The 365 000 + member Latvian internet social community www.draugiem.lv will be offering a form of international access in several languages in the fall. Founder and co-owner Lauris Liberts told this blogger that the site will offer access in several languages so that current draugiem members can invite their non-Latvian speaking friends.
At the same time, Liberts admitted that the plans to have independent affiliates of draugiem in places like Italy and Sweden were being partially shelved. Instead, people accessing these sites (the Italian one has a few thousand users and is growing slowly) will be added to the big Latvian data base and see part of the draugiem.lv content in their own language. Liberts admitted that his cherished address for a planned Swedish site www.minavanner.se had essentially been cybersquatted, so that the new name for the access interface is being kept a secret.
One thing that has struck me about draugiem is that its 365 000 18 to 40 year old internet-savvy folks with purchasing power include a noticable number of bi-lingual ethnic Russians. By opening draugiem to the more reticent Russians, (I would call some of them the "Sept 1 protest kidz" :) ) who have some kind of a problem with Latvian (either they know it poorly or don't like to use it), membership should rise by a few tens of thousands at least. Comment from my Russian-Latvian readers is welcome.
Still unresolved but tilting in the direction of more commercialization is the extent to which draugiem.lv will allow advertising (there are some ads) and how its promising user generated content will do. I'm talking about their "Let's talk" section. "Real" blogging may be added in the fall (the Parunāsimies section is edited, only certain content is published).
One thing is for certain -- the community is the biggest single attention platform in Latvia with excellent demographics (TV, with a bigger audience, is watched by the old, infirm, four-year olds, etc). Advertisers will try to get at this audience by all means possible, including guerrilla marketing, probably the best way to succeed. For example, why not have a bank analyst make him/herself a "star" in the self-publishing section when it comes to personal finance or someone from an IT company when it comes to office software?
I still stand by my earlier post that another way for draugiem.lv to commercialize without overcommercializing is to sell affinity products, such as the suggested alliance with Bite Latvija, maybe selling a draugiem phone card. Trouble is, if 300 000 sign up, Bite is out of numbers :).
OK, lets not go too far... I'll settle for a draugiem T-shirt...