conversation for the entire year.
  • The most popular theme for shark content and sentiment is Celebratory. People think sharks are awesome. (They are!)
  • The most popular Shark Week hashtag is #SHARKWEEK
  • If you're involved in the online shark conversation and want to reach a bigger, broader audience, Shark Week is an incredible opportunity to do so. 
  • Follow the top influencers, start Tweeting and Facebooking, and join the conversation!

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