There’s been a lot of talk of late about “viral loops” (see Jeff Nolan or Andrew Chen), how they define the development of social applications and how they are the secret sauce of social networks. Without going into significant detail on the topic, the basic premise is this: viral loops will help your application get distributed by encouraging you to interact with your friends. Most of the Facebook applications are solely focused around this premise, (hence the SuperPoke reference in the title).
The parallel on the widget front is an "interaction loop", these are the hooks built in widgets that encourage interaction - by responding to content or sharing with others. The main difference between 'interaction' and 'viral' loops- not all interactions are viral, some interactions simply benefit the user through personalization or community interaction. Widgets differ slightly from social applications in that the end goal isn't always to get the user to send to a friend, widgets are typically used to provide a service to the end user, such as presenting personalized information or content.
So let’s take a look at some of the ways interaction loops are put together.
1. Email link (& other share options) – the most obvious and first on the list. By clicking on the email button, a user is able to share the content with a friend, which gives the content more exposure. The experience endears the user to the widget (where they found the interesting story) because the content was interesting enough to respond to. Side note: email is a proxy for all of the ‘response’ options in the widget - IM, blog, send to phone, etc)
2. Email message – on the receiving end of the article email, the user is presented with links to add the widget from which the article was sent. If the article interests the person to which it was sent (which in most cases it will) then there is a higher than average chance that the user will also be interested in the widget it came from, so it is important to ensure that the user who received the email can also add that widget to their blog, social network or personal start page.
3. Ratings – you are more likely to vote on something that other users have already rated. Rating is the most explicit of content engagement, and its also the easiest and least intrusive. As an interaction loop, rating is great because you know exactly how the user feels about the content (its rating afterall)
4. Comment link - as far as interactions are concerned, commenting is one of the most valuable of interactions. A user who comments on an article is showing significant engagement - they are responding to the content, thinking about it, taking a risk by replying.
5. Get This link - This link is the gateway to a bunch of additional interaction and sharing options. This needs to be tracked as it relates to the other options presented, if a user doesn't click something else after this click, there is a problem...
6. Sharing destination links - Taking a widget and putting it on your blog, personal start page or social network represents the highest level of commitment to content. This shows more than just an interest in the content, but an interest as well in the editor or publisher of the widget.
7. Create your own widget link - questionable whether this should be considered an interaction loop - it is a shortcut to NewsGator's signup form for the widget framework.
8. Send widget to a friend link - like the email link, this shows reccomendation for both the content and the publisher
9. Send widget to a friend message - users who receive this message are shown the latest headlines from the widget as well as the sharing destination links, encouraging interaction with the added benefit of a referral from a friend.
These are just a few of the interaction loops that are possible, how you present these loops should reflect the targeting goals of your widget. Another discussion for a later blog post is to explore the value of each of these loops, as well as the monitization options for each.
Do you have a perspective on this topic? Let us know in the commnents!