Posts tagged ‘widgets’
Widgets, Social Networks and Blogs, oh my. The changing web habits of today’s consumer begs the question, can a company build an online presence without the need for an exclusive .com address?
It’s a simple question with profound implications. Since the season of Lent and Passover is soon upon us, I thought I’d break it down into what I’ll call The Four Questions of
Passover Pull Marketing:
- Have web services evolved to the point in which we’ve serviced ourselves out? The answer is increasingly becoming yes. We are starting to see the RSSification of our lives. Some call it lifestreaming, others news feeds, but one thing is for sure, it’s changing the consumer consumption chain from a push to pull medium. From recommendations, to recent games played, to up-to-the-minute declarations, whatever you’re doing is being broadcast in one way or another, either internally via the ad network, or externally via social feeds. This new Pull environment is actually the biggest transformation to take place in media since the invention of the printing press, and quite possibly even more dramatic.
Has the rise in user-generated content (also known as social media) and its many entry and exit points challenged the traditional way of thinking? Absolutely. Just ask the Obama Girl, Lonely Girl, and the Dancing Around the World Guy if they would have been household names without YouTube. Brands are next to exploit the power of social media.
Why on this day is the new social graph allowing for radically different online business models? Facebook turned a new page by allowing developers to tap into their members’ social graph to give viral marketing some wings and a way to fly. Others quickly, and not so quickly, followed suit. There is a furious pace of innovation taking place right now within the widget/embedded applications space because web services no longer have to stand alone, like an island in a big dot-com sea. While the cost of driving potential customers to a web site became astronomical, by taking your app to the customer, via Facebook, or MySpace, or Bebo, or iGoogle, the entire economics of customer acquisition is turned upside down thanks to the power of the social graph. Now, developers can worry about building a good niche app and those within the niche will find it. Water eventually finds its own level, and so do web apps. The good ones float to the top, the bad ones sink to the bottom.
In what ways do marketers need to adjust their brainwaves to thrive in this unchartered pull universe? Navigating the decentralized web requires an entirely new mindset, new forms of advertising/pr/promotion and incentives. And to help marketers track, analyze, test and enhance campaign effectiveness in this pull environment, it also requires entirely different analytics to measure “engagement,” “viral pass-along rates,” and “frequency.” Creative marketers will discover the winning combination of delivering the right message to the right consumer via the most effective channel, whether it be social media, social networking, widget marketing, or the combination of all three.
So, maybe it’s not so clear whether a business needs a web site of their own or not. As my friend at Sprint recently informed me, “web sites are so old school.” If that’s so, we need to move beyond the antiquated view that the web is round to understand that in a decentralized web, there are many intersecting circles and your business needs to be at the nexus of your customer’s networks, wherever they may be.
Since facebook launched its business pages earlier this year, there has been a proliferation of applications geared to the business user. In fact, the facebook applications directory lists more than 800 business applications at last glance. With so much free software just a click away, it’s hard to know the must-have, time-saving, money-making, productivity increasing apps for your facebook business presence.
So, to help you narrow down the selection and make sense of a difficult-to-navigate widget directory, we took some time to review our share of embedded facebook programs and have selected the ten apps (in no particular order) for your company page:
While facebook Pages are limited in terms of design customization, you can add the Static FBML application to any Page to integrate HTML directly on the page. This application, developed internally, allows you to renter HTML or FBML (Facebook Markup Language) within a box for enhanced Page customization and added functionality.
Similarly, if you’re looking to add some more flash to your page, and by that I mean Flash movies, animations, scripts, etc., FlashPlay allows you to add any flash file to your company page, visible to everyone. You may also browse their library to find a selection of popular games, animations and applications to add with the click of your mouse.
Far more than a directory of business contacts, XING enables its members to discover professional people, opportunities and privileges through its unique discovery capability and advanced contact management tools. The company recently had a successful IPO and has had a long-term impact on the social networking trend amongst professionals. By focusing on the target group “business people worldwide”, the company is able to offer tailored features, thereby making networking and contact management simpler.
Ideal for teams spread out across different offices, MyOffice helps you manage your project or business with a collaborative suite of tools. Schedule meetings with your team or group, organize an event, discuss ideas, share files, create to do lists, collaborate on docs and whiteboards, and assign tasks to increase productivity. MyOffice lets you quickly and easily collaborate with your colleagues, partners, or clients.
Business card applications are fairly common on Facebook these days. But Tag Biz Pro stands out from the pack with a realistic index card design and a bunch of networking features built in. The application allows you to
* create a Business Card and customize it
* attach your Business Card to Facebook messages
* browse other cards and read comments
* let others know what you are looking for
Anyone who is interested in doing business on Facebook should use tag biz pro. tag biz pro automates the relationship networking and referral process by placing a custom business keyword tag cloud on your Facebook profile and on the Facebook profiles of your friends that are participating in your business network. Pick your keywords, invite your friends and build your own business network with tag biz pro.
Manage your finances right from your Facebook profile, simply and securely! MyMoney is an online home banking application that interacts with a variety of financial institutions, so you can view your account balances, transfer money between accounts, review histories, and much more. Plus, MyMoney uses multiple layers of security, so that you, and only you, can access your account.
With MyMoney, you know instantly how much you have to spend on gifts, go shopping at the marketplace, and more! To get started, just click the “Add Application” button and search for your financial institution. Don’t see it listed? Enroll online for one that is, or send a note to request your bank or credit union to join! It’s that simple.
Although you can’t add it to your business profile yet, Huddles Workspaces allow you to store personal documents and share them with specific groups of friends. Up to 1Gb of free space, Huddle offers a collaborative approach to organizing and sharing files.
From the great minds at Techlightenment (the developers that brought us Bob Dylan’s Subtaranean Blues widget), Huddle also interfaces with people outside of Facebook, making it a truly utilitarian work collaboration application.
Another great application not yet available for business pages, what.io allows you to quickly save your IOUs. When installed, the IOUs are displayed as post-it notes on your profile. Print IOU certificates. Share with friends and don’t forget that road fin you loaned your buddy on your last road trip to Vegas. The service works easily with friends who are not yet on Facebook, via their email address.
Based on the original Social Media Press Release Template from Todd Defren of SHIFT Communications, PRX Builder helps you easily create the next generation of press releases. Enhance your press release with new media elements such as links, multimedia, and social media service buttons for digg and del.icio.us. Automatically add Technorati tags and then distribute your release through PR Newswire. The service also optimizes your releases for higher visibility within Technorati and Google Blog Search. You can even moderate any comments your SMPR may receive. RSS and email subscription options make this an invaluable tool for companies looking to get the word out. And the best part is, the service is free.
Ideal for companies with a physical presence, Page Maps allows you to add a custom map to your business page or personal profile. Show your business locations or favorite spots around town. It displays a mini map requiring no additional clicks to see, and links to a larger map or directions.
How many times have you been asked for a contact by one of your co-workers. Phonebook allows you to share your rollodex in a secure environment. You can also attach emails and notes to contacts, back up your list and exchange/compare with your associates. Maybe now your staff won’t call you at 9:00 in the morning next time they can’t find a number and you’re away on vacation.
It wasn’t too long ago that video game publishers and developers looked down on online gaming. Considered too low-brow for the big production focused studios, online games were like the bastard step child nobody wanted to recognize as part of the family.
I know the shame of being the unwanted sibling only too well, having traveled to EA’s Cupertino headquarters in 1999 on acquisition talks representing Kasparov Chess Online, one of the largest online chess networks. Company chairman Garry Kasparov was, and still remains, the most recognized name in chess. A brand onto himself, Mr. Kasparov is as saavy a businessman as he is at chess. KCF offered players of all levels a free chess gaming platform from which to challenge, play and chat with one another, maintain a chess rating (the equivalent of crack for chess players) and read daily chess news. We also sold chess-related merchandise and subscription-based Master class downloads – rather revolutionary for the day. Back in those days, we called it the 4C’s – competition, community, content and commerce.
If only we would had been better futurists and called it “social gaming,” it would still be in business today. Those discussions with EA never went very far, but I’d like to believe that it helped them realize the potential. Several months later, EA acquired Pogo, the largest independent gaming network at the time. And, as all things must end, Kasparov’s 20+ year reign as world chess champion ended, and so did Kasparov Chess Online, unable to ride out the great bubble burst of 2000, as it’s now known as. EA went onto grow Pogo’s audience, while diversifying its revenue streams. And Kasparov went onto challenge Putin in the Russian elections. We all know how that will turn out.
So when EA/Pogo announced a new Facebook widget for Pogo members, I was intrigued. After all, Pogo was all about social gaming, even before the term became the winner of the Most Repeated Buzz Phrase at the recent 2008 Gamers Developer Conference (GDC), in San Fran. Had they started to spread their tentacles to harness Facebook’s social graph?
Well, yes and no. While the widget allows Pogo subscribers (read: paid members) to display their profile information, avatar and point totals, receive Pogo-related news, and link back to Pogo for a few selected games, it falls short in leveraging Facebook’s viral strengths.
First, all users must be registered Pogo members. Not sure what the overlap is between Facebook and Pogo members, but since Pogo targets women over 35, while Facebook reaches a decidly different audience, I don’t expect much crossover between the two.
Secondly, all games simply link back to the Pogo hub. There is no game integration within Facebook. Ah, the old hub-and-spoke strategy feels more like the bait and switch made popular at consumer retailers like The Wiz.
Is EA just clinging to the old and familiar business model they’ve groomed so nicely since the Pogo acquisition? Or is there simply a disconnect between the old guard and the new — the centralized web vs. distributed networks?
Maybe the new social network-centric gaming companies like SGN and Zynga know something that the executives at Pogo have yet to figure out. Let me give them a hint — Facebook gamers want to play in their own backyard, not a click away in someone else’s playground. Maybe it’s the old Groucho Marx joke, “I would never want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member.”
Note to self: Remove Pogo Widget from my Facebook Profile.
Like many consumer technologies, the gaming industry is in a quagmire, moving both very quickly and much too slowly at the same time. For gamers, which now is as likely to include your Aunt Shirley, as it is your younger brother, the need to interact with friends is bringing about an entirely new real-time, online gaming experience, while simply replicating an age when people actually played together in the same room.
But, the mass appeal of social gaming shouldn’t take us by surprise. If you look at the history of games, you’ll find that gamers have been participating in social games since the early D&D days. Given the popularity of today’s console-based gaming networks, it’s plain to see that gamers are now and have always been social by nature.
Now, enter the social network. One could say the social network was born from the need to find other players. And, no where is the influence of social networks changing the business of games more than in the casual games space. Once dismissed as granny games, like solitaire, chess and bridge, casual games are ushering in a new social gaming paradigm that could quite possibly be the next killer app. the social networks so desperately need to keep their millions of members engaged.
In fact, the casual games publishing industry is about to be turned on its head thanks to the growing influence of social networks. And, the transformation couldn’t have come at a more needed time. The traditional one-hour, try-before-you-buy business model the industry has been clinging to is not working. Game studios, publishers and digital distributors are in the midst of changing their game plan and are already experimenting with in-game advertising, micro transactions, product placement and video interstitials with better-than-expected results.
The newest sign of gaming companies changing the game can be found in a spate of recent funding announcements, licensing deals and start-up activity. First, from Ludia, a Canadian casual games developer, comes word of a worldwide license for American Idol, an online game with social media components. While offering few details, the very fact that America’s most popular reality TV Show is going social in 09′ has me rehearsing my favorite Bruce tunes in front of my Logitek. This combined with the fact that Ludia’s founder, Alex Thabet, has an incredible track record in the casual games space and a unique ability to sense where the market is heading before it gets there (and, happens to be a real nice guy even though he hails from Montreal), and it’s easy to see why the king of TV franchises, Freemantle Media, chose Ludia to lead their AI baby into the brave new world of social gaming.
Next up is BunchBall, the first company to offer cross-social-network compatibility of its multi-player games. Following a $2MM round in 2006, the company has rolled out a library of Flash based casual games that live on social networks via embed code, while allowing a core group of friends to play one another, regardless of their social network affiliation (network agnostic). Bunchball seems to be taking it’s knowledge of social gaming and applying it as a service called Web Catalytics. Or, as they put it, “.. a methodology for driving web site behavior based on game design principles. Simply put, Web Catalytics makes web sites more addictive, fun, and compelling.” Wow, that’s a far cry from “you sunk my battle ship.”
And, just a few days ago, we hear word from Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures that they have joined forces with several other notable VCs and angel investors, including Reid Hoffman and Peter Theil, in backing social gaming pioneer Zynga, responsible for many a college student’s wasted hours of Texas Hold ‘Em across Facebook, bebo, Friendster and beyond. Zynga’s founder, Mark Pincus, knows a thing-or-two about the power of social networks, having founded Tribe and selling the company’s assets to Cisco (that’s the router company, not the rapper). Oh yeah, he was also an early investor in Facebook and enjoys the annual Burning Man festival, making him one of the coolest guys I’d most like to party and play poker with.
It’s not clear what form of monetization will work across social games, but one thing is clear – games will never again be a solitary experience – not even solitare, where players now compete for high score. And, who knows the fate of today’s gaming sites that have spent time and money building a loyal fan base and recognizable brands. In the world of distributed networks, is there still a place for a hub if the spokes are strong enough to support the frame? As Zynga investor Fred Wilson states, “Zynga is the first investment we’ve made in a company that has no website,” although he goes on to note that Zynga was in the process of posting one that very day.
While widgets, like ringtones, have largely been about expressing oneself, there is a new widget paradigm taking place whose influence will be felt at the cash registers for many consumer marketers who have embraced social media and have dipped their virtual toe into the emerging widget economy. To these few brave organizations, your strategies will pay off and we salute you.
First up is TicketMaster, who just yesterday announced their ticket affiliate sales program. Not surprisingly, widget distribution is at the heart of their affiliate offering, and what better way to share the love (for money that is) than with a customizeable widget to show your support for your favorite touring band.
Ticketmaster’s new EventEngine widget allows registered affiliate individuals and organizations to create and post a customized Ticketmaster event marketing engine on their blog or web site that dynamically serves information regarding upcoming events with links to purchase tickets via Ticketmaster’s web site. Affiliates will eventually have access to Ticketmaster search buttons, banners, and link engines.
Widgets are an ideal marketing vehicle for getting those referral links out there. Hats off to the people at IAC and TicketMaster who found a way to make affiliate marketing engaging, in-context and profitable all at the same time. This is a trend that we will continue to see as marketers leverage social networks and develop sophisticated widgets that provide added value content as well as a way to monetize niche audiences.