Posted December 21, 2007 3:23 pm by with 4 comments

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Ever hear of widgets? It’s the buzzword of the year for the Web, but few still appreciate how to best use them. How can you use widgets to increase the inbound links to your site? Are there widget directories you can optimize for? What social media strategies are most effective?

Moderator: Bill Flitter, VP, Marketing, Founder, Pheedo

  • Steven Marder, CEO, Eurekster
  • Ben Pashman, VP Business Development, Gigya

Bill Flitter
RSS, new media, blogging, social media. That’s what Pheedo does. We help publishers analyze and use dist content. Thinking re: results
round and round widgets—’widgets’ used to be a generic term, but now it has a meaning

Brainstorming what we, the audience, want to know—we design the session.

  • What makes a great widget? What makes people want it?
  • What are popular widgets today?
  • Is the microsite dead?
  • Why do I need widgets?
  • Is it worth creating these? Can we monetize widgets (specifically Facebook)?
  • Examples of bad widgets—best practices
  • How can widgets impact search?
  • Can you measure conversions on widgets?
  • Challenges in production?
  • Legal concerns of widgets

Ben Pashman
Simple to complex widgets
Why is there so much attention focused on widgets? Social network advertising will grow a lot. Doesn’t interrupt user experience, not forcefeeding a branded message while they’re trying to talk to their friends. It’s the answer to how to get social media advertising

“If social network marketing delivers on its promise of peer recommendations the flow of ad dollars will turn into a flood”—eMarketer

The definition of widgets: widgets are miniapps that can be deployed on top of existing communities like Facebook. His simpler definition: any little piece of content that can be grabbed and shared, goes from one place to another—the atomized web. Even YouTube, embedding video. Shared, grabbed, personalized, utilized.

3 types of widgets

  • desktop
  • start page
  • social media (the narrower definition)—big opportunity here. Dave Berkowitz broke down differences between these types of widgets in his blog. Goals: entertain friends, identify themselves, engage people, have fun, enable communications. Sets it apart from other categories.

It’s all just starting—we’re in the ca. 1995 era here. We’re seeing a lot of viral players, repackaging of content, and that works to some extent, but it doesn’t leverage the full potential.
Nike—what could they do?
Personal: Johnny, 16 y/o, likes movies and bball. Nike offers widget customizable to fave athlete/team. Highlight footage in widgets, send customized messages, live chats

Widget analytics:

  • installs by location
  • impressions
  • interactions
  • lifecycle (how long is it living on the page/pageviews over time)
  • viral distribution patters

You can think of a widget as a mini browser. It’s a 24 hour TV channel that you can put anything in any time.

It’s primarily branding tool. Can drive some traffic to site, but primarily provides exposure for your site away from you site. Provides user-endorsed exposure. Can be viral. If your brand can be part of an individual’s self-expression, that’s a lofty goal.

Steven Marder
What’s great about widgets is the distribution opportunity. We’re about branded, distributed, social search. It’s about brands, distribution, engaging consumers with widgets. Leveraging search as a behavior, users’ desire/comfort with search while they’re on your page. We’ve been around 3+ years. But we’re not about building a destination or attract consumers—working with publishers.

Search + wiki = swickis

Trends in social media/social search
Then: media 1.0 centralized creation, traditional distribution, one-to-many. Search 1.0 algorithmic organization & creation (increasing dissatisfaction of generic search) one-to-many.

Now: media 2.0: navigation and discovery through connection and engagement. Discovery is just a huge element here, huge value prop for widgets and social media in general. Many-to-many

It’s about understanding your consumer, reinforcing brand, driving action. Leveraging social media tools, being part of the conversation, being authentic, being transparent. How do you engage in a conversation? Being fun, useful, authoritative, providing links to other people, providing value.

What do you have that you can leverage?
The power of your brand, the power of community, user participation and engagement, social media tools. Provide useful tools, apps, etc. to let them interact with your brand (content, products, genre). Leveraging social search is one such tactic.

We think social search is the next phase, and Google gets that—personalization to influence SERPs. It’s all about search behavior off general destinations.

Ex: search box with tag cloud widget. It’s a search tool for the site, but also a discovery tool.

Demo of building widget with Eurekster. Now you can build a site-specific search, brand it, skin it, and let people put it on their sites.

Steven: Fantastic opportunity to get in with kids early.

Are there affiliate type widgets?
Ben: There are some available—Amazon, eBay, Widget Bucks. Natural extension for sure.
Steven: Be authentic. Build your brand.

Comment: Dell just did a campaign where people could contribute to a campaign to let people contribute to help their friends buy new computers—via widget and Paypal.

Biggest take home tip?
Ben: Keep it simple. Don’t try to cram your whole website on there.
Steven: Get compelling, engaging content on that widget.
Ben: Think about how can you add to the experience of the target display website. Fun, simple, silly are doing great volume.
Ben: Clearly the microsite is dead. Why would someone want to go to the when they could take it with them? Don’t work so hard on creating a site to then create a community—leverage an existing community.

I built a Google Gadget. It got clicks but no sales. Can I reuse it? What do I do?
Ben: That’s a very common experience. You can’t just “build it and they will come.” Distribute it, promote it, but it’s not an easy thing. You can’t just build it and drop it in a widget gallery. (Though that can happen.)

[Note from my discussion with Tameka Kee of MediaPost: Think about why your target audience would want that widget on their site, not what you want to push out onto them.]

Steven: It’s not just a marketing tool. It’s softer. It’s branding.
Ben: It’s not just repurposing an ad.

  • This was a very insightful article – Widgets are the building blocks of the next generation of web technologies.

  • Widgets are catching on very rapidly especially in the community of users who have a knack for coding. There are some vey valuable points made in this article especially about understanding the consumers. Widgets and there deployment arte just another form of marketing and as uch understandinh the target market id key.

  • Samuel

    The microsite is dead? Please let Elfyourself know before they waste their time any further.

  • I think that widgets are being used largely outside of the hacker circles too. Not everyone can hack together a custom mashup using some clever api, but everyone can install a widget on their blog.

    You definitely have to be aware of how your users will use a widget – if your site has some kind of social networking side to it then it’s probably quite a good site to build your own widget for.