At Metablocks we wear both developer and marketing hats! Most of our business revolves around user interface and application design, especially social media applications, but we also have a growing consultancy business around social media marketing.
One of the new social media marketing tools that has gained popularity and momentum in recent months is Twitter and a growing number of new media marketers have become big “Twitter Marketing” fans (IgnitePR, Citizen Agency,TechnoSailor, i.e.)
What is Twitter, you ask? Twitter defines itself as a tool for “staying in touch and keeping up with friends no matter where you are or what you’re doing.” (more…) Marketers have reinterpreted that as a way for companies and brands to stay in touch with customers or prospective customers no matter where they are! For those interested, I recently added a page on our Wiki with a list of Twitter marketing related resources including articles and success stories.
Here are some practical applications of “outgoing” Twitter marketing in action:
Here are some “incoming” Twitter marketing applications:
Another interesting “application” (verb) of Twitter is to actually integrate it into desktop and web-based applications (noun) to automatically share information about a users activities or interests (with their permission of course). Here are some examples
Too much information (TMI)? Perhaps, but a growing number of people are now living “Twitter-enhanced” lives and marketers are realizing that Twitter may indeed be that best way to reach them!
The new Apple iPhone 3G hit the stores on July 11 and despite some technical glitches has been quite a success. By Sunday, July 13, Apple announced that iPhone 3G sales surpassed 1 million units is just three days. Apple also said that iPhone and iPod touch users have already downloaded more than 10 million applications from the App Store.
More than 800 native applications are currently available for the iPhone and according to Apple, more than 200 are offered for free and more than 90 percent are priced at less than $10!
These are pretty impressive numbers for a “new” platform! You’ll find applications in obvious categories such as social networking, games, news and entertainment, photography, business and media on Apple’s newly launched App Store (accessible via iTunes).
We are currently working on a handful of iPhone development projects (and I am sure dozens of other developers are as well) so you can expect the number of iPhone 3G applications to keep climbing!
The term Enterprise 2.0 has become a popular term used to describe the general transformation taking place within the enterprise as companies move towards embracing Web 2.0 technologies and practices. I mentioned the trend a couple of days ago. The phenomena is actually very simple and very prevalent – what makes sense on the Internet, eventually makes sense in the enterprise – think Enterprise Mashups, Enterprise Widgets, Enterprise Social Networks, Enterprise Video and even Enterprise user-generated content!
Enterprise 2.0 User Interface Design:
More recently companies have gotten around to updating internal (and external) web-based application to incorporate Web 2.0 design and technologies. Here are some of macro and micro trends we have seen or proposed as it relates to enterprise clients:
Most of our Enterprise clients are very much involved in moving their organizations towards becoming more “2.0”. The concept of Enterprise 2.0 has in the past represented “technologies and business practices that liberate the workforce from the constraints of legacy communication and productivity tools like email”. Enterprise 2.0 Conference came out with a chart that did a pretty good job of identifying some of the organizational differences between Enterprise 1.0 and Enterprise 2.0.
|Enterprise 1.0||Enterprise 2.O|
IT-driven technology / Lack of user control
Teams are in one building / one time zone
Silos and boundaries
Need to know
Information systems are structured and dictated
Closed/ proprietary standards
Long time-to-market cycles
Ease of Organization Flow
Teams are global
Fuzzy boundaries, open borders
Information systems are emergent
Short time-to-market cycles
In the process of rolling out Facebook marketing campaigns for clients that involve some combination of Facebook Applications, pages and groups, we often get asked what that the difference is between Facebook Pages and Facebook Groups, and more importantly, which is better.
To the untrained eye they are pretty similar, but in reality, for marketing purposes – Facebook Pages are significantly superior to Facebook Groups. In general they have all the features of a group plus (the very important) ability to add applications and do perform more extensive customization on the page. Here is a quick comparison of the two:
|Feature/Benefit||Facebook Pages||Facebook Groups|
|User Interaction||High||Limited (and ONLY with IFRAMES*)|
|Promotion||Post to Profile
Send Update to Fans
|Post to Profile|
|Access||Public (anyone) can access||Users must register/login|
Quite often we get the request: “I want a widget”. Although most people making that request have an good idea of what platform they want their widget deployed on, some don’t. Here is a quick look at some of the common widget platforms options available, their pros and cons, and other important considerations:
Flash-based Web Widgets: This remains the most common platform for widget development. Widgets built in Flash are generally designed to be embedded on social networks, blogs and other web pages (by simply cutting and pasting a snippet of HTML code). They can be distributed directly or using a Widget marketplace or distribution platform. About 80% of the actual widgets we build fall into this category.
See more comprehensive lists…
Desktop Widgets: Desktop widget platforms include Yahoo! Widgets, MacOS X Widgets, Microsoft Vista Gadgets and Google Desktop Gadgets. Widgets built for these platforms are designed to run on a user’s desktop. As a result, they are generally are not spread virally or via “drive-by” marketing. Prospective clients evaluating or considering desktop widget platforms are usually driven by specific customer requests or applications. Most widgets built for a desktop platform require that the user first install a widget engine (Windows Vista and MacOS are exceptions), a process that can be time consuming and can pose a barrier to adoption.
See more comprehensive lists…
Facebook Application: Although a a widget can be embedded in a Facebook (FB) application, a FB app is “technically” not a widget – its a lot more. When building “widgets” for the FB platform, most people are talking about developing a Flash-based widget and then build a FB application to “contain” it (the are some limitations). The alternative is to ditch the widget idea and simply build a full featured FB app that takes full advantage of the platform.
Other Social Media Applications: This involves building applications or “porting” existing Flash-based widgets to platforms like OpenSocial (for MySpace, Hi5, Orkut and others) and Ning. Unless you have a compelling reason for doing this, you are probably better off with one of the other options.
See more comprehensive lists…
So What Widget Do I Need?
Hopefully you have already answered that question. The platform (or platforms) you select to develop and deploy your widget(s) on depends on the following:
who your target customer is (consumer, customer, enterprise, prospects, i.e.)
the purpose of the widget (marketing or utility)
what your marketing or customer acquisition goals are (related to purpose)
how you envision the widget being used and distributed (is it viral?, i.e.)
Clients interested in solving marketing, awareness and branding problems are usually interested in Web-based widgets (or social media applications) that are often seen, easily spread and hopefully come with a compelling reason for folks “driving-by” to spread them.
Clients interested in using widgets to deliver utility or functionality or extend an existing application, are probably most interested in Desktop widgets.
Clients that want marketing exposure on numerous widget marketplaces (WidgetBox, Netvibes, Yahoo! Widgets, i.e.) are probably going to want to build smaller (feature poor) widgets on a technology (Flash, i.e.) that works on multiple platforms.
Clients targeting “paying” or enterprise customers are probably looking at specific desktop widget platforms.
More Widget Platform Information
I hope this answers some of the questions people about widget platforms. I have also created a section (wiki.metablocks.com/widget-platforms) on the Metablocks Wiki dedicated to tracking relevant widget development platforms, feel free to check it out.
Here is a quick roundup of a couple of recent interesting widget news and trends:
We’ll cover some of these trends in more detail in upcoming weeks!
We have moved the Metablocks Wiki to its new home at wiki.metablocks.com. We will phase out the old Wiki as we transition partner projects and other content to the new Wiki. Most people have used Wikis at one time or another (Wikipedia, i.e.) and understand how they work (you can read our wiki definition).
A growing number of organizations, including ours, use Wiki for a variety of business purposes ranging from collaboration, support, project management to light-weight content management (CMS). Some Wikis try and capture information about an industry or market (Inman and Zillow for example have real estate wikis) while others are designed to provide customer support and build community ( eBay, vFlyer and Meebo are some good examples). Ours is simply designed as both an internal and external resource for archiving information on development and marketing projects and efforts that we have an ongoing interest in. Feel free to check it out.
After my post on Hillcrest Labs, one or two clients mentioned that they didn’t realize we were such big Adobe Illustrator users! I am not surprise since its not common knowledge that in addition to our core business of web and social media application design and development we provide a broad range of other service to clients including infographics and other information-driven communication. Most of this work stems from our web design group who help clients better communication aspects of their technology or architecture visually. In the process we have developed a growing library of “object-art” that helps us in the story telling process.
Here are a couple of examples of some past infographic work:
Whenever we build applications for a new platform we like to understand the target market, market drivers, and the overall competitive landscape. In the process of understanding the set-top box market, I ran into a handful of great HDTV, set-box and video stats and facts that I thought would be interesting to share:
HDTV and TV
Digital Set-top Boxes
Online and Mobile Video