In my role, I get briefed by companies that I cover in my space (social networks, widgets, and related products). If I feel the speaker is strong, and can deliver a succinct message that’s helpful to my audience, I’ll do a video. Ro Choy of RockYou (warning: auto playing music) clearly meets these requirements.
If you’re not familiar, RockYou is one of the leaders in what I call the widget network category. They create hundreds of widgets that were initially launched on blogs, then moved to Facebook, and will now be deployed on other social networks that allow development (Bebo, MySpace, etc). Between RockYou and their competitor Slide, they account for 8/10 top applications on Facebook (as I learned from Ren last night)
In this video, you’ll learn about his methodology (which I even discussed last night at the panel as a best practice). He discusses how web strategists should approach widget creation.
How the Web Strategist should approach Widgets
Level 1: Branding: Applications, like Microsites
Level 2: Interaction: Include the brand as part of the experience
Level 3: Custom: Build your own application
Pitfalls to watch out for
They’ve an office location that I’m familiar with, in downtown San Mateo across from central park where I used to play as a very young web strategist. (map)
(Left: I met and interviewed MySpace’s team Will and Jim)
I just got back from the brand spanking new SF MySpace office, an event tonight that was catered to the new developer platform which they announced today. This post isn’t aimed at developers, but at the Web Strategist (web decision maker) here’s what you need to know:
MySpace opens third party developer platform
MySpace announced a developer platform so third party developers can create applications on top of their existing commmunity. This is released on time, and is a competitive move to Facebook’s application platform. I’ve published stats and demographics about MySpace (and Facebook here). Over the next 30 days, developers will get to play in the ‘Sandbox’ (the theme for tonight’s party).
Here’s what to expect:
After watching this space, talking to MySpace techical staff, and talking to many developers at the event, here’s my predictions and insights.
1) MySpace builds strategic relationship with widget developer community
MySpace’s new SF office is a great foothold into Silicon Valley, in particular, to the widget developer community. Most of the widget network developers are located in this area, and by buidling relationships with them, there’s an opportunity they’ll launch their widgets on their container, fueling the next generation of MySpace. The schwag (pics below) really catered to the developer: a backpack full of shirts, flip video player, and a few toys for the beach. (for the sandbox)
2) Unlike Facebook, Developer and MySpace will partner and monetize
Unlike Facebook, it’s expected that developers will have direct access to monetize utilizing MySpace’s advertising tools. Although it wasn’t formally announced, expect hyper targeting, and other monetization opportunities to be available to developers.
3) MySpace respects Privacy
MySpace, a later adopter to this movement, let Facebook make it’s mistakes (newspage and Beacon) and will not suffer from the same issues. Expect Myspace to play it safe, and play it right, leaning on the mistakes from Facebook.
4) While not fully developed, expect platform to slowly evolve
It was very clear (I talked to many developers in the room) and they were all waiting to see what the platform was like, as very little was released, miany documentation. I asked during the Q&A session when all the APIs will be available, and they said “tonight…(looking over at colleagues) right?” Laughter from crowd erupted. There will be three APIs released each with different abilities. Also, applications can display in 5 different locations within MySpace, including a private area for the user to see the application without anyone else seeing it.
5) Widgets on MySpace react different than other Social Networks
Even if widgets can be easily ported over from Facebook to Myspace don’t expect them to work the same. Demographics (who they are), Psyhographics (their emotional drivers), and Technographics (how they use technology) will all be different. Expect very few of the successful applications in Facebook to perform the same way in MySpace.
6) MySpace, Facebook, and Bebo coexist
I can’t tell you how many times I’m asked “is Facebook a Myspace killer?” the answer is no, they are different tools from different audiences. They will coexist.
What it means:
Expect a lot of trial and error development to occur, this is really and experimentation stage for the next 3 months. The platform will ilkely have a lot of tweaking and expect a lot of experimentation from the developer community. In the long run, MySpace will be able to successfully monetize, developers will profit, and brands will start to get involved. Hopefully, the user experience will respect the wishes of the users, and it will be a win for all.
Recommendations to the Web Strategist
Unless you’re already a successful widget developer you should not engage, instead you should Wait and Watch, and see what applications work, and what won’t. Then, consider contacting those developer networks to rebrand successful applications, or go a step further and create interactive of social campaigns partnering with them, and lastly, developing your own widget.
Update: Thanks Steve Ames for the assistance, he spotted a few errors in text, more from Justin Smith.
A Widget Case Study
Yesterday, I gave a teleconference on Facebook as a ready-made marketing program. I gave a few examples of success, and the audience was hungry for success metrics and numbers. One of the case examples was about rebranding an application/widget in this case, Rock You’s vampire application.
Sony rebrands popular Vampires Widget with 30 Days Night, upcoming Vampire movie
Vampires, which you may already know as the RPG where members bite each other to receive points (and duel) was already popular with over 3 million installs in Facebook.
Sony pictures, the parent company of the very scary 30 Days Night vampire horror film rebranded the existing application, and launched a sweepstakes contest to generate registrations and glean intelligence. The grand prizes? 4 wheel ATVs and $1500.
Specifically, they placed banner ads on the rebranded vampire applications which promoted the movie (one could assume that those who opt-in for the vampires application would also like a vampire movie) promoting the sweekstakes.
The measurable results?
The campaign was only live for 3 weeks, and there were 59,100 sweepstakes entries. (success was deemed at 10k, this clearly moved beyond that)
The visits (I don’t know if they were unique or repeated) were 11,642,051 for the bite page, and 17,652,567 for the stats page (I believe these are part of the interactive experience of the game.
Sony was happy, it exceeded expectations, and users of the application weren’t over branded.
RockYou asked me to keep the price confidential, but based upon the results they told me, I suggested they double the rates, this is despite what Mashable reports on.
Fishing where the fish are: Sony figured out where the already existing community was (remember to fish where the fish are) and rather than trying to rebuild something completely by scratch, they leveraged an existing successful application.
Rely on specialists for new arenas: In my many briefings with vendors and clients, specialized firms often provide something a general interactive firm or corporate web marketing team can’t. They have experience, know their area, and in this case, they knew to rely on someone that already knew Facebook.
Compliment the existing user experience: Sony didn’t beat the 3 million existing users with heavy advertising (and I’m sure RockYou wouldn’t have let them) over the head, instead offered value by giving away prizes, and tied in a movie that already existed.
What could have been better?
In my opinion, it would be great if:
The campaign lasted longer than 3 weeks.
Rather than simply embedded, Sony could sponsor elements from the movie and integrate within the game. (vampires could fight at different scenes from the movie, key characters from the movie could become non-player characters, etc). They already have a multi-player game that could have tied in.
A spin off game could have emerged just around the game, where members could give virtual gifts to each relating to the movie, then cross-selling other sony products and merchandise.
Also realize there are very few applications in Facebook that are this popular, don’t expect these type of results to occur every time.
Widget Network Developers
Looking bigger, RockYou isn’t the only vendor doing this type of work, also see Slide, Clearspring, Gigya, and a bunch of others. If you’re in the space, feel free to leave a comment below adding to the conversation.
For those Forrester clients who attended the webinar, I hope that clears up the question (as I promised to find the answer), and thanks to Ro Choy and team of Rock You for the details. If you need to know more, read this weekly digest of the social network industry, or see all posts tagged Facebook.
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.
I’m watching more closely the movement within the widget industry, it’s growing quickly, and we expect 2008 to have some serious growth from this market. Expect widget advertising networks to appear this year, and as a result, the need to measure and watch this distributed industry is important. Here’s a list of companies that measure widget network growth.
How is widget measurement different than traditional web analytics? Widgets spread (velocity = distance/time) over networks, and are distributed. Users will embed them, interact with them and share with them with others. Also, you can identify unique nodes where applications have spread, these are influencer nodes, and should be treated with extra care. When deploying your widget, since it’s managed by a host, demand that you’ve access to metrics so you can see how it performs, and more importantly, who it works well with.
List of companies that provide widget measurement or metrics
Appsaholic from Social Media
“SocialMedia developed Appsaholic, an analytics suite that allows you to track the success of your application and see how it compares to others”
“Clearspring is the leading provider of cross-platform widget services. Our goal is to make it easy to use content and services from across the Internet to weave personalized experiences. With our flagship service, digital content and service providers can easily package, distribute, and analyze the performance of widgets via a single platform. Clearspring is a privately funded company based in McLean, Virginia.”
“Gigya serves the world’s largest brands with a full-service widget advertising model covering design, development, hosting, distribution, viral promotion and tracking.”
Widgetbox’s Syndication Metrics
“Widgetbox’s Widget Syndication Metrics is an analytics dashboard for widget developers. It is free and comes with every widget on Widgetbox.”
“A Multimedia Player With A Revenue Model ”
“MuseStorm’s breakthrough analytics give publishers and marketers previously unattainable precise distribution and audience interaction metrics, including impressions, video playback, rollovers, and clickthroughs. With this intelligence, companies can optimize their content and delivery in real time to maximize the engagement of their audience.”
If you want to learn more about widget strategy, this podcast with Clearspring is very helpful.
Know of others? Please leave a comment.
Dave McClure (who helps teach the Stanford Facebook class, and runs the Graphing Social Patterns conference), Justin Smith (of Inside Facebook), Rodney Rumford (of FaceReviews), and myself brainstormed last night trying to understand the current state and direction of the emerging widget industry.
The widget universe is vast with a lot of variation. So although the initial goals was to try to categorize the widgets into clean buckets, and we found that to be an impossible task. Widgets can often have multiple attributes, so instead we focused on attributes and characteristics, rather than groupings. We developed a couple of models, (none that are perfected) but noticed a few ways to look at the attributes:
Levels of Data Interaction
Highest | Application uses data from your social network | iLike
High | Application uses data from your preferences | Pandora
Low | Application pulls data from source | Audio stream (like a radio station)
None | Static widget, display badge | Widget links to other website
We also explored a model of self-expression/vanity/entertainment vs utility and communication. And also found that some apps have different lifecycles from simple one time users (disposable widgets) or to those that got more value over time as network usage increased.
Later, Ro Choy from RockYou came by and presented me with a very clear definition of the differences between widgets and applications. Essentially (and I have a video of him to come) widgets are limited in functionality (due to limitations in size), usually resulting in the widget creator trying to get the user to go another website, vs an application that has full functionality, is on multiple pages, and therefore the widget creator doesn’t need to lead the user off the application.
So in summary, this was one of the first cracks at trying to segment the landscape, we’ll have to have subsequent meetings to drill down even farther. I’ll be mulling this whole thing over for the next few days/weeks to try to make sense of all the learnings. It’s a much larger universe (over 13,000 widgets exist, which will likely double this year) developing a taxonomy will be challenging and fun.
I was planning to live stream the event, but had issues with my wireless, although Rodney was taping and I’m sure he’ll post it. Chances are, you’ll find it very boring and dry, as we weren’t playing to the camera, we just had it on from the other side of the room as we discussed.