What Growth In Widget Networks Means To The Web Strategist

Why Web Strategists should consider widgets
Expect widgets to act like a network, the span over many different containers like social networks, websites, and blogs. Since widgets are opt-in by the publisher or social network member, it’s a great way to track who’s actually interested in the content. As a result, the opportunity for more sophisticated marketing and advertising moves from carpet bombing to opt-in nearly GPS radar-like accuracy.

First, understand the distributed web strategy
Need to get up to speed on this, start with my primer on web marketing is distributed, not on two domains alone, followed up by a former CMOs perspective on the distributed web. Getting users to come to your corporate website is not the only goal, savvy fisherman fish where the fish are.

New players as widget networks emerge
I’m closely watching the widget industry with colleague Charlene Li. This time last year, there were no widgets in Facebook, and now there are over 13,000. I recognize that this is a growth market Widget ad revenue was estimated at about $20 million in 2007, or about one-thousandth of Internet advertising as a whole. According to the new comScore data for November, Slide claimed almost 144 million unique viewers, for a 16% market share, and RockYou claimed a 11.7% share, with 104 million individual viewers. In July, Slide had 130 million individual users, or a 15% share, while RockYou boasted 96 million users, or 11.1% of the total. (stats via MSNBC)

Spending low, but expect growth
According to the data (from Comscore) that 6% of internet advertising dollars were being spent on social networks, and only a fraction currently is spent on widgets. Expect that to grow in both camps. Widget networks aren’t limited to social networks alone, in many cases, they can be repurposed for mobile devices as well as standalone embeds on websites and blogs.

Measurement key as dollars shift
The article states that some of the growth is capped due to lack of measurement (a good reason why I created this list of widget measurement companies). You’ll need to measure to show success, as well as make in-flight course corrections in near real time.

Expectations in 2008
So, expect widget networks like Slide, Rockyou, Widgetbox, Watercooler, and many many others, to become like syndicated networks, offer self-serve advertising, begin to offer metrics, and offer unique co-branded, and co-sponsored marketing campaigns to brands. Two of these networks will likely be acquired by large media or internet companies in the next 11 months.

Case Study: Forbes Widgets
Here’s a case of a company letting go to the distributed web, I just ran into the Forbes site, and saw they had a full page devoted to widgets, that let it’s content, and brand spread of it’s site. Interesting that it’s sponsor, in this case Visa, goes with it.

What you should do
First, determine if your community and marketplace is using widgets, do research. If so, seek one of those widget networks, and trail an advertising campaign that will match to your right community. Don’t try to recreate a widget, leave it to the experts, and likely, your interactive firm won’t do it well, these are very specialized products. Rather than have the widget network vendor recreate a new widget, leverage an existing one by sponsorship, rebranding, or integrating with a unique marketing campaign.