Widget Analytics – Measuring the widgets in the wild

Helping web analysts navigate the measurement and tracking of widgets.

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Travelogue – widget spreading and viral hubs

Posted by widgetgirl on November 16, 2007

One of the most interesting things about widgets is the analysis of their travels. A widget can move from web site to web site on its own as visitors grab the widget and share it to their own web site or social networking page. Some widgets travel in an innocuous pattern across the web – nothing exciting, just an even spread of being shared from one site to the next with no peaks or valleys. However one of the exciting things that we see in data quite often is a burst of spreading energy from one or more particular widget placements. This is what the web analyst is looking for, right? Show me the anomalies!

Viral spread is is quantified in a metric that we call “Viral Hubs”. When you break this down, a viral hub is the placements metric evaluated over the dimension of domain (check out my previous post on the placements metric). Viral hubs simply indicates the directional flow of the widget placement. Domains that have a large proportion of new placements created from them are identified as a strong viral hub.

So as a web analyst or marketer, what do we do with viral hubs? Traditionally marketers plan their campaign strategies to drive unique visitors back to their site (incoming traffic to view content). To optimize spread and reach for your widget, the strategy needs to shift to pushing content as far from your site as possible – or at least to Web sites where your widget will garner the most views from your target audience. There are a few brilliant strategies that I have witnessed in the last few weeks that exemplify good, quality seeding.

Strategy #1:

  • A media company seeds their widget on their own site. The company also registers their widget as a Facebook Application and creates a Canvas page on Facebook for easy sharing and viral distribution. Depending on who you are and what kind of content you have, applications can spread through Facebook like an unquarantined virus! In a good way of course. Social networks provide huge opportunities for advertisers to go straight to their audience network and seed their widget within its walls, thus creating a viral hub that may or may not have emerged on its own.

Strategy #2:

  • Ad serve your widget! Many companies today are doing ad buys to speed up the viral spreading of their widget. One company purchased the position on the home page of MySpace for an entire day – and MySpace became a monster viral hub as a result. It generated more new placements in one day than waiting for their own Web site seed placement to organically grow itself across the internet. The best part is that even though the the ad buy may have hypothetically been for 5M impressions, all of the views of the widget after it is spread are gravy…aka as free! Your actual CPM goes down depending on how viral your widget is.
  • If you want to ad-serve your widget, check out the new product that we recently launched called Clearspring for Advertisers. It is pretty powerful stuff and all the big kids are doing it 😉

The biggest byproduct of a seeding strategy on steroids is that you now have all of these placements to push content to. Going back to the media company example, they could initially promote a new TV show or perhaps a movie trailer within a widget. Once that particular media piece becomes stale, they could use the same install base to promote online reruns, additional content or upcoming new episodes or sequels. Remember, the widget creator always serves the content. If they want to change or update the content, they have the power to do that agnostic of where the content is placed or the widget-serving platform that they are using.

Having a powerful install base also provides a good spring-board for extending your reach even further. Analyzing where your widget organically spreads from the install base (your non-seed placements) presents yet more opportunities. Analysts can evaluate their widget analytic data to identify specific social network profile pages, blogs and web sites that are emerging as strong viral hubs.

Strategy #3:

  • Identify non-seed placement viral hubs for business development relationships. For example, if I notice as an analyst that a particular individual blogger or Web site is emerging as a viral hub, I may want to contact them directly to ask them to either write about the content in my widget, incentivize them to keep my widget on their site or ask them to place and promote a widget that I haven’t even built yet.

Seeding strategies are critical for maximizing the spread of your widget. The tables have expanded for marketers. Instead of starting with a budget and then maximizing each inbound channel for reach and ROI, you now have the opportunity to reduce your marketing spend with optimal organic spread strategies. Granted, you may have to still spend money, but the persistence of that spend will outlive an email drop, ad buy or traditional display ad run.

To wrap it up…..

  1. Maximize the exposure of your seed placements. Location, location, location!
  2. Analyze your spread data and identify where your viral hubs are emerging.
  3. Plant future seed placements at the base of known powerful viral hubs – don’t wait for your widget to make its way there on its own. This one is difficult, but that is what your Biz Dev skills are for 😉
  4. Don’t forget about your install base – keep them happy and use their real estate wisely. Don’t abuse it.

And of course my favorite widget of the week – Project Runway. Who doesn’t just love Heidi Klum…or Seal for that matter. The Bravo folks have created their own Project Runway profile page in Facebook and placed a widget that is registered as a Facebook application on it. You can go to the application’s canvas page and grab the widget for yourself using Facebook’s “Add Application” function and also notify your friends that they should grab it too. Your Facebook friends can then either grab the widget from you on your profile page or go to the canvas page and grab it for themselves. Bravo, “Bravo”….brilliant seeding strategy!


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