11 steps to widget success

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11 components of a successful widget program
While a widget program can be as simple as a Flash movie and a syndication engine, savvy marketers are finding that a more in-depth approach yields substantial rewards by extending what has been learned in email marketing. The first step to getting positive widget results is differentiating between the elements of a widget program.

Six types of widgets:
It is tempting to think of widgets as singular items that are then set to run on myriad available widget platforms. In truth, though, there are different categories of widgets, each of which have distinctive usage patterns that should drive design:

  • Web widgets: Public-facing widgets embedded in blogs and similar web environments, including a brand's own sites.

  • Start-page widgets: Personal-facing widgets embedded in start pages such as NetVibes or iGoogle. Technically the same as web widgets but designed to provide personalized messaging and content to the user.

  • Desktop widgets: Like start-page widgets but dependent on an installed software platform such as Google Desktop, Windows Vista or Apple Dashboard.

  • Branded desktop applications (BDAs): Stand-alone software application -- the most powerful and versatile type of widget.

  • Social media widgets: Web widgets running in a social media environment like MySpace or Facebook.

  • New widget platforms: Channels continue to proliferate and include set-top boxes, in-vehicle and stand-alone devices such as Chumby.

Other components:
Email: Email is an important component of any evolved widget program, particularly for relationship-focused widgets. Email is used for distribution, relationship management, for win-back and to counter drop-off. Widgets can also be used to gather emails and build user profiles. It is also worth noting that unless a marketer has a robust email marketing program, they are unlikely to be prepared for a relationship widget marketing program. Email is the cornerstone of permission marketing; without it, brands tend to flail. It is also worth noting that younger demographics are tending to message each other outside of the email channel using mobile and social media channels.

Social media applications: Applications running in a social media environment that take full advantage of the social hooks the platform provides. Powerful but hard to get right.

Mobile applications: There has been huge growth in Apple iPhone applications and expected growth in the Google Android platform, as well as other platforms like Zumobi and Windows Mobile applications. These small applications are very similar to widgets and desktop applications, and can be designed to be an integral part of a widget program.

Unified preference center: Already in use by sophisticated email marketers, preference centers give an email subscriber the ability to manage their email messaging content and frequency. This helps transform unsubscribers to a different type of subscriber. A unified preference center gives customers the ability to not only change their message content and frequency, but the platform they want to be messaged on, such as email, widgets or mobile.

Relationship marketing platforms: The plethora of widget platforms and elements makes it critical that brands have a platform to manage email, widgets, desktop applications, channels, content, measurement, users and targeting. Relationship marketing campaigns need to evolve over time in order to conserve and grow audience size, so it is important to have tools at hand to manage all program aspects. These tools may be a collection of content management, email service providers (ESPs) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, or may be managed through a unified relationship marketing platform.

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Josh Larson
Josh Larson November 24, 2008 at 3:14 PM


Thanks for the lucid article; definitely has some good nuggets in it. I blogged about it on the NewsGator Widgets Blog (http://blogs.newsgator.com/newsgator_widget_blog/2008/11/imediaconnectio.html)

Todd Havens
Todd Havens November 21, 2008 at 1:16 PM

@Bill That's a bit of a Pandora's box you've opened there by asking for widget resources. :) Feel free to check out our company, Xtreme Widgets, in your surfing (www.XtremeWidgets.com) and e-mail with any questions, too! Todd@xtremewidgets.com

Mitchel Ahern
Mitchel Ahern November 21, 2008 at 12:33 PM

Hey Bill, I'd be happy to send examples. Our company, OTOlabs, is an email service provider with integrated widget/desktop application development and management capabilities. I'd be happy to send examples, you can reach me at mahern@otolabs.com

Bill Scalzitti
Bill Scalzitti November 21, 2008 at 12:25 PM

This article sounds great but to someone new to widgets is way over my head. Can you send an example of a widget and how someone can more info on widgets.
What companies can help you build a widget?