Viewing entries tagged
Widgets

Facebook Widgets Play Video

As seen in the below screenshots, Facebook Widgets now feature and play video in-line (although I am not entirely sure that this is a new release - it is my first exposure to it). These are examples from Zynga's Farmville.com - which features a Farmville Fan Widget. The widget has:

- logo - become a fan button - Farmville's feed - Farmville's fans (22.5m!) Notice that the latest newsfeed post has a video play button. Here are two examples, both of which play the video in-line: Facebook Video and YouTube. You will notice that it is still a little funky as the videos are not sized corrrectly for the widget's widget / height. Nevertheless, it makes the widget far more interactive:

Facebook Video: Example

YouTube Video: Example

Where is the Desktop Widget Innovation?

In all the developer attention paid to mobile, Facebook and web-based applications, "desktop widgets" have been the big loser. They were thought to be a major selling point when Microsoft Vista was launching - and in part because Vista was not a success, and in part because they are inherently not viral (and we now live in a viral world), there has been no significant innovation or movement in the desktop widget space. In fact, the same batch of widgets from my first developer install of Vista years ago remains the most popular and useful widgets: calendar, clock, Weatherbug, RSS and eBay. As I set up my new Windows 7 machine yesterday (Dell Inspiron Zino HD = awesome), I was struck by the lack of innovation, creativity and inventory. I certainly understand it - if you had to develop against Facebook, Android, iPhone or the desktop, there is a clear fourth place for most companies / brands. The most important factor is the viral nature of Facebook and mobile - and the available toolsets / APIs to increase virality and therefore distribution. Nevertheless, the desktop represents something very valuable and important: persistence. Mobile applications can leverage push notifications (and other hooks) to encourage engagement - but the desktop is, by definition, always there. For the right applications (weather, calendaring, etc), this is an opportunity. Think about the recent Google Chrome extensions and how quickly developers produced great applications... in a Chrome world and a Chrome OS, what if they were also desktop widgets? They would be able to function similarly and it would be another distribution lever for the developers.

Facebook Widgets: Full On-Facebook Promotion & Fan Page Widgets

Last week, Facebook unveiled their new Facebook Widgets suite with badges and boxes for profiles, fan pages, and photos. It is yet another indicator of Facebook focus on pages and off-Facebook.com activity. The widgets include light customizations (I assume more will come) and can be installed directly to Blogger and Typepad or via javascript. For brands and bloggers who are promoting their Facebook presence (and trying to grow a Facebook community) - these widgets are powerful additions to blog sidebars or footers. You can tell that widgets are strategically important to Facebook because they are using their most valuable real estate to promote the new tools: the header of the logged-in user homepage: facebook-widget-promotion

Below are examples of a few of the new Facebook widget formats. You can also find a few in my blog's sidebar:

Facebook Photo Badge Widget

Ryan Spoon | Create Your Badge

Facebook Fan Box Widget

Dogpatch Labs on Facebook

Facebook Fan Page Badge

Dogpatch Labs

Promote Your Page Too

Widgetbox Introduces the Blidget Pro

Widgetbox has released the Blidget Pro product: the next generation of our successful Blidget tool. Also worth noting, it is our first subscription-based service ($3.99 / mo or $29.99 / year). The Blidget Pro is a far more powerful version of the Blidget - a tool that has converted nearly 100,000 blogs into widgets and served 2.3 billion impressions since its initial launch in 2007. It represents a major step forward – and the best way to give you a feel for its capabilities is with some samples (the full feature set is below). Please contact me if you are interested in learning more or how Widgetbox can help you and your company:

- Easily create viral, branded widgets without any code - Custom header, footer and/or body assets (jpg, gif, swf, png) - Tab integration for multiple feeds and formats - In-widget video integration for YouTube, Hulu and Vimeo (Hulu example) - New visual layouts (slideshow, brick-mode, headlines with images) - Custom widget linking (header, footer and/or body) - Premium promotion on Widgetbox.com -Widget analytics (installs, widget views, uniques)

Real-Time Sports Scores Widget by InGameNow

You can already take InGameNow on the go with our iPhone Apps and Google Talk / AOL Instant Messanger integration. Now you can take InGameNow directly to your website with our new live sports scores and scoreboard widgets. On an aside, InGameNow is starting to gain serious momentum. During Sunday's AFC Championship game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens (two small/medium-sized markets), over 2,500 InGameNow posts were exchanged specifically about the game. And the day before, we launched a full scoreboard on the homepage that we are continuing to roll-out thorughout the site and team pages... much more to come in the next couple weeks.

Half of Social Media Campaigns Fail Because Half the Problem is Being Solved

Atop Techmeme is the CNET blog post "Analyst: Half of 'social media campaigns' will flop". It's a gloomy headline clearly written to grab the eye and drive traffic (it worked - after all, I found it on Techmeme); but despite the strong title, the article's guts are actually quite insightful and on-point. The core arguments by Gartner analyst Adam Sarner is that half of social media campaigns fail because advertisers only deliver half of what needs to be delivered in social media campaigns:

- a medium to convey and promote your brand - a medium for social interaction and engagement

I've written about the three elements of compelling, engaging widgets before - and it echoes this point:

1. Give Users a Reason to Come Back 2. Make it Customizable 3. Market Softly and Carefully

Baby Ticker Widget Widgetbox

"(Businesses) will rush to the community and try to connect, but essentially they won't have a mutual purpose, and they'll fail," Sarner said. By a "mutual purpose," he means a way to serve both the company putting out the campaign and the audience interacting with it: finding that balance is not easy. The quirkiest and most addictive campaigns often provide little value for the company and turn out to be fads, whereas marketing efforts on the Web often don't go over as well with the public.

He cited the Facebook craze as an example. The social network is "more for the community than it is for the bottom line," and it's tough for marketers to get their message in on a site that's focused on communicating with your friends rather than finding stuff to buy...

... There's obviously no universal solution to social-media advertising and marketing, because every company is different. But Sarner offered a preliminary tip: to make sure that there's a clear reason why such a campaign is instituted, and "get people talking" isn't enough. "Are you discovering what's going to be the new black next season?" he suggested as an example of a trendspotting-focused strategy.

Once you've answered that question, it's time to pick and choose: whether to use existing technologies or build them in-house, whether the focus should be video or discussion or Digg-like yes-no voting, ad nauseam.

Measuring Widgets by Defining Viral-ity, Reach and Engagement

I regularly am asked three questions:1. What makes a great widget? 2. What makes a widget viral? 3. How do you measure a widget?

Three buzz words come out these questions (or are tied to directly them): "reach", "viral", and "engagement". And in the end, I argue that engagement is the most critical of the three because the other two are functions arising from engagement:

en·gage: To occupy the attention or efforts of (a person or persons). To attract and hold fast.

If a widget is able to engage (attract and hold a viewer's attention) - it is capable of being viral (being socially spread throughout the web). And if a widget becomes viral, reach and traffic follow. The trouble with starting in the reverse order is that widgets can get tons of traffic (pageviews and uniques) without being spread or growing... but you need to understand user engagement and the widget's viral-ity to understand it's traffic. Here's how you measure those three components:

1. Reach The most basic measurement of any campaign is its reach - and widgets don’t differ significantly than a tradition online campaign:

- Widget Impressions: the number of loads a widget has received - Unique Users: how many viewers a widget amasses - Demographics: the geography of a widget’s viewers and demographics of the sites the widget sits on

2. Viral-ity Unlike traditional online ads, widgets enable rapid reach because they are customizable and sharable. Understanding the social patters on a widget is important to determining a campaign’s growth and the path with which it was viewed and shared. Subscribers are critical because they grab the widget and embed it on real estate that they deem relevant and worthy… introducing the widget to that website’s traffic and effectively kick-starting a virtuous, viral circle: - Subscriptions: number of installed widgets - Active Subscriptions: number of installs that generate viewership - Subscribers: which domains have installed your widget and the traffic each has delivered - Viral Pathing: which subscribers and installations are most effective at delivering new subscriptions

3. Engagement Widget impressions are meaningful, but an engaged viewer is far more valuable than someone who overlooks the widget as though it were merely a banner unit. A core element of understanding a widget’s efficacy is understanding its users’ interactions. The most critical aspect is determining whether widget views lead to widget sharing and/or destination traffic (such as your corporate website):

- Get Widget Interaction: How many users open the “Get Widget” menu - Widget Subscriptions: How many users open the men and actually grab the widget - In-Widget Promotions: Widgetbox, for instance, allows publishers to run ads or promotions within their widgets. You can track unit impressions, mouse hovers and click throughs - In Widget Interaction: Understand whether users arriving at your website from the widget and how it’s impacting your site’s web traffic

Great Web 2.0 Jobs: Widgetbox is Hiring Developers & Thought Leaders

Some of my most commented / read blog posts are about finding great start up jobs. The direct responses I've received through Facebook, LinkedIn and email have been really eye-opening: - Landing a great start up job - Hiring Moves Web 2.0

I have a selfish update to add on the start-up hiring front: Widgetbox is hiring... and we have some very exciting, big roles! We are looking for a few things - but most importantly smart, web-savvy thought leaders:

JAVA and DMBS developers Leaders in web technologies used in social networking and web 2.0 sites. Experts in Java, Servlets, and XML.

A young, web 2.0 whiz Someone who lives on the web, is a big thinker and understands how users interact on social networks, blogs, and widgets.

Widgetbox network overview - 70,000 unique widgets in our widget gallery - Those widgets sit on over 850,000 unique websites - Touching ~40,000,000 monthly unique users

Collectively, these stats make us the web's largest widget gallery and Quantcast's 41st largest network... giving you an opportunity to touch millions of users each day through thousands of sites, widgets and brands.

If you are interested in learning more about Widgetbox or joining the team, you can contact me directly (rspoon at gmail.com) or visiting Widgetbox's Jobs page. The best way to impress is by designing a widget, loading it onto Widgetbox and sending the URL along with your resume!

Why iGoogle is About to Be Game Changing - For Google and for Us

A couple months ago, I had the following email exchange with one of the sharpest, big internet-thinkers I know. I thought very little of the discussion until the past few days. Speaking about iGoogle:

...My wife didn't have an account, but could play with it and then had to set up account to personalize and save. She also set up a series of custom "vertical" searches now much more easily.

I frankly -- mostly due to my schedule -- had not played with their gadgets in some weeks. I reset up my entire information world in about 12 minutes...

Me: Is 12 minutes short or long? I created one but don't go back to it... Still just navigate in and out to each destination.

For us, very short -- because it is amazingly comprehensive. iGoogle may become our homepage now.

That's a powerful notion: recomposing your entire 'information world' in a matter of minutes. At the time though, I passed over the comment because iGoogle wasn't (yet) overly differentiated (Netvibes, Pageflakes, etc); nor was it more than a one-dimensional delivery of content (or as he puts it, "information"). I've seriously rethought that premise as Google is quickly turning iGoogle into a multi-dimensional hub that might very well become the base of your distributed web... and personalization / distribution are the key tenants of web 2.0.

So how does iGoogle get there?

- First, leverage Google. It's already happening. Google is already a one of the top two start pages and has begun making iGoogle a default page. Add that (which is the most valuable asset anyone can ask for) with an unlimited marketing budget, and iGoogle will have no issues with traffic (previously an issue with Froogle, Gmail, Base, etc). iGoogle ads are appearing in *heavy* rotation throughout AdWords campaigns and AdSense units. They are everywhere.

- Integrate Google Reader I think the web is still in need of the killer RSS app. Think about BlogRovr, SocialMedian, FriendFeed and Digg - to different extents, they are about finding relevant and interesting content based on relationships, browsing history, popularity and so on. iGoogle, which got it's start with RSS-feed based containers, is an ideal platform to push out a killer social RSS app (alongside other Google properties like Reader, Feedburner, Google Accounts, etc).

- Integrate Friend Connect and Open Social... Tightly. Two of Google's other current focuses are about enabling social interaction and graphing across other platforms. But Google can also power Friend Connect and Open Social through their own platform: iGoogle; and just as FriendFeed is able to leverage (and lure users from) Twitter, iGoogle will be able to do the same with platforms like FriendFeed. Once iGoogle becomes social, it shifts from pushing content one-dimensionally into an intelligent, fully social and multi-dimensional platform.

- Open it Up. Make it Consumer Facing. One of the values of a robust iGoogle is the sorts of data and interactions that will be collected... and should be reflected. One of the current failing of Google Trends and Google Hot Trends (and for that matter, Google News and Google Analytics) is that they aren't transparent - either on a network or social graph level. iGoogle can become Digg for networks, verticals and any form of content. Hacker News is a terrific example: it gets a small fraction of Digg's traffic, but the tight community makes the sharing of content immensely valuable. That can and should exist for any size network or type of content.

Based on their advertising alone, it's evident that iGoogle is a focus for Google (and I have to imagine internally the strategy is deeply connected to their other social focuses). It's an important strategy for Google because, if they can amass a powerful enough user base, iGoogle represents a platform to launch new products (a struggle in the past for non-search related products) and opens up a new revenue platform (ads will be live soon enough and Gadget Ads will follow soon after).