Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Cusco on My Mind


If you haven’t heard, there have been terrible floods in Cusco, Peru in the past week. Since we are in the thick of la epoca de la lluvia (the rainy season), rain is expected but the level of destruction seen in the area is unimaginable.

Affected house in Oropesa

Tourism is the main industry in Cusco, and the damage produced by the rain does substantial damage on the Cusco economy. From the February 3rd warden message from the U.S. Embassy in Peru, I read that Machu Picchu is closed and the rail line between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes is closed due to landslides until possibly March. I also read that tourists were stranded in Aguas Calientes (the town closest to Incan archeological site Machu Picchu) and that the conditions were excruciating. Luckily, helicopters eventually evacuated all the tourists from the town.

Unfortunately, my Kiva clients in Cusco don’t have that luxury.

I met a Kiva communal bank called Virgen Estrella de Oropesa in Oropesa, a small town south of Cusco in November while working as a Kiva Fellow for Asociación Arariwa, a microfinance institution that has worked in the Cusco region of Peru for the past 25 years. This town is known as the capital of bread because of its delicious “pan chuta.” In fact, the town has so many bakeries that the smell of baking bread permeates the town’s air. In their Kiva profile video, the from Virgen Estrella de Oropesa are laughing and smiling as they get together for their Kiva profile photo. If you had the pleasure of meeting them in person like I had, they were even more animated, making fun of their loan officer Jacob for not having a girlfriend. Unfortunately, most jokes told outside of the city are told in Quechua, so I just got the translated version (definitely not the same!)

Now the town of Oropesa is under water, and many of the talented entrepreneurs I met in Oropesa have lost their homes and businesses.

I wrote in my last La Vida Idealist entry about when you live somewhere you feel a much closer connection with your adopted home than if you had visited for a week or two for vacation. And if you work or volunteer in your new home, like I did in Cusco with Arariwa, you feel an even stronger connection to the place and its people. I am sure the volunteers in Haiti feel similarly, like fellow climber and volunteer Krista.

My friend and colleague, the Kiva coordinator at Arariwa, Raquel Villafuerte, recently wrote me an email in which she said (translated into English):

“Hi there,

…Arariwa is collecting money from employees to help. We are also collecting food at the offices here. If you want you can send money to buy supplies. In reality all you have known – has been for the most part lost – the main avenue of Aguas Calientes and many houses in Anta and south from Saylla to Urcos are under water.”

Organizations like Kiva have responded with updates about how the tragedy has affected Kiva/Arariwa entrepreneurs, including links on how to help victims.

I read a La Vida Idealist post about the tragedy, which included photos of the flooded streets of Cusco city. But from other photos I have seen, the provinces of Cusco were harder hit by the floods than the city.

Citizens have been collecting supplies in the Plaza de Armas, while virtual support, fundraisers, supply collections and updates have come through online and offline news sources and social networks like Facebook and Twitter. I have also heard many updates through the Couchsurfing La Paz group, of which I am a member.

Now living and volunteering in La Paz, I see homes located on the edge of cliffs where there has been and continues to be severe erosion. As I go by, I always think that one day when the rain is strong enough, these homes could fall. I recently heard of landslides in Chasquipampa, a neighborhood of La Paz (and I do have Kiva clients in Chasquipampa). A friend of mine here works as a volunteer gathering and distributing supplies, which she did last Friday after the landslides. Another friend told me that a victim who lost his home in the landslide is staying in his church.

Although tragedies like this one are tough to experience and hear about, it’s great to know that ordinary citizens become dedicated volunteers and come through when people need it.

Here’s how to help the victims of the floods in Cusco and how to support disaster relief efforts around the world.

Sheethal Shobowale is working as a Kiva Fellow at microfinance institution 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.

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.