Facebook has upped the ante in its latest effort to gain supremacy over the social network scene. The website's creators opened up the applications setting on May 25, 2007 for users and companies alike to upload widgets that can be embedded in any user's profile. Currently there are over 3,400 applications available to users, ranging from slideshows to horoscopes to personal aquariums.
The widgets are designed to engage users for longer periods of time on the Facebook website by creating activities for people with similar interests. Essentially, Facebook's profiles have changed from a place where you just read about someone to a place where people can engage in activities. This change is effective in generating traffic for Facebook, as well as for the companies creating user apps, and has been termed the .
In many ways these widgets, which are presented as interesting ways to spice up one's profile, act as advertisements. Applications display movie times, promote events in users' local areas, or create links to other websites. Secondly, any company can upload an application and generate interest without any fees paid to Facebook, meaning free advertisement for the company and increased activity for Facebook. Widgets are not only used on the Facebook platform, but on various other websites, too. However, Facebook has utilized the success of widgets by creating its own widgets on sites such as Google to direct the flow of traffic back to its website.
Marketers have limitless opportunities in using the Facebook platform. There is a large audience on the website, and information on their interests, geographical location, and age are widely available. This is information that advertising companies have taken years and spent countless dollars to gather; and Facebook has it all there without having had to spend a cent to get it. There is nothing new or different about this audience, rather, companies can direct their ad campaigns towards specific groups. For instance, by creating applications such as an itinerary generator STA travel was able to communicate with people planning on going on a trip soon.
Widgets have become the focus of companies and marketers as banner ads' effectiveness is questioned. The shift from banner ads to widgets is seemingly a logical one in that the application platform allows users to engage and use something that they find appealing. In the same way that one would glance at a billboard along the side of the road, banner ads provide for little interaction. A free application allows for interaction and thus an increased familiarity with a company and its products.
The applications feature on the Facebook website has gained popularity because of its ability to include the most popular features of the internet -- music, movies, photos, and common interest groups -- to name a few. Applications have increased the use of Facebook and have been instrumental in the influx of hits on the creators' websites. The number of users and the time spent on Facebook has had a marked increase -- and time will tell if that will translate into ad success on the website.
Brittany Lawson is an editorial intern, iMediaConnection. .