Posted on July 28, 2008

RSS and Social Feeds aren't the only emerging Web 2.0 technology trends that are shaking up the online marketing space. Widgets and Mashups are providing a boost to interactive marketing and social media campaigns. I'll explain what these trends are and how you can make them work for you.

So what exactly is a "widget?" Essentially, widgets are embeddable programs for desktops, web pages, even mobile phones. While widgets have been around for a while, they're seeing more action from users in social networks, who download and install them on their Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and LinkedIn pages.

There are an almost infinite number of existing widgets (with more being created everyday) that do almost everything from personality tests to video and photo editing. Others can display stock quotes, create a "to do" list, and provide local weather forecasts.

Still, widgets need a "container" in which to function, which means that many are site-specific. Unfortunately, that currently limits their reach, although Google's OpenSocial project aims to make widgets universal by allowing them to run everywhere.

So what can marketers do with widgets? Fulfill their dreams. Widgets grant marketers the ability to deliver full interactive applications with brand functions. Compared to the usual static ad, this is a different game entirely. Widgets offer user engagement on a level never seen before.

Just take a look YouTube's viral marketing success as a prime example. Their widget allowing users to embed videos in their social networking profiles and pages was the main factor in YouTube's rise to power and eventual sale to Google (for almost $2 billion). Other consumer-oriented companies like Coca-Cola have launched widgets that are brand focused yet interactive and fun.

There are many web development companies out there that offer widget creation. All you need to remember is that using widgets successfully means experimentation and refinement. Widgets need to be inherently connected to your content, users' interests, and business goals.

That's widgets in a nutshell. So what's a "Mashup?" Mashups pull together information from multiple web services using open interfaces to create something entirely new. An example would be a mashup that combined Google Maps or Google Earth with real estate information to show which homes are for sale in a given zip code. As you can imagine, there are infinite possibilities.

Mashups are created using open APIs (Application Programming Interface), which allow websites to interact with each other by creating new applications that pull together, or "mash up" parts of other applications.

Tech-savvy marketers looking to add a boost to their interactive mix can create their own mashups. The truth that marketers must remember is that the web applications are not isolated and never work alone. Rather, they can be combined in any number of ways to achieve business goals and provide new and better services.

So how can you build your own Mashups? Simply source third party content into your website using an API. Visit Yahoo Pipes, a popular news aggregator. There's also a blog devoted to solely to covering new mashups. Check out Mashable for more information. One of the coolest Mashups I've seen is Ms. Freckles a Nordic language search engine that allows users to search in various languages and dialects.

For more information, contact Fusionbox.