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?

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.

Widget Marketing-Can Widgets Benefit B2B Sites

There has been a lot of “buzz” about widgets and widget marketing recently as creative online marketers have discovered the use of widgets. Widgets are simply pieces of embeddable code that can be found on one site, and embedded in another that can be used to promote your own site or blog. Widgets have become popular with users of online communities as a result the business of marketing via widgets is a great way for site owners (including B2B sites) to promote their content and business.

Widget marketing is starting to catch on in the online marketing world. Today there was a great post by Nick Wilson over at Search Engine Land on link baiting for 2007. According to Nick, a major component of link baiting in 2007 will be “widget baiting”. Widget marketing has been discussed in a number of blogs over recent months. In fact, back in November, Top Rank Blog had posted a great interview with Lawrence Coburn on Marketing with Widgets. Coburn is one of the pioneers in widget marketing

How Can Widgets Help B2B Sites?

Simply put, widgets are all about providing your users with the tools to promote your B2B business or any business/online property for that matter. For B2B marketers, widgets offer the potential to be a means of acquiring new customers at a minimal cost, promotion of your site’s presence out to the rest of the Web, and can provide a traffic source to help build your external link inventory.

Widgets are a great way for promoting your site and your content. For B2B sites, which are looking to create streaming media channels (combining audio, video, photos, text, and RSS feeds etc) and broadcast them live across their site’s pages or blog, widgets can help accomplish this. Sites like splashcast specialize in just that.

As I result we have compiled a list of our favorite widgets and widget related sites:

Top 10 Favorite Widget Sites for B2B Search Marketing

My Blog Log

Mashable.com

Widgetoko

Snipperoo

Reuters Widget

Spring Widgets

Word Press Widgets

Poll Daddy

Business Week Widget

My Blog Log is currently my personal favorite as it is very user friendly and is home to a number of interesting and diverse blogs

Honorable Mentions

Sphere.com

I Like.com

Google Gadget Tryouts

Rollyo

Looking for more information on Widgets? Check out the following resources:

http://www.widgetgallery.com

http://www.sexywidget.com

[http://www.cameronolthuis.com/category/widgets]

http://widgets.opera.com

http://blog.snipperoo.com/marketing_widgets/index.html

http://www.widgetslab.com

While widget baiting can be time consuming, the results can be tremendous. Can widgets benefit B2B sites? Most definitely providing that you have a strategy for widget marketing, widgets can help B2B site owners promote their sites, their solutions and their brand.