11 steps to widget success

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Widget messaging, functionality and content creates engagement
A widget's content and functionality are what drive user engagement. Simple promotional widgets may update over the course of the campaign, but they may not change at all. In this case, the widget will only be used a few times for novelty purposes, and then may never be visited again. Feed-driven widgets will display regularly updated content that helps keep them installed and helps maintain a constant level of interaction. Relationship-oriented widgets are displaying content directly related to the person who is viewing them and can become an important part of the user's digital day.

Personal information and messaging: A relationship-oriented widget or BDA may have the ability to be authenticated, usually to the same authentication services used by the secure website. This enables the widget or application to display content specific to the user, such as loyalty points, financial information or social media information. This can make the widget or application a key component of users' digital lifestyles. 

Exclusive content: Generating well over $150 million dollars in revenue, Southwest Airline's Ding application has certainly demonstrated the value of pushing the right content to the right channel. Far too few marketers understand the value of providing exclusive content that can be targeted to the right individual.

Repurposed content: It is important that any widget campaign have as minimal impact on the brand's marketing organization as possible. No one wants to be spending a lot of staff extra time on their relationship marketing effort, so the efficient repurposing of existing content and feeds is critical. Of course, repurposed content can behave differently in different contexts: Photos can become wallpapers and screensavers, offers can become alerts, and a large archive of content can become an updating content channel.

User-generated content (UGC): Widgets and applications are key components of social media strategies: iPhone applications are clearly superior for Twitter content than SMS, and desktop applications can not only display UGC but can upload content as well.

Content for in-widget consumption: Widgets can either deliver full messages and content, or they can drive users back to the website. Brands often struggle over which model to use, since significant resources were used to develop the site. It is important to consider the overall organizational goals and how a relationship marketing strategy will further those goals. It can be easy to confuse the means for the ends -- just because a brand has spent a lot of resources on the website does not mean that visiting the website is the ultimate goal. Throwing extra clicks into the conversion path may cause unnecessary drop-off.

Teaser content: Many widgets and BDAs use short versions of the content to encourage users to return to a browser page for full content. 

Low and high functionality: Widgets and desktop applications can include functionality that ranges from simple to complex. Windows and Mac both have their own built-in desktop widget platforms that feature clocks, weather watchers and simple feed viewers. Desktop applications can incorporate sophisticated functionality up to full-featured applications like iTunes. While greater complexity generally means higher up-front development costs, it can also drive engagement in a very significant way.

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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?