word and pictures by Brian Solis


Rafe Needleman, WebWare/Cnet


Hooman Radfar, Clearspring

Giles Goodwin, Widgetbox

Jeff Nolan, Newsgator

Rafe Needleman – photo via flickr


Web widgets are the new business goldmine whether it’s the main focus or something being run from the sideline

Indeed, Facebook has come along and upset, and at the same time, expanded the opportunity for the online ecosystem.

This panel explored the Facebook strategies that work for existing businesses and where the economics of widgets will take us in the near future.

Rafe Needleman: How do we move from the Web to Facebook? When is the right time to make the move into Facebook?

JN: Right now jumping in is safer because businesses are enjoying a lot of consumer goodwill. You can make mistakes and it will not affect your brand.

GG: You can easily build apps nowadays, so it’s good to do it now. You can learn a lot of lessons now.

HR: The Facebook platform release is part of a much larger phenomenon. There will be greater disruption in the marketplace. Build a widget campaign and learn how to optimize on Facebook now. Other platforms will only mimic what transpires there.

Rafe Needleman: I was hoping someone would say hold off because it’s not a business yet. Why move from the Web at all?

HR: It’s not going to hurt you to experiment. Key verticals have not yet been captured. I would disagree with Tim O’Reilly’s report that states the opportunity for widgets is very limited. I believe that the the market is just opening up. RockYou has done an excellent job of taking SlideShow widget into the masses. Personalization and casual gaming has room to grow. Let me ask you, what’s the dominant fantasy application in Facebook? None yet, but it’s one of the most popular game genres out there.

JN: To imply that there is no business there is not the right question. It’s about extending the brand into a venue where it didn’t have a presence before. It’s not about advertising. The widget is an ad for the brand. It takes the brand into a new medium where people can be exposed to it.

Rafe Needleman: Facebook widgets can reinforce the brand. When do we cross the line though between branding and cannibalism?

JN: The media landscape is shifting. Brands are no longer destinations. They’re not comprised of brand components across multiple environments. People need to analyze the difference between Facebook as an app platform vs. distribution platform.

Rafe Needleman: When does it make sense to move an online business to Facebook exclusively?

GG: I don’t think it makes sense to do it right now or maybe ever. It’s hard to imagine that it would just be Facebook.

HR: it’s dictated by your business model, but it’s possible. It’s foolish to bet your business on a particular platform, it should include a cross platform strategy.

JN: Experiment and learn from it in order to determine your best business strategy.

HR: Facebook and Myspace are the super powers out there and they will dictate what other platforms do in the future. I would look for interesting disruptions.

Audience – What’s the top 5 criteria for a successful widget?

GG: Self expression is huge. Tap into the narcissism is a good way. In order to spread, it has to be easy for the user to make it their own.

HR: It depends. There are different classes of widgets. Keep it simple. Make the value proposition clear. Do not cram things into it or make it a banner ad. Demonstrate what users are getting. Make sure the user can personalize it.

JN: Allow users to interact with it. Activity creates a time spent metric. The widget has to be measurable. It has to be visually appealing, which is why Flash is gaining traction. Put some time into making it look good.

GG: Adsense is not graphically rich, but it works.

Rafe Needleman: Is the social graph portable?

Brian Solis: I’m taking this one because I’ve seen a series of embeddable widgets that connect profiles across multiple networks. One widget connects multiple social graphs (that is if you believe you can have multiple graphs according to Reid Hoffman. And, I guess that is if you agree with the social graph term in the first place). Now whether these widgets adhere to the terms of service (TOS) in these social networks is better left for someone else to answer.

John Furrier (audience): At the TechCrunch40 conference Mark Zuckerberg said he was looking for innovation and disruption. Is the TOS an inhibitor or is it pushing innovation?

HR: TOS has to evolve otherwise they wouldn’t survive over the long term. Look at TOS as something you respect, but you should push it. It’s always subject to negotiation.

JN: Users dictate the TOS they will support.

For more pictures from Day One at Graphing Social Patterns are on flickr.

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About the Author:

Brian Solis

Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research-based advisory firm. Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging media on business, marketing, publishing, and culture. His current book, Engage, is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to build and measure success in the social web.

Visit Brian's page at http://www.briansolis.com
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