Almost everyone understands the basic concept of a widget - what it is and what it does - but understanding just how to maximize a widget's functionality is another beast altogether. Since social media gives everyone a platform to communicate, it has become essential for the PR community to stay on top of emerging trends in technology, namely widgets, applications and plug-ins.
Below is Glen Zangirolami's guide to all things widget, as found on PRSA.com.
A widget is a piece of code that can be embedded on your desktop, blog, Web site or social media profile. Many of the most popular widgets add or deliver content that is automatically updated.
Widgets are designed to make your life easier and enrich the Web browsing experience of visitors to your Web site. By automating time-consuming tasks and creating entertaining diversions, widgets allow you to strengthen bonds with Web users and build your company’s brand.
For example, at Schipul, we created a widget that manages and promotes a Facebook user’s various online identities. The idea for the widget spawned as Schipul employees promoted their personal brands. This widget helps people easily link social media profiles in sites like Del.icio.us, Digg, Flickr, LinkedIn, MySpace, Technorati, Twitter, Virb, Xbox Live and YouTube.
Web Identities makes it easier for friends on Facebook to easily access your photos, videos and blogs, or even link on Xbox to play games online.
You or your company may be using widgets already without even knowing it. A stock ticker on the company Web site is a widget, so is a download from the Weather Channel that automatically delivers the forecast to your desktop. Free widgets are available to download, though developing or customizing a widget does have costs.
PR practitioners should experiment with widgets, and social media in general, so they can knowledgeably advise their companies and clients about conceivable uses.
Widgets can be used two ways
Post an existing widget. This allows you to add value through the widget’s functionality, but doesn’t always further your brand.
Create (or hire someone to create) your own widget. Crafting a unique widget allows you to embed your company’s brand, which is virally passed as the widget is adopted by Web users.
Either approach can contribute significantly to an organization’s relationships and online brand.
Post an existing widget
To see what is available for download, visit sites like Widgetbox, Widgipedia, Yahoo! Widgets and Google Gadgets.
Simple and valuable downloads at Google Gadgets include a map widget that enables you to pinpoint addresses and a search widget that makes it easy for a visitor to search your site.
Many free widgets carry baggage. Google Gadgets include Google ad listings, which a lot of companies don’t like. Other widgets may prominently feature a logo or brand name, such as CNN’s news widget. But there are plenty of free widgets that are sleek and clean with no demands or identifiers attached.
If you like a widget but want it tweaked for use on your site, contact the widget developer. Many developers are happy to customize for a much smaller price than it would cost to create a whole new widget.
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