Widget Analytics – Measuring the widgets in the wild

Helping web analysts navigate the measurement and tracking of widgets.

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Posts Tagged ‘widget analytics’

WidgetWebExpo – Widget Analytics

Posted by widgetgirl on June 19, 2008

My good friends Ivan Pope and Jim Sterne hosted the WidgetWebExpo conference this week in New York. I had the pleasure of co-presenting with a new friend, Albert Lai from Kontagent. My portion of the presentation focused on widget analytics and Albert’s focused on measuring Social Applications. This was one of the first conferences that I have ever been to that was 100% focused on widgets – an interesting venue when everyone in the audience is actually focused on widget analytics and measurement.

The topic of the panel was “The What, Why, Where and How of Widget Metrics.”  You can see me in action presenting the topic here on YouTube.  Got to love the Flip Video cams that people carry these days.

I started off with “what is a widget?”  I know that seems like such a silly question, but honestly  the question still comes up all of the time. I always start with the Wikipedia definition, but when it comes down to it, the easiest way to describe a widget is to think of it as a “mini web page” that has options for you to transport it from one web site to another. Widgets can be run on web page, desktops and even some mobile phones.

So once we tackled defining the space, we drilled down deeper into what makes a widget sharable.  I mean, what if you could just copy the source of a link and place it on your own site?  Does that make it a widget or does the piece of content have to come with a sharing mechanism in order to cross the bridge over to widgetdom?  I don’t claim to answer the answer to that question from a technical standpoint, but I think we all agree that the content needs to be “transportable”. The example in the slide below shows the visitor experience when grabbing a widget and placing it on iGoogle.  There are essentially a few basic steps:

  1. Click on the “grab” button (also called share or add button).
  2. Select the destination site to share the widget to or grab the embed code.
  3. Authenticate to the site that you wish to share the widget to.
  4. Enjoy widget!

Using a widget serving platform has multiple benefits – the platform builds all of the “bridges” to the share destinations (so you don’t have to) and makes it much easier for the user to grab the content.  Just exposing the embed code will be problematic.  Although there are some visitors who understand how to copy and paste embed code into their start page, blog or social network profile page, the majority of users don’t know how to do that.  The goal is to make it as easy as possible.

In prepping to transition the audience into a true metrics discussion, you have to tee up the fact that metrics should be the tool to measure how well you executed on your strategy.  One of my favorite quotes of all time is “Begin with the end in mind” from Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. You need to understand who you are trying to target with your widget before you ever release it.  What is the purpose of building a widget – to build off domain audience, drive people back to your site, sell something or just build brand awareness?  Before you get set to measure, you need to know what success looks like?

Once you know who you are trying to reach, then you need to go seed your widget in spots where people will find it.  The goal is to make it as viral as possible by placing it on pages and in networks where it has the highest probability of being grabbed.  The “if we build it they will come mentality” is not going to work here.  You need to be methodical about putting your widget in spots where:

  • Visitors will know that it is a widget
  • Visitors will understand how to grab it
  • Visitors will be compelled to grab it (creativity obviously plays a part here, but so so does aligning the widget with content that is relevant)

There were three sets of analytics that I discussed with the audience.  We have covered many of these here in other posts, but they categorize into three areas: Spread, Audience Extension and Engagement.  Spread analytics focuses in on the content itself – where is it being grabbed from and to which domains is it being installed? You’ll notice that I am starting to use the term “Installs” over “Placements” in my terminology.  Here at Clearspring we are starting to standardize around the term as it aligns with how the industry is defining sharable content.  More to come on this in future weeks.

The three metrics I discussed were: Grabs, Installs and Active Installs.  Grabs being the number of times that a widget was “grabbed” from another widget.  Installs being the number times that the widget was successfully installed (we require it to be viewed at least once on the destination domain or desktop). Active Installs being the number of widget installs viewed at least once during a selected time span.

All three of these metrics are very unique and critical to measuring the success of a widget.  How viral is your widget (how many times has it been grabbed and how quickly is it spreading)?  Also critical is understanding where your widget is traveling to and whether or not that install base you are creating is sticking and growing or simply churning and being replaced over time.

Audience extension consists of derived metrics that help you understand two core business questions – how successful are you at generating content consumption off-domain and how well is your content spreading off-domain.  When I say “off-domain”, I mean not on your own web site or widget seeds.  These two metrifcs are intended to help quantitatively measure the reach of your widget.

The third category of metrics that I discussed were on engagement.  So how is someone “engaging” with my widget?  Seriously, I hate that word.  Everyone uses it and it is so incredibly silly.  That aside, my take on engagement is that it is simply a word that acts as an umbrella across the metrics available to measure how a visitor interacts with your content.  In the widget space there is a lot that you can measure inside that “mini web page” that is portable.  On the Clearspring platform we measure interactions (mouse overs or clicks), clicks and time spent.  Those three metrics alone are used to derive additional metrics that can all be used as tools to measure widget activity and most importantly how visitors are interacting with your content and brand.

So last, but not least, I wrapped up the presentation discussing how to optimize your widget campaign.  It starts with working with a widget platform that uses sharing tools that are easy for the visitor to use.  You want a platform that has broad reach in the destinations that they work with so that you can reach as wide of an audience as possible – and of course you want a platform that will provide all of the analytics so that actually can tune and optimize your widget.

A/B testing with your creative is also a component for understanding what your visitors will respond to.  The messaging in the grab button, the features of the content and the freshness of the content will all contribute to how successful your widget is.

Promote your widget through ad campaigns and affiliate networks – seed, seed, seed!  The more places you seed the widget (within reason and business smarts of course) will help fuel its virality and distribution.  The entire process is a cycle (Lather, rinse, repeat).  Modify, measure, tune/optimize.  Effectively working through this cycle and making it part of the DNA in your organization will help you create widgets that are viral and effective at meeting your business goals.

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Widget Analytics is good for the environment

Posted by widgetgirl on April 9, 2008


This week ABC launched 9 widgets on the Clearspring platform with a metrics goal that is good for the environment. Their campaign works like this – for every 10 videos watched from an ABC widget beginning April 7 through April 23, ABC and the Arbor Day Foundation will plant a tree sapling. As of this post, ABC has committed to almost 7,000 trees to be planted.

Counting unique events within a widget, like video plays, is a standard capability with respect to widget analytics. The Flash container that “wraps” the widget captures all of the events that happen within the widget (like mouseovers and clicks), but the categorization of the video play itself is captured via a custom event.

Clearspring’s Tracking API allows widget creators to define any event within their widget, such as a video play, to be measured and tracked. Simply calling the API when the “play” function within your video is selected by the visitor is what it takes.

ABC’s use of widget analytics within their widget is a compelling marketing strategy to get users to not only view the video, but share the video with their friends to drive more video plays. We have seen similar strategies before with Paramount’s Cloverfield widget that were remarkably successful. Incentives to motivate usage will drive engagement and sharing of the widget.

Great content + good cause + good promotion = high interaction/engagement rates.

ABC’s widgets contain great content. They deployed widgets for the following TV shows:

  1. Dancing with the Stars
  2. LOST
  3. Squeegees
  4. Brothers & Sisters
  5. Desperate Housewives
  6. Grey’s Anatomy
  7. Ugly Betty
  8. Samantha Who?
  9. Bachelor

The Grey’s Anatomy widget includes trailers for the new episodes (thank God the strike is finally over) and a link back to ABC’s web site to watch full episodes of their shows. One element I found interesting on this widget was the countdown clock. It places a sense of urgency on the user to interact in order to “donate” their video view to the cause. It will be interesting to see what ABC does with these widgets next after the campaign is over. They will be left with an install base of widgets in the wild and will need to migrate it to new content once the timer runs out! Let’s see what they do.

Greys Anatomy Grey\'s Tree Promo

So now that you know about the widget (and the new episodes – yeah, evening TV as returned!), click on one of the images above to go grab the widget and watch the video. Just think, you’ll be contributing to widget analytics and the more people you get to watch the video, the more trees ABC will plant. Let’s shoot for a forest!

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Widgets versus Applications – what’s the difference?

Posted by widgetgirl on March 24, 2008


What is the difference between a widget versus a Facebook application – and now a MySpace application? This question comes up a lot when working with our customer base and other peers in the industry. Widgets (and I am going to focus on web widgets here) are stand alone applications that are sharable and can run on any web page as long as you have an internet connection and a browser (I am sure someone will debate me on this – and in the Social Media Standards committee we are debating these same topics). The main thing to note here is that a widget can stand on its own inside or outside of Facebook or MySpace, but there are benefits to also tapping into what these platforms can offer as they can make your widget much more viral in how they are shared and spread in those environments. For this post, I am going to focus on Facebook as the newly launched MySpace apps are still maturing (and I spend a lot more time on Facebook than MySpace).

A Facebook application is an application that is registered on Facebook and can take advantage of all of the FB features that their platform supports (and keep it mind that it does not have to be a widget). For example, FB Apps have the following features:

  1. Left navigation inclusion – a persistent link on the user’s navigation bar (this is on a user’s profile page) .
  2. Canvas page – allows the user to see your content on a separate page from their profile in a larger canvas area.
  3. Profile – the application is added directly on to the profile page for display and usage.
  4. Friend Requests – at the end of a successful application add, most applications (if configured to do so), will redirect you to an “invite your friends” page. Note: be wary of those that pre-select all of your friends – or those applications where you have to share with your friends to see the results of some quiz or poll. My friend Rich has a great story (I was a personal witness) of accidentally hitting “see results” for a quiz (which was actually a Trojan horse version of an “Invite Friends” button).
  5. News Feed and Mini Feed – notifications are sent to your friends news feed and mini feed upon adding and removing an application. What the heck is the news or mini feed you may ask? These are both “feeds” into your profile page or “Facebook Home page” that tell you what your friends are up to. If you or your friends add applications, this is where the notification will appear.

So if you are a frequent Facebook user (like myself), then you have probably stumbled across all of these – even if you didn’t know it. The interesting aspect of working with FB Apps is that there are a lot of variances to understand with respect to widget analytics. There are a few different things to be aware of:

  1. FB has two different ways that a widget can be shared within FB – 1) “Add Application” from the application’s canvas page and 2) natively grabbing the widget from another user’s profile page. The former example is how the widget (or app – keep in mind that I am assuming that the app IS a widget) can be spread without using the sharing tools provided by the widget serving platform. The latter is completely dependent upon using the services of the widget serving platform. The result here is that the widget placement that gets the credit for spreading the widget is either going to be a centralized registered application – OR – a specific user’s profile. The granularity between the two options can be critical if you as a marketer are trying to identify a power user who is causing your widget to get grabbed a lot.
  2. Click to activate – just because your widget is being viewed each time a visitor views their profile page, does not mean that your widget analytics data is incrementing in lock step.  FB requires that the visitor “click to activate” the widget before it will load in the content and make outbound connections to send tracking data. Other social networks do not behave this way, so it is a critical nuance to be aware of when analyzing your widget metrics for Facebook.

Not all social networks are alike. In fact, you may find that the analytics reported for views of your widget will FAR EXCEED that of another network – yet the same two networks will show opposite trends for how often and how many times your widget is grabbed or spread.  In many cases, this is dependent on tapping into the “social graph” or lack of social graph of many of these networks.  Those that easily hook into your “friends” and invite them to join the same application (or widget) will generally behave different than just waiting for someone to grab your widget on a static page. Pros and cons to each.  The shrewd marketer will combine these efforts to build a marketing campaign that works effectively across all metrics – views, grabs and interactivity.

What are you noticing that is different between social networks?  Do you see behavior that is completely different from one site to another?  Segmentation is the key in understanding how to measure success in your widget campaign.  Different metrics will apply for different networks depending on their behavior.

Check out my favorite widget of the week – Clear Channel launched a new Jonas Brothers widget that promotes the band’s songs, including a new release. Enjoy!

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