The thing about Web 2.0 is that it keeps us on our toes, constantly changing the game. For instance, whoever thought that Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome would need a MySpace profile page or that there’d be a presidential debates channel on YouTube or that JetBlue Airways could become your Twitter friend?
Honestly, there are far too many social networking sites on the Internets nowadays for any one company trying to build a brand to keep up. First you had to have Web video as part of your online marketing strategy, then you had to plug into social networks. Now the latest thing you must have, is a widget.
Back in October, Frank Gruber of the blog Somewhat Frank wrote an interesting entry, where he explained:
“A widget is a portable chunk of code that can be installed and executed within any separate html-based web page. A widget can be created for just about every site or service possible thus allowing users to pull it into personalized homepages (Netvibes, Spotback and Pageflakes), blogs (WordPress and Typepad) or other social website pages (AIM Pages, TagWorld and MySpace). “
So why does your business need one? Gruber discusses Widgets as a Web 2.0 tool, but after visiting last week’s Widgetcon, an event expressly focused on widget marketing, Daniela Capistrano wrote about widgets as a Web 3.0 concept.
As page views are nearly out the door already and clickthroughs are likely not very far behind them, consumers are interacting with brands in entirely different ways than ever before.
Capistrano had this to say:
“Welcome to the Me2 Generation aka Web 3.0. It is their world, we just live in it. And as precious as your content may be to you, ultimately it means little to them if they are unable to interact with it, share it, and personalize it…
Have you made it possible for your content to live in the worlds that are important to your audiences?
We are not serving content to a passive generation anymore, satiated with just digesting our messages without any opportunity for interaction. We are dealing right now with an active generation, and we should be excited about that, because it opens avenues for not only boring-but-necessary things (like new methods of monetization) but for new ways of distributing truly creative content to passionate, informed, and engaged audiences. A true brand experience should be able to thrive in all sorts of environments.”
Now that’s not really her talking, it’s more or less the overall message she took away from the conference. What she really had to say was this:
“I understand the urgency to monetize, to track, to measure, to control. But in the scramble to place a dollar value on every eyeball we just might be losing track of the real point – to strengthen the bonds between our content and our audience. Providing users with the tools to carry on the brand experience in useful and engaging ways is essential to remaining culturally relevant. A widget should not be seen as just a method of repackaging or recycling your existing content, nor as just a tool to create compelling experiences that inspire a viral sharing effect. I don’t believe there is a “super widget” that will save your company.”
Like Capistrano, I’ve seen widgets used really well in teen marketing. It works because it enables younger generations to pimp out their profile pages on social networking sites, their blogs, or their signatures in HTML-based e-mail or forums. In fact I’ve even used a few widgets myself, to port my content from one site to another. Mostly, I use widgets as gadgets in my Mac OS on my computer. They provide quicker methods of my accessing some of my Web-related applications.
But it also made me realize that there is the potential to overdo a widget marketing strategy. I’m not saying that Forbes has. In fact, they’ve created very useful widgets for their users. But what I mean is, companies could get it wrong. Companies that don’t really need them may create them just because of the thinking that widgets are the next killer app — that widgets are better than advertising.
The truth is, in this new age, the name of the game is engagement. So it’s not really a banner vs. widget argument here. What it is though, is a time to be creative about your brand and about how you market your brand. What points of engagement work best for your constituency? If you’re marketing to 65 year olds, maybe widgets won’t matter much.