Reputation Leverage Using Widgets

The use of widgets as a marketing tool has been around for many years. Widgets deliver value for the provider, the publisher, the end-user and in some models, even more levels, so marketers have used this value chain for brand leverage. These widgets have tended to be of limited business value; little more than gimmicks as a vehicle for the brand. But what if widgets could deliver more than just weather predictions, a world clock or news feeds that can easily be found elsewhere?

Widgets can be very powerful for the simple reason that they have the potential to reach a very large audience. Say 15,000 Facebook users have embedded the widgets sponsored by Brand A. Brand A captures a year-round exposure to 1.5 million people assuming that each FB user has a network of 100 friends. This marketing leverage becomes exponential as a certain percentage of each FB user’s friends will also embed the widget.

Reputation Leverage

Political economists Klein and Leffler in their Reputation Model observed that reputable brands can charge a premium based on the strength of their reputation but lost reputation due to poor quality erodes long-term profit streams. Additionally, reputation can extend into other products via umbrella branding notes Eric Rasmusen, business professor at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. Basically, a good reputation has value and this reputation can be extended.

B2B Reputation Leverage (RL) Widgets

Systems integrators and software developers typically mention that they are IBM, Microsoft or Cisco “Business Partners”. They place the logos or trademarks of these IT giants along with their online content. This way, they can charge a premium or close a deal more easily versus competitors that are non-business partners.

On the other hand, a potential client has no readily available way to validate if such claims are true. With a reputation leverage widget however, such claims can be verified. A Microsoft partner logo for instance, can invite the user to “Click to Verify Business Partner Certification”. When clicked, the widget directs the prospect to a new window where a widget clearing house has the Extended Validation SSL Green Address Bar potentially avoiding phishing scams. As another layer of trust assurance, the clearing house can periodically check Microsoft’s partner database to ensure the certified business partner is a member in good standing.

Another useful application is for professional certifications such as the Microsoft Professional or Cisco series. RL widgets can serve as the online certificate of any professional that can be verified, validated, authenticated and checked. MBAs, professional association membership, PADI licenses; just about any certification that might be useful to have on display.

The distribution of RL widgets need to be controlled, monitored, well-managed and exclusive. If good reputations create value then so does scarcity. Therefore while brand leverage widgets need to have a viral quality, reputation leverage widgets are earned like trust, skill and status.

What is a Widget?

A widget (also known as a gadget) is a small program that runs on your desktop all the time, which replaces the need to constantly visit a website in order to get common information. A Gmail widget on someone’s desktop that shows “10 unread messages” will make that user click and go back to the Gmail website. Microsoft (Charts), AOL (Charts), Yahoo (Charts), and even Nokia (Charts) also are some famous brands that offer widgets.

If we look back the age of Widgets, they actually began with an application called Konfabulator. Designed for Mac users, it would pull information from across the Web – weather, stock quotes, headlines – and place them on the desktop as tiny floating windows. The idea was so successful that Apple decided to build widget support right into its operating system. Yahoo bought Konfabulator’s creator, Pixoria, in July 2005 for an undisclosed amount that was rumored to be decent – big enough, anyway, to get a lot of developer attention. And suddenly everyone was going mad for widgets.

Of course, the main reason widgets are hot is that users love them. The reason for the same is because it makes the Web user-programmable. If My Yahoo spread it all over, Netvibes took this idea even further by offering the users more than 250 widgets to build a wholly personalized homepage.

I don’t see it ending either. As companies like Salesforce.com (Charts) and Google (Charts) are pushing the use of widgets inside businesses. We can see the opportunities and business models around widgets are emerging and will go a long way.

How can Widgets help expand your Online Business?

Today’s Internet web space is extremely competitive, as vendors and users demand efficient use of desktop. With websites being more proactive in nature, they want to drive more targeted traffic and develop more incoming links. Widgets seem to be the answer to assist in doing this. These Internet “widgets or gadgets” are an excellent way to market your product or service and make it easily stand out. If you place a widget on your blog or webpage, visitors will instantly be able to download your specialized widget onto their desktop or add them on their blog via small html codes. One of the biggest advantages of using widgets is that they are viral in nature. They allow anyone who has your widget on their website to to share and download your widget directly through their site.

FaceBook, the gigantic social networking site for example, revolutionized their interactivity and popularity by recently introducing and adding the Facebook Platform in May/07. Now Facebook widgets are the rage. You will find everything from entertainment and sporting campaigns to different political groups based all on widgets. Because of the popularization of widgets, Facebook has managed to exponentially attract millions of new members and a lot more advertisers. Other sites that have used widgets to promote and viralize themselves include: MySpace, Revver, PhotoBucket and Blogrush. Savvy internet marketer are increasingly jumping on the widget bandwagon and using it for their benefit.

After a lot of buzz about OpenSocial, Netvibes decided to include all their existing Social APIs as plugins for UWA, their Universal Widget API. They intend to share 2 cool videos demonstrating some of the social features in their next release called “Ginger”. The videos provide examples of how Netvibes allows users to follow content and widgets that their friends want to share with them. One can also see some examples of social widgets created using the Social APIs.

Honda’s Acura RDX uses the Yahoo! Widgets application to deliver real-time traffic updates directly to drivers’ desktops in more than 30 cities. Honda promoted the feature to users who checked traffic on Yahoo! Maps and Yahoo! Widgets (where users can download existing widgets or create their own.) A key benefit was the traffic widget tying into RDX’s navigation system, which includes traffic data. The widget has been downloaded more than 30,000 times in three months.

These mini Web application downloaded onto a desktop or transported into personal Web pages, blogs or social-network profiles are a source of constantly updated information, from weather and sports scores to personal photos, which can eliminate the need to visit multiple Web sites.

So as long as you keep your widget informative, useful and simple to understand, they will virally drive traffic to your sites and work as a secret ninja to promote your products or services. Widgets are inexpensive and are an extremely effective way to promote your site through direct response marketing and social networking sites.

Widgets are certainly making a rise from desktop to webpages, blogs and social networks giving them a platform. They are now much, much more, and it seems every company has one. The hope is to embed their widget on the millions of blogs, MySpace and Facebook pages, and thus create cheap marketing while giving the users some value.

It’s a great strategy, at least when the widget is cool and people adopt it. The only question is, is your marketing firm aware of it. Do they know how to add value to the users and build an army of brand evangelists in promoting your product? Do they make effective use of Widgets?

How do I Use a Website to Promote my Business?

Do you need a website?. Well that depends entirely on how you wish to market your business and whether your competitors have an online presence, it also depends on the type of clients you hope to attract. Let me ask you a straight question – Do you want to increase business for a minimum outlay?.

Most people now have some form of access to the internet, whether at home, at work or through their school or university. For many, searching for a service or product using Google is now much the preferred alternative to opening a phone directory, or scanning the Yellow Pages. With the increase in Broadband technology and the rapid fall in prices then this trend is very likely to continue and grow, with more and more people of all ages having some form of regular internet use. Do you want to miss out on this potential and growth?

Many small business owners and CEOs think nothing of spending hundreds or even thousands of pounds on conventional advertising such as that in Yellow Pages and similar directories, and yet are still missing out on the earning potential of having a website presence. For some this is simply through not having the relevant skills or feeling that they have no webdesign capabilities to even begin to build their own site. However with many webhosts now offering WYSIWYG web creation tools and web builder packages, anybody who is capable of booting a computer now has the possibility of creating a basic website to promote their business.

After word of mouth, my website accounts for nearly all of the new business which my own business gets. Given a price versus revenue comparison, it is the most competitive form of advertising which I have ever used, and the one which yields the most success when it comes to new business leads!.

Remember that the more professional your website looks, the greater chance of impressing potential clients, and of getting an enquiry. For this reason, employing the services of a webdesigner may be a preferred alternative. But for now, let’s talk about how you can build your website with only limited knowledge. Your options are popular software such as Microsoft FrontPage, or other software such as x-site pro. Many internet users have found great success in designing their own websites. Some webhosts now include free website building tools in their hosting packages. Whichever option you decide to choose, when building your website and promoting its existence, there are a few points to consider, and we will discuss those below.

Always avoid free hosting. These are webhosts who allow you to upload your own site for free onto their server. However in return they often add Advertising banners and pop ups onto your website, and these can prove very annoying to internet users, look cheap and tacky and do not portray a professional, business image. You may have a very professional looking website, however if you use free hosting then you do so at your peril and when masses of pop ups great your visitors, then they’ll often close their browsers or surf away without bothering to read any further. Professional webhosting without any form of banners is available for as little as the price of a coffee per month! – far cheaper than any form of newspaper advertising, so don’t skimp when it comes to reliable hosting.

Buy a domain name. This promotes your unique company identity, and it is also a good idea to use your company name, as your domain name. Domains ending in .co.uk are often cheaper than .com and will also boost your search engine rankings in geographical area based searches such as Google UK. This may be useful to businesses only serving clients in their country, or those with overseas offices.

Remember to try and incorporate a relevant keyword describing your business service or product(s) within the domain page name. So for example, if you had a business called Acme Widgets and you had a product called Mighty Widget – then you could name the page name extension as mighty-widget.html so the url to that page would look like [http://www.your-domain-name.com/mighty-widget.html]

We will get to other keyword use later.

The most effective websites are the ones which load fast and offer a clean, smooth appearance free of useless information and which are largely uncluttered. Make sure that your name and description of your business appears on each page, and that if your site has more than one page that they are all linked together using an HTML Menu. Do not be tempted to use flash or other fancy image type menus, because search engines will not be able to index the site easily. If you do decide to use a flash based website then make sure that there is an HTML alternative, complete with HTML menus.

Keep the site simple. Remember that you have to make the site appealing to search engine spiders as well as human visitors in order to get your website onto the search engines. After all, it is pointless having a good, professional looking site, if nobody can find it!. Avoid the use of fancy flash based websites and splash pages, although they may add an initial wow factor to the first impression, they are often difficult for some search engines to spider and index, plus they may take forever to load on a slow connection. Very few visitors will wait 30 seconds or more for pages to load, or install special viewers so avoid going over the top with these types of presentation!

Keywords are the words that people use to enter into search engines in order to find a site. Consider which keywords people will be using to find your website. Don’t just concentrate on the obvious and most popular words which describe your business, since these will be difficult to rank highly for, due to the competition!.

Instead, look for other niche search terms and phrases too. Your website should contain as many keywords as possible on each page. Don’t be tempted to just add loads of raw keywords in meaningless strings onto your page, since search engines are wise to this practice of cheating and will penalise your site, plus it looks messy to your human visitors too!. It is far more effective to incorporate these keywords into text paragraphs and try and vary their frequency, so for example if you were a company suppling widgets in London, you could try the following:-

Widget and Sons, a family company suppling widgets in London, we are retailers of the popular Mighty widget range

And then later in the page…

For the best price on mail order widgets and sole distribution of the mighty widget contact our sales department

By doing this, and varying the phrases whilst keeping them keyword rich, you are effectively giving Google something to work with. Hopefully, by adding as many keyword strings as possible your site will (hopefully) appear for several different search terms such as ‘Widgets’ or ‘Mail order widgets + london’ or ‘Mighty Widget’

A Picture paints a thousand words, so don’t forget to add pictures to your website!. But keep the, fairly small so that the site loads quickly. Often 640 x 480 resolution is ideal, or use thumbnail software to load a gallery of clickable smaller images neatly onto a webpage. Remember if you use images that clients like to see happy smiling staff! and a structured, well organised company, so make sure that you don’t accidentally capture your warehouse man reading the paper, or that rubbish in the corner of the office!.

Unless your business is technical or technology based then avoid long descriptions about specifications of products and what machinery you use!. Comparing equipment is only of interest to others in the same industry as you and rarely of concern or top priority clients just looking to buy and end product or obtain service. Besides they can see just how good and how neat and tidy your business looks from your pictures!.

Always display clearly your contact information, and this should include a telephone number. Avoid Hotmail and other free web email addresses such as MSN or Yahoo because this doesn’t look professional and can also be blocked by your recipients spam filter. If you have registered a domain name for your site you will be able to set up email based on this, and cutomise it to your own requirements, for example:- [email protected] or [email protected] . Offering an enquiry form on your website is also a good idea, since it will prevent your email address being copied from your site to be used for Spam (Unsolicited Emails), and ensure that you have all of the relevant information from the client to be able to quote accurately.

Getting your site onto the search engines is the hardest part of the exercise, and this may take between 3 and 12 months to get a decent rank. The more you promote your site the easier it is, and the more successful the results. Simply submitting your site URL to Google’s Submit a Site page is not the most effective way of listing your site and neither is it the quickest. The most effective way of getting your site visited by Search Engines is to add your link to Existing websites of a similar theme and subject and the many online directories which already have a search engine presence.

Another very effective way of boosting search engine presence and getting your website onto search engines quicker is to swap links with other sites. Why not build a simple links page or invest in a topsites script on your website and use this to return links?. Remember that it is only polite internet etiquette to link back to websites which link to you, so it is often expected that you will have a link already in place on your own website, when you contact another webmaster and ask to add your link to his /her site!.

There are many other features which you can build into your website, such as e-commerce features including shopping carts and credit card processing facilities, if your company offers products by mail order. However adding these usually requires some detailed knowledge of website building and other skills in website code and is therefore outside of the scope of this article.

Hopefully, this website article, has given you some information on getting your business a web presence on a budget!.