Widget Analytics – Measuring the widgets in the wild

Helping web analysts navigate the measurement and tracking of widgets.

Outbreak! The viral spreading of widgets.

Posted by widgetgirl on February 29, 2008

As widgets are grabbed and placed on web sites, they don’t necessarily just stay there. They can be grabbed and spread. They can be deleted and die. Or they can roll like a slow moving wave across the internet where they are grabbed, spread and deleted. Widget analytics help us understand if your base of widget placements are growing or if they are receding. We also call this your “install” base.

Widgets are deemed “viral”….so think if of them kind of like a virus (a good one). A virus might start in California and spread around offices, schools and organizations. People get sick, they recover and life moves on. But then the virus travels and it moves from California to Nevada, Nevada to Colorado and so on. Before you know it, the virus has landed in Massachusetts and is ready to get on a plane bound for London. No one is sick on the West coast anymore and they may have even forgotten about the virus in the first place, but the virus isn’t dead, it has just continued its journey.

On a more positive note, think of a viral trend that spreads and thrives. People in LA start wearing Ugg boots (which we were back in the early 90’s mind you). The trend moves from California to New York and then slowly spreads to the center of the country. No one ever stops wearing them and the install base continues to grow. It is 15 years later and people are still wearing the same Ugg boots all across the country and in other parts of the world. Widget travels can work the same way.

We see widgets travel from their seed sites (the sites where the widget is initially placed and made available for grabbing) to major social networks like Facebook or MySpace. The widget might live there for a while and then spread from one of those networks to Blogger or Friendster. The widget might also travel from one Facebook group to another. There are three different types of spread that we see in widget analytics:

  1. Spread from the seed site(s) out to one or more popular sites or networks.
  2. Spread from one network to another (like Facebook to Friendster).
  3. Spread within a network.

Widgets also have different life expectancies (and no, I can’t predict these although there are definitely markers to look for). These break down into three categories as well:

  1. The “hopping” widget –> widgets that move from one network to another. It grows, dies, but continues to spread.
  2. The “earthquake” widget –> this widget rocks your world, grows very fast across the internet (everywhere) and then has a tragic death. This is not a bad widget. It is often representative of a movie or television promotion where the widget has great strength, but no longevity because it is based on an “event” that is to take place at a specific time.
  3. The “steady Eddie” widget –> this widget slowly spreads, doesn’t get deleted very often and is a consistent performer. Sports team widgets fall consistently into this category. They have a loyal fan base who grabs the widget and rarely deletes it

Looking at widget data for the entire life of the widget only tells one picture. You may see a total of 10,000 placements created for a particular widget over 100 days for example. Those placements may range from 25,000 placements in one social network to 200 here and 200 there on other sites. The lifetime data doesn’t tell you the spread pattern though. Segmentation of the data and following the path for how your widget is spreading is critical.

Many Clearspring customers start the process by looking at their data on a weekly basis. Week one might show 1,000 placements of the widget across 10 networks where 750 of those grabs came from the seed sites and 250 of the grabs were generated evenly across the 10 networks. Move on to week two (in isolation away from week one) and the story might be completely different –> for example, 2,000 new placements where 250 came from the seed site and 1,750 spread primarily from two networks.

Understanding the spread pattern across the life of a campaign is critical to identifying where your campaign’s viral lift was strongest. If your widget spread like wildfire in Facebook, you may want to modify your strategy to build out a Facebook Canvas page next time. You may discover a particular blogger profile from which the grab rate for your widget (grabs divided by widget views) was much higher than other sites. Perhaps establishing a relationship with the blogger and seeding your widget on their site next time will help you move the “viral spread needle” for your next campaign.

Drilling into the spread pattern and looking at where your widget placements are being created and where they are most active is the crux of practicing widget analytics. Segmenting that data and analyzing where the opportunity and waste lie is the key to optimization.

My favorite widget of the week is Paramount’s new Kung Fu Panda widget. This widget gives you your daily fortune…my fortune today:

  • Take life as you find it, but put it back when you’re done!

You can click here to go grab the widget or just click on the image below.

Kung Fu Panda 1
Kung Fu Panda 2
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