Understanding Social Media 2.0: The Widget Is Dead

The Internet was around for many years before it got its "2.0" designation. Social media has been with us for a far shorter time, and yet it has already gone through (and is still going through) a major shift that everyone in marketing and advertising must understand; maybe it's even worthy of a "2.0" designation of its own. What marketers need to understand is that the feed killed the widget. Feeds, like Facebook's news feed and Twitters status update, have made the portability of content nearly irrelevant. 

Here's an easy way to understand it: marketers once aimed to have users  "grab" a brand's widget and "place" it within their social media profile. But now, with feeds increasingly becoming the center of the social media experience at the expense of users maintaining and visiting profile pages, the goal instead is to share the links to branded content through feeds. Instead of publishing profile pages for their friends to come visit, users are granted access by their friends to program content that is fed (pun intended) directly to them.



OK, so now you can think of the world of social media as a world of millions of people programming content for friends, co-workers and total strangers, starting conversations and directing traffic. The question is how you get a critical mass of people to program your branded content into their feeds. Where the content lives is no longer important, as every destination is a mouse click away from the feed, most often behind a URL. Add FacebookConnect and the other single login competitors that we talked about last week  to a world of feeds, and we are fast approaching a world where destination doesn't matter. Everything is one click away -- AND your information and social graph come with you.

You have to understand what's happening before taking on the considerable task of what role marketing should and can play.

Two must-reads this week:

1.  Randall Rothenberg (Interactive  Advertising Bureau CEO) discussing the battle between creative and media on the blog I, A Bee.

2.   Garrick Schmitt (Razorfish Group VP) with the best "why social media matters to brands" presentation I have ever seen.

Thoughts on Social Media 2.0? Or is the feed and portable ID (and social graph) really just Web 3.0?

I appreciate everyone's thoughts. Leave a comment and add to the conversation, or hit me up on Twitter:

8 comments about "Understanding Social Media 2.0: The Widget Is Dead ".
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  1. Roy Perry from Greater Media Philadelphia, November 17, 2009 at 11:32 a.m.

    I guess I missed a few updates between "the widget is the salvation of media, commerce, industry, government and the human race" and "the widget is dead" but not the underlying message - nothing cooked up in yesterday's brainstorm session or breathlessly over-reported by hordes of hopeful cheerleaders is EVER the salvation of the human race. How much money and jobs went down the drain chasing widget nirvana before something else came along? Snake oil sellers are perched on every corner - swallow at your own risk.

  2. Yak G from the Social Method, November 17, 2009 at 11:34 a.m.

    Joe, although I agree that social media/marketing continues to have growth spurts, I disagree that the widget, nor the destinations are dead. Just like the strategy for how to use social marketing is shifting, so is how to use widgets and destination sites. They still hold value, albeit less, and for fewer types of brands (think entertainment, gaming, certain technology products). Facebook is great, but not nearly robust enough for complex interaction.

  3. Mike Patterson from WIP, Inc., November 17, 2009 at 12:41 p.m.

    One point to support your declaration that the widget is dead - how much have we heard from the bigger widget companies (Widgetbox, Clearspring) since the onset of the Twitter and Facebook era?

    Once Facebook moved away from applications and focused on the feed, many of these applications got pushed to the back burner and the "widget" paradigm with them.

    An astute observation and a shift that's going on every day.

  4. Jim Burnette from, November 17, 2009 at 1:47 p.m.

    Joe, thanks for the link to the Razorfish presentation. It is an ABSOLUTE must read for anyone who works in the ad business. Brand influence is alive and well across the Web & Mobile. The Razorfish notion that the :30 TV spot is dead is unrealistic. Although, the share of marketing dollars allocated to TV will continue to decline. Its all about MEDIA MIX as we enter into 2010 and beyond.

    And now onto the Widget. Dead, not yet. Top of mind in late 2009, no. Part of the 2010 MEDIA MIX, ???

    Best, Jim

  5. Steve Smith from Discovery, November 17, 2009 at 2:08 p.m.

    ...the obvious miss here is that widgets are being installed into newsfeeds & remain effective in this way. Beyond that, 'widget' companies are social media companies, which in our case means evolving 'Facebook Connect' into a multiple social network connect experience, which brings together many social networks...the same objective as a widget.

  6. Alex Calic from Clearspring, November 17, 2009 at 3:20 p.m.

    Joe, I partially agree with you- blasphemy I know since I work at Clearspring, right :o)

    Hub-and-spoke widgets (MyBlogLog, WidgetBucks, etc.) will continue to thrive because they are functional and specific to the user/site. I do believe that the feed/stream/river/whateveryouwanttocallit has removed the need for widgets to have viral functionality, as once someone initially shares a widget into Facebook or Twitter, the virality occurs by having the widget jump from one user's social graph to another.

    I'd also argue your statement about destinations not mattering. The links that go into the stream have to lead to somewhere, right? As not all links are tied to objects like videos and images which can be rendered within the stream.

  7. Joe Marchese, November 17, 2009 at 4:57 p.m.

    @ Mike - Well see Steve and Alex points above.

    @ Steve - The idea of the widget being ported into the feed is a great point. Many people love the ability to enjoy a youtube video without having to click away, so point taken. You'll notice that I couch my statement in the first paragraph by saying "nearly" as certain content creators will need the ability to embed content in their pages, looking to offer a better overall experience, but they are increasingly the "head" and not the tail. I agree that being a "social media company" is a skill set that translates to proper usage of facebook connect and overall implementation of social media strategies. Least I forget, SocialVibe has millions of widgets out in the wild, they do great things, but the reality of the value to marketers is in the conversations generated, within those widgets (past) and within feeds (next) and onto whatever comes next.

    @ Alex - As far as the destination not mattering, you are right that the content has to live somewhere, all I am saying is it doesn't matter as much where. i.e. It doesn't have to be in facebook in order for people to engage, with the click of a link and the usage of facebook connect, people can have an even better experience, with no more effort.

  8. Joe Hoyle from Open, November 17, 2009 at 5:39 p.m.

    Must we devolve into Morse code before we can evolve into rich media communication once again? OK, the dot-dash feed it is then. What's that? There's something to watch and interact with? What is it? Where is it? Dot dash dot dash <utility> dot. Cool!

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