Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Social Media Apps Meet Widgets

Source: MarketingSherpa


Widgets can be great for marketing, but the format can be limiting. Widgets have to be simple to use and easy to distribute -- which usually means a short list of features. Applications on social media sites, however, often enjoy a more robust set of features and reporting capabilities. Is there a way to get the best of both worlds?

Find out how a widget network is reaching deeper into the popular social networks MySpace and Facebook. The platform is giving advertisers the full power of an application with the wide distribution of a widget.

Marketers of all stripes are finding ways to use widgets. The digital mini-apps have been created to syndicate content to readers, to promote products to consumers, and to organize marketing teams internally.

For marketing and promotion, widgets have proven to be an effective method for reaching and engaging consumers in a number of places. A widget can be placed on a website, blog, social network profile page, and even an off-line desktop. Once consumers find a widget, they can generally click to add it to the destination of their choosing, such as their MySpace page or blog.
Hooman Radfar, CEO and Co-Founder, Clearspring, specializes in ensuring that widgets can be used across a large number of online destinations. The Clearspring widget network can allow a widget to run across 80 social sites, Radfar says.

Enabling a widget to be used in so many places has several benefits. First, it broadens the number of places where a user can find and engage with a widget. Second, it allows users to place widgets at a preferred location -- or at several. That broad reach helps improve the ability of a widget to spread virally.

Social Media Applications

Applications, or mini-computer programs, that are specifically designed for social sites such as MySpace and Facebook can be very similar to widgets. Users can add and remove them from their social profiles at will. And they give the owner the ability to syndicate content and monitor interaction.

However, there are significant differences between the two. First, social network apps are network-specific -- they can only be used on the network for which they were designed. This network-specificity allows an application to more deeply integrate into the core functions of a social network. For example, a Facebook app might be able to leverage a person’s News Feed to let their friends know that they’re interacting with the app.

Adding Apps to a Widget Network

Clearspring recently launched ConnectAds in hopes of combining the deeper functionality of social network applications, and the broader reach of Clearspring’s widget network. The program allows advertisers to use a single widget to run across Clearspring’s network, and allows that widget to access the deeper functionality of a social network-specific application.
“What we found when we were doing strictly widget campaigns is that we would create a one-off application, and then we’d just have an application and we’d bundle it with the widget. Now, with this program, it’s together… It’s run as one campaign.”

“It’s a much deeper integration with MySpace. It’s a much deeper integration with Facebook. It’s an actual full application experience,” says Radfar. “We’re focusing today on MySpace and Facebook because we have heavy advertiser interest, but as we mature the program, see what advertisers want, we’re going to expand other places."

Movie Promotion Example

Radfar says that ConnectAds will most likely appeal to entertainment industries such as television and film, and consumer product and automobile companies. He provided an example of how a movie launch campaign can leverage the extra functionality.

Film promoters can provide Clearspring with movie trailers and say they want a promotional widget that works as a game. Once created, the widget can update users’ social network profiles to let their friends know when they’re playing the game and how many points they are capturing. The widget can also show which of the user’s friends are currently playing the game -- or how many points they’ve gained. When first adding the widget to a page, it can also ask “Would you like to ask your friends to join?” and message their friends through the network.

“Are you going to get more interaction or more participation from that user and their friends if you install a badge on their profile, or if you install an application which is literally going to send all their friends messages? By definition, you should get more engagement because it will send messages to other people,” Radfar says.

Measuring and Metrics

In the coming months, Clearspring hopes to offer advertisers the ability to monitor the performance of their widgets through metrics that are segmented by demographic information, Radfar says.

Currently, a good way to test a widget’s effectiveness on Clearspring, Radfar says, is to measure the CPM of your other online advertising and the rate at which they capture strong engagement. Then, compare those results to the CPM and engagement rate of the widget. Although social applications might have fewer impressions, they’re much more likely to be interactive, he says.
Hooman Radfar spoke at ad:tech San Francisco 2009.

Useful links related to this article:
ad:tech: The Event for Digital Marketing

- How to Build Your User Base Social Network Applications
- 8 Tips to Add a Facebook App & Attract Millions of New Users
- Special Report: Marketing with Widgets
Clearspring: ConnectedAds Release


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