Fellow blogger and reader of Communication Overtones, Rob LaGesse, pointed me to an excellent article about the importance of widgets and how to get started with them.
The article is a recap of a seminar on Widgets attended by Read/WriteWeb guest author Graeme Thickins at the Web 2.0 Expo this week in San Francisco.
At the New Communication Forum earlier this year, Shel Holtz in his closing session dubbed 2007 the “Year of the Widget.”
I agree with his assessment, and as PR professionals, I think that we need to sit up and take notice at how these tiny pieces of code will help to expand communication.
Before it was hijacked by techies, a widget was a slang term for a scraper used to remove paint from glass. And basically, that is what a widget is for a website or blog. It allows you to create (braded or unbranded) content that can be “scraped” from your site and added to another website. In other words, a web widget is a small piece of code that allows one to easily add dynamic content to a webpage.
For instance, on my company website, I use the Feedburner widget BuzzBoost to add dynamic headlines from my blog to the front page of my website.
As a marketer there are many ways one could think of using this tool to disseminate a message and push a brand. But from the public relations standpoint, I think it is even more important to think of it as a way to distribute content. I have always felt that the role of public relations is to act as a resource of information, and the widget is one way to accomplish this.
Two immediate ideas:
- In a crisis situation, you can make available a widget that both media and/or important stakeholders could add to their own websites to ensure the latest updates are spread to the widest possible audience.
- For a more pedestrian use, why not “syndicate” content from your publications for people who are interested in your niche market to add to their site, or you could provide an educational quiz that tabulates on a remote site and sends the data back to you in aggregate – while at the same time adding dynamic content for those content generators interested in your topic.
In other words, get creative and make win-win widgets.
There are several sites that specialize in widgets, including ClearSpring, which help you to make, share and track widgets and Widgetbox, which is more of a YouTube-type clearinghouse site for making widgets more widely available.