With this week's announcement from Google of OpenSocial - essentially creating a uber-platform to eclipse all platforms (i.e. Facebook) - and the news that MySpace has joined, widgets suddenly became a lot more relevant. The promise behind the Open Social move, whose API became available late last week, is that advertisers can now create widgets that hold some, hopefully, useful or delightful code, that can be embedded in user profiles across a range of social networks including MySpace, Bebo, Linkedin and more. More than that, we may achieve that wonderful goal of a single social network profile, "one ring to bind them."
Non-profits must jump on the widget wagon now!
If you go to widgetbox, one of the clearinghouse directories of widgets for different social networks, you will find approximately 29 nonprofit widgets available for your download and installation pleasure. They are a pretty varied and obscure bunch from the Dancing Dolphin to the Wild Apricot. Where is the Peace Corps? Amnesty International? Oxfam? Oceana?
So far, folks are using the widget to pull RSS headlines into a special box. (You can check out my Auctions for Change widget on my MySpace page)
I want to feature the 1-2 organizations that I support on my blog(s) and social netwrk profiles. I want to promote their mission and solicit other supporters ($$$). I need a widget that offers something more than headlines. It should offer something engaging like a dynamic statistic of the number of people going without meals in different parts of the world right now. Here's my RockYou countdown widget reminding me that I am off to Taos in t-minus "x" days and counting. How hard would it be to make that a "stat-widget" driven by real research numbers that tell me how many folks are starving, how much of the ocean is polluted, or the average human carbon footprint?
Then I need a micropayment button that allows visitors to give $1 to $1000 (or whatever) right there in the widget. How many people will click and give based upon widget exposure alone? No idea. But chances are, if it's on my blog, it's a cause I support and I will blog about it. Let me be your champion.
Non-profits need to engage their brand ambassadors now. We need nonprofitwidget.org to emerge not as just another clearinghouse (like widgetbox) but as a toolbox for promotion and measurement for nonprofits who would use this type of resource.
Here's how nonprofitwidget.org can work:
- All nonprofits can publish their widgets in this directory which features all of the requisite download and embed protocols to relieve the necessity of too much technical knowledge.
- A directory of developers with rating systems would help nonprofits connect with folks to build the widgets.
- A promotion toolbox will give the nonprofit staff a set of procedures and tools to help promote their widgets
- A voluntary "membership" link will allow all of the folks who are using the widget to remain connected.
- Each widget "page" would feature and aggregate set of links to the blogs who feature that widget thus sending some link love back to those who publish the widget.
Unlike advertisers who will wrestle with how to measure the use of widgets in terms they are used to (online advertising - see this WaPo article from Saturday), nonprofits have everything to gain by activating their greatest asset - their supporters and fans.
As reported in the NTEN, Network for Good has released a new whitepaper on technology and fundraising. In general, the report includes their experience with widgets and here are some key points:
"When Wired Fundraisers Talk, People Listen: The messenger matters even more than the message. Not Every Wired Fundraiser Is a Champion: The successful Wired Fundraiser has a relatively rare combination of true passion and a means to lend a sense of urgency to their cause. Technology Makes a Difference: Widgets and social networks make existing personal fundraisers more effective. Smart Charities Embrace the Wired Fundraiser: And they find their own, “inner” Wired Fundraiser. "