Interview: Kiva's Chelsa Bocci Discusses Microlending, Crowdsourcing and Facebook

logoLeafy3Kiva is a non-profit organization that facilitates micro-loans to alleviate poverty. They connect budding entrepreneurs in developing and developed countries around the world to lenders using the Internet. We got a chance to talk to Chelsa Bocci, the Director of Marketing and Community Outreach at Kiva about the way Kiva uses social media for social change.

Being the first online micro-lending platform, how did Kiva initially leverage its uniquely online position to promote its cause in its early days?

Kiva believes tremendously in crowdsourcing and, fortunately, we’ve recognized the value in this since day one. In fact, we employ a full-time team of only 40 people and are supported by a network of over 500 volunteers

We leverage the technical abilities of our more digitally savvy and multi-lingual supporters by providing them direct access to loan profiles that are posted by Kiva’s Microfinance Field Partners. This vetted team of over 350 volunteers edit, review and translate all of the user profiles you see listed on Kiva today.

On the Kiva website, you have created a community of lending teams. What effect has the team feature had on Kiva and its goals?

Kiva built and released the lending teams feature after we realized it was in high demand from a large portion of our early adopters. Before lending teams existed on Kiva, there was no way to share in your lending experience with like-minded individuals. Now, we have over 12,000 unique lending teams ranging from small families to large corporations. It is a way for teachers to bring their students together on Kiva and, at the same time, a way for larger companies to track the contributions of their employees.

kiva community

The Kiva Facebook page is very active and has over 75,000 fans. Has it contributed to any growth in lending or lenders signing up at Kiva?

Kiva is a social investment and new social networking tools, like Facebook, let us harness that. However, we are not necessarily convinced social media has a high conversion rate (i.e. it is not yet clear if our efforts on these channels bring us more lenders each day, which would encourage more lending, which would ultimately result in more friend referrals). What is clear, however, is that there is more brand awareness thanks to our online presence and activity on channels like Facebook.

Your Twitter page has even more followers, with just under 350,000. What benefits does Twitter offer to Kiva? What is your Twitter strategy?

While Kiva might have nearly 350,000 Twitter followers, it doesn’t translate into more lenders necessarily. Facebook and Twitter users are constantly “friending” and/or following new social causes. Because FB fans or Twitter followers might like Kiva, it doesn’t necessarily mean they want to become an active member of our lending community. That said, we are not about to scrap our social media efforts, instead we will focus on the highest conversion rate, which in our case is friend referrals.

kiva twitter

With the announcements coming out of the Facebook f8 conference in April, it looks like Kiva has moved quickly to implement some of the new social features. Can you explain what Facebook Social Plugin features you are integrating into the website, and why you chose to do this?

Kiva has integrated the new Facebook Social Plugins into the website in an effort to make the Kiva lending experience even more social and personal. Users will see two main changes on the Kiva website:

“Like” it – You’ve used the “Like” button on Facebook to tell your friend you liked their picture or status update. Now you can “Like” Kiva businesses, and see which businesses your friends “Like.”

Activity Feeds – The new Activity Feed on the Kiva homepage keeps users up-to-date with their Facebook friends on Kiva, and shares their recent Facebook activity about Kiva with Facebook friends.

Since giving is such a personal activity, we think that providing ways for our users to share their philanthropy is great for spreading the word about our cause. And we think sharing on Facebook, in particular, will drive more relevant and interested parties to Kiva.

What do you foresee for Kiva’s future, particularly its use of social media to promote its cause?

We will continue to use our social media channels to promote contests and campaigns. This is a critical means of fundraising for nonprofits these days and has been hugely successful for Kiva thus far. We use Kiva’s Blog, our monthly newsletter, video, Facebook, and Twitter to win support and harness the energy of our supportive community. But we are also finding that it’s more critical than ever to balance out this promotional content with more inspirational posts. Our hope is that this helps to engage new lenders, while still pushing our active lender base to support us in ways outside of lending.

We’re always thinking about creative content to push out that does not have a call to action associated at all, but instead is more educational or inspirational. Our hope is that we build strong relationships with our most supportive lenders so that when we need their help, they’re feeling appreciated and comfortably make the choice to enthusiastically participate.

In 2010/11, we also hope to dial-up our video efforts on the Kiva Blog. We would like to leverage the power of video to help connect lender and entrepreneur in a more meaningful and profound way. Video profiles will be developed by Kiva’s Microfinance Field Partners – using Flip video’s small handheld recording devices. Beyond entrepreneur profiles, we also plan to create web video tutorials to help lenders better understand the many facets of the website.

You can follow Kiva on Twitter, join their Facebook page, or go directly to their website for more information or to set up an account and start lending today.