GenuineVC David Beisel's Perspective on Digital Change

August 18, 2006

It seems that the number of conversations I have had in the past two months and the number of articles/blog-posts I’ve read about online badges has skyrocketed. By “badges” I mean small snippets of HTML code which consumers cut and then paste onto their blog or social network profile. (I am not necessarily talking about “widgets,” which contain richer interactive functionality and often reside on the desktop, though I do realize that the definitions and manifestations of the two blur together quite a bit.)

For example, Fred Wilson posted last month about his “new blog bling.” The number of badges has exploded so much recently in that Pete Cashmore asked earlier this week, “Are there any startups that don’t plug in to MySpace these days?”. The importance of for the industry of badges and widgets for MySpace pages was highlighted with the recent scramble after the mandate that all Flash-based ones be upgraded to newest version from Adobe.

Tim Post coined a very apt term, calling these badges, the “flying seeds of the internet” and has an excellent blog entirely devoted to the subject (it’s a must read on the subject which I’ve poured through extensively). In a conversation he and I had the other day, we discussed how badges are a unique combination of marketing and technology, like interactive stickers for the web. They are becoming another method for self-expression in and of themselves. Bumper stickers for the internet generation to communicate to others in “traffic.”

Just like those sticky pieces of paper slapped on the back of a car, online badges can and will allow people to express affiliations with schools, groups, locations, brands, bands, and much more. But unlike static stickers, online badges (like those created by Badgr) possess the ability to be personalized. And they’re not just for people – Brian Phipps has an interesting post about “widgets as brand pipelines,” which can easily be applied to badges as well.

Beyond the above affiliations, badges have the capability to communicate about individuals’ relationships with products. As many long-time readers of my blog know, I have a keen interest in “social commerce” sites (see a post from last December), as I have a vision where they could provide consumers with rich social context and relevancy to the purchases which they are making. The current crop of social shopping sites are experimenting with badges as a way to promote their service. StyleFeeder, Wists, Nabbr, Kaboodle, Sprout Commerce (the creators of MyPickList and FavoriteThingz), and StyleHive – just to name a few – give consumers the ability to express themselves via products in various ways. It’s a very powerful notion, especially as it introduces the notion of monetizing these badges as forms of advertising. It remains to be seen, however, if any of these services can attract significant enough consumer adoption.

Resulting from my recent exploration, there are two questions which I am currently contemplating and learning about:

1. What are the best practices for marketers to harness the power of these badges to promote services, brand, or products?
2. What are the business models for the services that enable and create these badges? Or are they just another marketing tactic for services as opposed to something to develop a business around? Are they a means to an end or an end in and of themselves?

  • Fergus Burns

    Hi David

    It was a pleasure to meet again at Gnomedex

    Great post – i kicked around with some thoughts on “widget marketing” a while back – see

    Talk SoonFergus

  • Jason Martinez

    I consider badges usefull becuase they are standard stock on the blogs/sites now. Sure, they’re way web 2.0 and trendy as hell (not that it’s a bad thing) but having some bling, as long as it’s semi-standard and known is better than people making up custom “badges” for everything. The best part, unlike with the webrings of the past and their badges, is they aren’t really obtrusive unless you have 20 (like myself) and the design isnt too bad.

  • Ivan Pope

    A widge can be anything. There won’t be any centralised production method or certification system, that would miss the point. Any bit of code that can be inserted into a site and which does something is a widget.In the widgetsphere, there are three issues and they apply to all widgets. Value and Distribution.Value is the value of the widget to the person who has to make a decision to insert that widget into their (limited) site real estate. The value can be direct (AdSense), indirect (gets traffic, subscribers) or emotional (esteem, kudos)or a mixture of these. Without value a widget will not get installed anywhere.Distribution is how it actually gets installed, i.e. cut and paste, auto-insertion, walled-garden drag and drop.So you can be in the Value business or you can be in the Distribution business (or both).The value business is really the realm of marketing and/or advertising folk and I expect to see marketing companies jump on this big time. How do you create a widget that carries value, that will get big time adoption and that gives a ROI. This already is a specialist field without any specialists in it, but it looks very interesting.Distribution is something different, how do you reach everyone who may want to insert your widget? How do you make it easy for them – not only to insert it, but to remove it again. Can you automate this process. How about widgets that auto delete. How about widgets that only show in response to certain conditions, or to certain visitors. This is a distribution issue. This is wehere Snipperoo is operating.There is another issue, where several companies are operating, but its a red herring. That’s the area around ‘how do you make a widget’. As I said, a widget can be anything that will run in a web site. There are millions of people in the world who can build them using whatever technologies the like. Anthing that cramps this resource will not fly. That’s why Snipperoo are technology agnostic. We are the universal widget.

  • happyttyy

    I am apreciating it very much.I have never read such a lovely article and I am coming back tomorrow to continue reading.burberry pants

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