Archive for the ‘Online Marketing’ Category

Feliz Año Nuevo de La Paz!

I just recently finished my Kiva Fellow placement with Asociación Arariwa in Cusco and just moved to La Paz, Bolivia to work with Emprender for 3 months.

Peru Novedades

Onto Bolivia…

  • Gran Manzana: La Paz is so much bigger and cosmopolitan than Cusco.  Being a New Yorker and having spent time in India, you’d think I would be ready for it…but I wasn’t.  Check out the photo.  It seems to go on forever…
Photo of La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz, Bolivia

  • Emprender has 6 branches in La Paz as well as offices in Santa Cruz and Cochabamba.  I have been to 3 of the La Paz branches to visit clients so far plus I’m worked from the central office in Sopocachis.  The entrepreneurs I have met so far are such nice people and the branch managers/loan officers have been so welcoming and fun.  Look out for my journal updates and in the meantime, here is a link to loan to Emprender entrepreneurs on Kiva
  • Local fiestas: This weekend I was invited to a local festival in a small town called Caquiaviri in honor of San Antonio Abad, patron and protector of caquiavireños (people from Caquiaviri) This aymara pre carnival event is accompanied of Ch’utas dancers, flutes and Tarkas groups
  • Transport: My favorite topic!  In La Paz, Once every seat is taken on a minibus, they don’t allow more people on the bus.  What a difference from Cusco!  And so much more humane.

I’d love to hear from you!  Please say hello if you have a moment!  I miss New York and would to hear what’s going on in your world.

Not a Kiva Lender yet?  Visit to start lending today!



Sheethal Shobowale just finished her KF9 placement with Asociación Arariwa in Cusco, Peru and recently started her KF10 placement with Emprender in La Paz, Bolivia.


#MifiMon: Women and Microfinance

This Monday, I participated on the #MiFiMon Twitter panel about Women and Microfinance.  #MifiMon stands for Microfinance Monday, but is shortened due to the restrictions in text length in Twitter posts.  Here is a link to the tweets from the discussion on Twazzup.

For those of you who have not yet heard of Twitter discussions, it is a way have a real-time discussion about a certain topic on Twitter.  During #MifiMon we discuss microfinance.  #SocEntChat is another discussion about social entrepreneurship.  Using the hashtag #MiFiMon, we tag each comment so that it can be found in Twitter searches.  Twazzup is a service that helps isolate and track a real-time discussion on Twitter.  I found it to be a little slow to update, but that could have been because I’m in Cusco and it might have been the internet connection.

#MiFiMon Chat about Women and Microfinance

#MiFiMon Chat about Women and Microfinance

Twitter chats (just like any type of discussion, conference, workshop, etc) link  your organization with your field of work.  Your thoughts, opinions and links shared in chats can engage new and current supporters with your organization.  I received some new Twitter followers during this chat, and most of the are work in the field of microfinance or are interested in the topic.  Since I am a Kiva Fellow, I shared stories that my colleagues and I have written during our time in the field from the Kiva Fellows Blog.

If you are interested in going one more step and host a Twitter chat, here’s a blog post from @johnhaydon with a video on How to create successful chats on Twitter with hashtags

I also wrote the summary of the #MiFiMon discussion after the chat.  Below is the summary –


#MifiMon: Women and Microfinance



The following is a guest post by Sheethal Shobowale, Kiva Fellow at MFIs Asociación Arariwa in Cusco, Peru and Emprender in La Paz, Bolivia starting in January.

Interested in learning about microfinance? Follow our biweekly Twitter discussion group #mifimon (because Microfinance Mondays was too long for Twitter’s 140-character limit). Our aim is to host an exchange of ideas about issues relevant to the microfinance industry. You’re welcome to lend your voice, whether you’re a practitioner in the field or a newbie just learning the basics. Just end your messages with the hashtag #mifimon!

Continue reading

User Voice and Get Satisfaction Feedback Forums

An easy way to obtain feedback from people who visit your website is to set up a feedback forum.  Some example of feedback forum providers include User Voice and Get Satisfaction.

It’s easy: just create an account, customize and implement a widget with few lines of javascript on your site and you’re off!  Unfortunately, I can’t embed javascript in my hosted blog, but when I move my blog to (soon!) it will be much easier to find.

The first level is free, but both companies have advanced versions of their product for small and large companies.  User Voice and Get Satisfaction both charge variable monthly fees depending on added features and functionality such as the level of customization, topic moderation and analytics.

What I really like about these products is that neither is invasive. Here are a couple options for embedding the script:

  • Add Feedback item to your Navigation Bar – Mine is currently under Contact and Feedback
  • Place the Feedback tab to the right or left side of your page.  When you click on the Feedback tab, the page goes dark and the Feedback box centers on the page.  But other then the minimalistic Feedback tab alerting visitors that they can give giveback if and when they choose to, the tool is hidden from the other information on your side.

See the screenshot below from the User Voice site.  The red tab on the left side says Feedback, and this screenshot is after the Feedback tab has been pressed.  The Feedback forum pops up in white.

User Voice Forum Screenshot

User Voice Forum

Once you click through and open the User Voice forum it looks like the below screenshot from my User Voice forum.  Currently, you can get there from my Contacts page or click on the picture below.  Please add some ideas if you have them and vote on the current ideas if there is something that interests you.

Lethal Sheethal's User Voice Forum

Lethal Sheethal's User Voice Forum

Here’s a screen shot of a Get Satisfaction feedback forum on another blog I mange – the Cumberland Block Association.  Same idea.  Once you click the feedback tab on the left side, the page goes dark and the forum becomes front and center.

Get Satisfaction User Forum

Get Satisfaction User Forum

Pretty cool and easy, no?

Here are some companies using Feedback Forums like these:

Please feel free to ask me about Feedback Forums.  If you know if any other online feedback tools, please share them below.

Kiva Gift Certificates, Kiva Loans, Kiva Lending Teams: More ways to support my Kiva Fellowship in Peru

Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.

Kiva Fellows support that mission by being the on the ground connector between the Microfinance Institution and Kiva.  Please read more about my Kiva Fellowship here.

Here are a couple more ways to support Kiva and my Kiva Fellowship in Peru:

1. Buy a Kiva gift certificate for me:

With the Kiva gift certificate, I can make a loan to a Kiva borrower and as the loan is paid back, I can withdraw the money to use for my Kiva Fellowship.  This support Kiva’s borrowers and my Kiva Fellowship.  Here is my Kiva lender page:

Here’s how to purchase a Kiva gift certificate:

  1. Go to Kiva’s gift certificate page
  2. Choose the amount
  3. Choose the number of gift certificates
  4. Enter my First Name, Last Name, Email: and confirm it
  5. Enter a personal message (For example: “Hope you don’t get Dengue Fever!” or “Please lend to a widow in Cambodia, if available” or something more personal that would make me smile when I’m feeling lonely reading it from Cusco)
  6. Click “Purchase Kiva Gift Certificate(s)”
  7. Click “Agree to Terms of Service”
  8. Decide if you would like to “tip” Kiva with a donation to their operating costs (Remember, Kiva is dedicated to transparency.  100% of all loans go directly to the borrower.  Kiva does not take any portion of your loan amount for their operating costs)
  9. Review your purchase.  If you already have a Kiva account and have Kiva credit, you can use that credit to buy a gift certificate
  10. Click “Purchase”  If you don’t have enough Kiva credit, this step will take you to PayPal
  11. Log-in to PayPal or use your credit card
  12. Complete your purchase

Voilá!  You have supported a Kiva borrower and my Kiva Fellowship!

Buy a Kiva Gift Certificate - Support Kiva and My Kiva Fellowship

Buy a Kiva Gift Certificate - Support Kiva and My Kiva Fellowship

Continue reading to learn more ways to support Kiva… Continue reading

The Extraordinaries Microvolunteering as a Crowdsourced Commmunity Watchdog Group?

I was recently in the West 4th Street subway station where the garbage cans were overflowing.  I mean, ridiculously overflowing to the point where people were spreading trash all over the platform just by walking by.  Mothers were making sure their kids avoided the mess by walking way too close to the the edge around the circumference of the cans.  And this was 11 AM in the morning.  A whole day of densely populated trash dumping would probably go by before this disaster were cleaned up.  Not to mention how many pests were feasting in the summer heat!

This experience made me wonder if there was a way to use The Extraordinaries in my city.

A short summary of the Extraordinaries can be found in an earlier thought starter post about The Extraordinaries and it’s possible uses for Financial Literacy.  Here are some screen shots of the Be Extra! iPhone app:

The Extraordinaries

The Extraordinaries (from The Extraordinaries website)

When I tried out the Be Extra! iPhone app, I found that most of the tasks were related to tagging photos for museums or the Library of Congress (the one I choose was for the Brooklyn Museum) or tasks like Kaboom!, where you can help create a database of safe places for children to play.  Both of these are useful but I was searching for a more meaty Extraordinaries “mission.”

The Extraordinaries - tagging

The Extraordinaries - tagging (from The Extraordinaries website)

There were two tasks in the iPhone app that caught my eye in relation to the trash mesh I had experienced in the NYC subway: Voice of San Diego, where citizens can report water waste in San Diego and Heal the Bay, where citizens can report polluted water in So Cal.  This was closer to what I was looking for…

The Extraordinaries - taking photos

The Extraordinaries - taking photos (from The Extraordinaries website)

The Extraordinaries Microvolunteering as a A Crowdsourced Community Watch Dog Group for New York

As I played around with the app more, I got to thinking: “Couldn’t I use my iPhone app to take pictures around the city of unsafe conditions (such as the overflowing trash can problem) so that New York City (or other cities) could rapidly respond to citizen’s concerns?”  In New York, a city with so many iPhones, this has the potential to work well until they develop an app for other devices.

Nowadays, New Yorkers may call 311 to report noise complaints or something going on in their neighborhood.  The Extraordinaries could be an efficient way to deal with the deluge of complaints and suggestions and lower the strain on 311 phone operators.  Link Be Extra! posts to the 311 logging system and voila! you manage the c11’s focus on accountability for every reported 311 issue.  I see a potential 311 partnership in the making…  I will suggest that in my meeting with them next week.

A final thought: would this be considered slacktivism?  Personally I think it would constitute good citizenship.

Get your Organization’s Social Media Profile from Rapleaf

Want to know which social networks in which your email subscribers participate and how active they are?

Rapleaf gives you demographic, psychographic and behavioral information such as a social graph and online social media activity about your email subscriber base.

I liked this product when I worked at Media Contacts, and I still like it in my new role working with social change organizations.  Today I participated in a conference call with the Rapleaf team about how non-profits can use their product.  They also discussed a case study about a large non-profit focused on women’s issues and how they used Rapleaf’s reports.

Here is some info you can obtain from Rapleaf’s social media profile –

Rapleaf Report Info

Rapleaf Report Info

Don’t worry, your membership PII is safe.  They also merge multiple email address into one record, which somewhat helps take care of out-of-date email addresses.

And even better news –

You can upload a partial sample of up to 1,000 emails on their website and get a report for free!  (A full aggregate report costs a couple thousand dollars for 10-20,000 emails.  The full aggregate report is worth it if your organization is considering a significant investment of staff resources in social media and you have a much larger email subscriber base.  Rapleaf also offers a more specific report tying each email to each social network on your list for pennies per record)

Here is some sample data they send in their aggregate report (just the tip of the iceberg) –

Check out a full sample report here.

Your subscribers' social networks on Rapleaf

Your subscribers' social networks on Rapleaf

Some questions you can learn the answers to –

  • Do your subscribers use social media? (READ: Should you invest significant resources in social media?)
  • Which online social network(s) does your base use? (READ: Where should you be to talk with them and expand your reach through their networks?)
  • How many friends do they have? (READ: How influential in social media are your subscribers?)
  • How active are they? (READ: Can I engage my supporters to spread my message to their friends and help raise money for my organization?)

Rapleaf Friend Counts

Rapleaf Friend Counts

Rapleaf gives you an incredible opportunity to use social media to personalize your marketing efforts, segmenting your base to target only those who would be interested in in particular message.  Imagine the increase in email opens and conversion rates!

Rapleaf Demographics

Rapleaf Demographics

Case Study

I wrote an earlier post on the how the Obama team sent me an email about volunteering for their “data team” during the election.   I believe they used Rapleaf to segment their subscriber base and learn that I was an analytics professional – I know I never gave them that info.  My position at the time was Manager of the Data and Analytics group and Occupation/Title is part of the demographic info in the report.  (I have a call set up with one of Rapleaf’s founders.  I’ll confirm this point and update this post.)

Case Study from today’s conference call – A large non-profit focused on women’s issues


  • They are considering a larger, more strategic social media campaign
  • They have created basic fan pages on Facebook with limited success
  • They have 25,000 + members


  • They didn’t know if social media was popular with their memebers
  • They had sparse demographic data through offline surveys so they didn’t know much about their subscribers
  • They needed to persuade internal management of the importance of social media

Questions they Wanted Answers to

  • Confirm their membership bias to older women
  • Is social media worth it?
  • If so, which networks should they use?

Info Gained from the Study

  • Demographics of the membership base
  • Number and distribution of social media usage
  • Activity levels of members

How they used the Info Gained

  • Justified a social media campaign to their management team
  • Launched targeted ad campaign on Facebook (the main social media tool of their membership)
  • Collected benchmark data for campaign ROI
  • Initiated a communications strategy for reaching a younger audience (the report showed that their membership skewed younger than they though because younger people did not fill out the offline surveys)


  • Increased their Facebook fan base by 10x with an email campaign to members to join them on Facebook
  • Targeted ad campaign on Facebook increased donations
  • Ad targeting increased media efficiency

If you are interested in other demographic and psychographic research about your website visitors, as well as your online media reach and response, check out my blog post on Quantcast Marketer, another free tool you can use to learn more about your online audience.

Feel free to ask me more about research tools such as Rapleaf and Quantcast and how to use the results to improve your organization’s online communications.

Some Thoughts on Trust, Microfinance and Online Marketing

In light of the current discussions about a possible bubble in microfinance and my recent acceptance to be a Kiva Fellow, working with Asociacion Arariwa in Peru, I started thinking more about trust and personal connections.

  • One example is a recent WSJ journal article about women in Ramnagar, an Indian city using microfinance loans for consumption instead of a business, after lying on their loan applications.
  • In contrast, I remember listening to a story on NPR about a lender to an Amish community who has never seen a default. He knows and visits all of his customers in person.

The credit crisis occurred in part because people misstated (or didn’t state) their ability to pay back and mortgage brokers were incentivized to hide this info.  But a big problem was that lenders didn’t know their customers.  Loans were anonymized and packaged with other loans through intermediaries to become even more anonymous (if that’s even possible).

These examples illustrate the value of trust and knowing your connections.  Specifically for me, they illustrate the value of Kiva Fellows and Microfinance Loan Officers, who are on the ground interviewing entrepreneurs, checking loans and ensuring that people are using the loan for what they said in their application.  But more broadly, these stories show the importance of knowing your connections – online and offline.

Maruja Lazo Pacco, entrepreneur from Asociacion Arariwa

Maruja Lazo Pacco, entrepreneur from Asociacion Arariwa

In my Kiva Fellows interview, I learned that Kiva Fellows have uncovered instances of fraud, inflated loan amounts and organizations using some part of the loans for operational expenses instead of loaning the money directly to an entrepreneur as they are supposed to do.  Kiva Fellows are Kiva’s eyes and ears and hands on the ground.  They foster Kiva’s commitment to transparency.  Here is one unfortunate example from the Kiva website – MIFEX Ecuador.  The only connection between the lender and borrower is through profiles and journal updates.  Through this writing, Kiva Fellows play a critical role in connecting people in a personal way.

Saturnina Davila Solorio, entrepreneur from Asociacion Arariwa

Saturnina Davila Solorio, entrepreneur from Asociacion Arariwa

I asked Zack Turner, the Kiva Fellows program coordinator (also a Kiva Fellow in Kenya) about quantifying the value of the Kiva Fellows program.  He mentioned

“… the stat that we do know is that for each time a Kiva lender receives a journal update written by a Kiva Fellow they on average turn around and invest another $50 into Kiva. So you could estimate the number of journals and the impact that you received. During my fellowship I added up the number of lenders that received a journal from my work and the total number of dollars in loans that represented.

Also, we have a deliverable called “Cost of Kiva” in which a fellow analyzes the MFI’s operational cost for working with Kiva. We believe that part of the Kiva Fellows ROI is when the “Cost of Kiva” is reduced.”

So far, there are have more than 43,000 journal updates on the Kiva website.  Multiplied by $50, that is $2,150,000.   I am not yet in a position to dig into these numbers and calculate my own Kiva Fellows ROI, but when I am, I fully intend to explore this further.

Andrea Huaman Lucana, entrepreneur from Asociacion Arariwa in Peru

Andrea Huaman Lucana, entrepreneur from Asociacion Arariwa in Peru

Of course, there are other factors involved in Kiva’s growth.  However, I believe the value of the Kiva Fellows program is even higher and much of it is probably not contained in tangible ROI in terms of loans or donations given.  The personal connection has an intangible value that adds to Kiva’s brand.

As an online marketing professional, I am fully convinced by the value of the internet to spread, connect, and educate. But even I (a gadget and google fanatic) know that trust mainly comes from personal connections and experiences offline.

So I am looking forward to trading in my wifi for one-to-one interviews with entrepreneurs (like the lender to the Amish) to help build trust for Kiva.

Please join me for a Going Away / Kiva Support BBQ on Saturday September 12th at my place in Fort Greene or support my Kiva Fellowship.

San Juan De Quihuares Group, entrepreneurs from Asociacion Arariwa

San Juan De Quihuares Group, entrepreneurs from Asociacion Arariwa

All photos courtesy of Kiva.