An excellent definition of web widgets: “What they are and where they are going”
“Widgets are small applications that provide functionality and content online, distributed through a potentially limitless number of websites. They also represent an entirely new way of looking at advertising. Unlike almost all other online ads, widgets are uploaded onto sites (personal sites, profile pages, blogs) by consumers themselves. They are pulled by their audience, instead of pushed by marketers. And the publishers (largely personal publishers) who upload them are far more than affiliates: owing to these publishers’ personal dynamic and voice, they become advocates for the marketers whose widgets they help distribute. Widget Marketing is exciting because it allows advertisers to swim with the current, not against it. Now advertisers can be invited into conversations they might not otherwise have access to. It means a whole new way of thinking about marketing, but one that marketers will have to move towards if they want to continue connecting with their customers.”
Content is king! As publishers, it is up to us to provide as many ways as possible for our consumers to engage with our content. Widgets are a great way of spreading content and branding.
Widgets can be created for the desktop and for the web. Some examples of widgets include YouTube, branded RSS readers, games and virtual pets to more functional uses, such as miniature chat rooms, recipe finders, maps, reader polls, and multiple choice polls. Lots of examples can be found here.
A key to a successful widget is probably it’s usefulness. Users will only embed widgets with functionality and content that is useful or interesting to them. While it is a great way of spreading branding, it also has significant viral repercussions. Within the social networking space, the embedding of branded widgets within profiles, is effectively an endorsement of brand by a targeted demographic. I think the key advantage of the widget is an online engagement with brand. There is an interesting article at http://blogs.mediapost.com/spin/?p=984
“before you can really discern return on investment, you need to understand how you are going to achieve influence for investment and return on influence.”
Most banner adds these days are screened out of notice by users, but useful, interactive widgets lead to an engagement with brand.
Many people, mainly teenagers/twenties, use social networking sites as extensions of their online identity. Photo and video sharing widgets are popular with youth social networking sites e.g. http://www.slide.com/, http://www.rockyou.com. FaceBook recently opened up their API for developers to create widgets for use within FaceBook providing a platform for advertisers to easily broadcast their widgets. Where sourcing good content within the infinite web space has become an ego – gratifying experience for many. Widgets enable the embedding of preferred content within ones personal pages (also their online identify space), and the possibility of sharing “cool/quirky” web content and functionality with their friends, usuually within the same demographic, resulting in a viral spreading of brand.
Some speak of the atomization of the web, and an implicit death of the “page impression”. Some discuss the need for a new metric for widget traffic, as widgets result in a multitude of pages from different sites within one page.
Advertisers are beginning to see the marketing potential of widgets. New platforms such as http://www.clearspring.com/ are emerging, which provide a set of tools to transform web content and applications into widgets, syndicate widgets easily across multiple platforms, and provide a robust analytics to track the spread of widgets in real-time. Another example is Widgetbox (http://www.widgetbox.com) which functions as a directory and syndication platform for web widgets for blogs and other web pages including TypePad, WordPress, Blogger, MySpace as well as most other blogs, sidebars or websites.
Some more reading: