Big listening

I just listened in on a webinar on #BigListening from the US non-profit @Upwell ( They describe themselves as a PR agency for the sea, and are brilliant at spotting emerging topics of online discussion, and then amplifying the heck out of them to turn a tiny little thing, into a really big thing online. I love the fact they are doing this for ecological and science issues around seas and oceans (rather than just trying to sell stuff!). I am particulary impressed by the impact they have had on Discovery Channel Shark Week – by bringing together people who care about the science of oceans, they have shifted the online conversation about shark week so that last year it tanked – because they were running fake documentaries rather than cool science!

Their website outlines what they do FAR better than I can, but there were some thoughts that came to me during the webinar that I wanted to share.

The main thrust of the discussion was about spotting potential shareable content and interesting conversations, but I think it also very important to understand the discussions that are about you and to you every day.

I have used Upwells techniques to measure what a spike in mentions of my employer looks like. We have a Tweetreach tracker that collects every mention of my employer, or our Twitter handle, or our website address. I exported all the data from Tweetreach into Excel (almost two years worth) and then applied Upwell’s baseline methodology and spike methodology to find the patterns in our data. This comes in very handy when we have a social media crisis – because I can use the data quickly to spot if it is a real crisis (lots of mentions across Twitter) or just a perceived crisis (senior managers seeing it in their twitter feed because of the people they follow). I remember in one  case being able to calm a situation down because “this spike is nothing like as big as the fibreglass camel spike last month…”!

The problem with using Tweetreach is that it is not that easy to spot spikes as they are happening – you have to export the data into Excel, and analyse it every day, and you only have 10 search terms per tracker (including any words you are trying to exclude). It works as a cheap alternative to Radian 6 (the tool Upwell use) but it is costly in terms of time not money.

I have been giving a lot of thought to spotting realtime opportunities for “culture jammin”. This is where we get involved in conversations that the public wouldn’t expect us to be in (we’ve got awards for it too!).  Big listening is definitely of interest, but I wonder about using the wisdom of crowds to spot opportunities as well.

In particular I have been playing with undocumented Twitter filters – specifically min_retweets and min_faves – as a way of flagging interesting tweets. For instance this search pulls up tweets that mention Upwell and have been retweeted at least 5 times. You can also find tweets from verified accounts only (though this makes the huge leap that verified accounts are actually more influential or valuable!) using the filter:verified search. I’ll be interested to see if these filters help me find new content!



I wanted to list my “go to” Upwell blog posts (these are the ones I have visited again and again):


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