Highly recommended conference coming up: CommunityNext Platform

The event is being hosted by two friends of mine who are ridiculously smart/connected and even somewhat hip. I’ve copy/pasted these deets from the invite.

CommunityNext: Platform
October 5-6th

The premier event on social network Platforms and APIs is here. Over 300 entrepreneurs, developers, and marketers unite for a 2-day deep dive featuring dozens of speakers and developers, from October 5-6th. Special guests include developers of top 100 Facebook applications we are flying in from all over the country.

We are doing a $10,000 platform code off. Without cross-promotion or any outside help the app with the most users after 24 hours wins. Secondary prizes include a trip around the world and an iPhone.

What are the topics?
– Nuts to bolts guidelines for developing successful apps
– 0 to 60 case studies from the top developers
– Drive viral growth through design, metrics, and strategy
– Make money from ad networks, affiliates, and other strategies
– Create real-world community through maps and local features
– Scalability, integration, and other technology best practices

An early preview of companies attending or speaking include:
– 15+ Facebook developers consisting of tens of millions of application installs
– Google
– Twitter
– Offermatica
– Compete
– VideoEgg
– Bebo
– Meebo
– Accel
– Benchmark Capital
– Elevation Partners
– Mohr Davidow Ventures

See you there!
Register with 10% off:

Empowerment marketing at Kiva

Let’s define “empowerment marketing” as follows: a marketing technique by which you empower members of your community to market your organization and its cause. I’m definitely not the first person to use the term (in fact a colleague from my MySpace days used it before), but for some reason I feel like I’m one of the first and that’s just wrong; this is powerful shtuff. Everyone is hyper-focused on viral marketing; well folks, I’d argue that viral marketing is a subset of empowerment marketing. Aaand I’d lose that argument. But I think people would agree that there’s a very Venn diagram overlap thing going on between the two.

Back in early 2006 I joined Kiva, a *phenomenal* non-profit, as a part-time staff member to run marketing. If you don’t know about Kiva yet check it out; they’ve built a platform that enables people like us to lend to low-income entrepreneurs in over 30 countries in the developing world, empowering them to earn their way out of poverty. *Absolutely revolutionary*. Anyways, upon joining, I asked Premal what my marketing budget was and his calm reply was $0.

Though I took several standard approaches in crafting Kiva’s marketing strategy, I quickly found that in our lender community we had impassioned evangelists who were running around their communities and networks raving about Kiva. In other words, we had a distributed marketing team on the ground in communities around the world. All we had to do was arm them with the tools to do the job better — so arm them we did.

We developed a suite of banners for bloggers. We provided sample text for people who wished to email their friends about Kiva. We got on the social networks. We provided sample email footers. We set up Yahoo Groups so folks could connect with each other regarding anything from setting up fundraisers and awareness events to sharing best practices (a die hard fan ended up setting up a much slicker kivafriends site for this purpose). We published our one-pager for folks to print out and use at events they hosted. We allowed them to volunteer. We gave them ideas for things to do such as contact celebrities they knew to see if they’d want to promote Kiva (it worked). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we communicated with them so they felt like a part of the Kiva team.

Empowerment marketing by no means got Kiva to where it is today (a world class team, an amazing product, an inspiring mission, and a heck of a lotta press did that). But it has (and continues) to let the small Kiva team focus on execution and not spend too much time on marketing; after all, they’ve got you to do that.

On a side note, we’ve been using this a bit for the Help Vinay campaign as well. I wonder if empowerment marketing is only effective for cause-oriented campaigns. For my myspace page I went out and grabbed banners of a few organizations I support, but they’re closer to causes than companies. If REI (a company I like) allowed me to get banners from their website for my blog, would I put ’em up? Hmm….

“Stay on target….staaay on target”

[A worthy carryover post from my shortlived “Web 2.0 startup” blog at nasahablog.blogspot.com; thanks for stopping by and welcome to thesunrising]

I love that line…know where it’s from? Star Wars, Episode IV (the first one, ifyaknowwhatImean). Every couple days I open up my RSS reader to find hundreds of technology/startup oriented posts. I’m usually hit with momentary nausea before I dive-in and wade through all the noise out there. It’s particularly disconcerting as I’m starting a “Web 2.0” company myself…I look at all those companies and think “wow…in a way, I’m competing with all of them for something that’s becoming ever more scarce: attention.”

But then I recollect stories from Founders at Work, I think about friends who are at or have their own startups, and I remember: stay on target. All of a sudden all those Tie Fighters and Death Star gun turrets fade away…I feel a sense of calm and focus on my product.

I firmly believe that at the end of the day, a great product that fills a real need, and if necessary, a clever distribution mechanism (notice I didn’t say “marketing strategy”…ideally, the product markets itself), gives a company a fighting chance at success. There are many other things that can go wrong, but reduce anxiety and stress by not worrying (too much) about what else is out there.

Now, take a deep breath…ahhh….doesn’t that feel better? Alright, back to work. :)