In the strange world of social media, a lot of free widgets (i.e. tools) are available to its inhabitants, with very little technical knowledge needed. Some widgets are good solely for their intended purposes – such as sharing a picture, sentiment, or another form of entertainment. Other widgets have a large amount of value for small businesses, if they know how to use them properly. (I call them off-label here since they can be used for unintended, not-yet-prohibited purposes…) Photo slideshow widgets are in this category – they add high value to a shoestring marketing budget when they’re exploited a little for business purposes. If a marketer knows how to use them, they can create free webmercials, business presentations, and mini-clips that add rich media to any user experience.
So, what is a slideshow widget?
First of all, a web widget is simply any kind of web application that you can add to your own webpage, community profile, or any other website that allows html codes. If you’ve ever been to a social website like Myspace, you’ve probably seen a lot of cool gadgets and tools on people’s profiles. Surveys, pictures, and videos that users like are usually embedded in the page. These widgets are free and easily used as a viral tool for the companies that create them – users pass on the videos or photo collections they like to other people they’re connected to via a simple link or a few lines of html that they cut paste.
A slideshow widget is a collection of photographs that move frame-by-frame to the next image. Users can add captions, music, and in some cases, video and user-created sound clips.
Why are slideshow widgets good for marketers? Viral webmercials!
First of all, any widget that gives viewers or users the capability to pass their creation on is a good thing for marketers, period. Users pass on what they like – and they’re used to it. Myspace addicts pass on all kinds of internet goodies on a daily basis. (Most likely, they do this when they are supposed to be working. Myspacers are notorious for using their space during work hours and typically consider social media incredibly addictive…) Every video on YouTube or Google has the option of emailing it to a friend. Internet users are becoming accustomed to viewing media – not just text – online. And when they like it, they share it.
Why make a slideshow webmercial?
A slideshow widget can be used to create an online commercial for use on your business website, social networking profile, or anywhere else that html can be embedded. If you haven’t noticed, a lot of the big media companies are adding “webmercials” to their websites. This kind of marketing typically costs a lot of money – the kind that consists of hiring an ad agency with the technical expertise and the marketing-savvy to get it produced, direcibuted, and perfected. The traditional webmercial is a streaming media marketing video, similar to short clips that can be viewed on YouTube or at the beginning of the footage shown on news websites (like CNN). Slideshow webmercials are not as high-tech, but can still be an effective and professional medium for marketing to customers using rich media formats. (If you’re having trouble with the concept of webmercials or slideshows, scroll down to my author box where I link to a few of our webmercials created on-the-fly…)
If you’re looking to add some multimedia to your website, and you don’t have the technical skills or resources to hire a flash designer or design a minisite, a slideshow can be crafted easily to showcase your products or services.
Creating a slideshow webmercial for your business
There are a few different sites on the web that offer strong capabilities when it comes to slideshows. Do a search for “photo widgets” on Google. My favorites are RockYou (http://www.rockyou.com) and Slideroll (http://www.slideroll.com). RockYou is the easiest option if you are not the most tech-savvy but have some good graphics and a general idea of what you want to say or showcase. Slideroll has software that allows you to download some software and add your own media as well as a premium upgrade, if you want more of a slick, professional feel and you have access to licensed music or your own video feeds.
Tips for a successful slideshow webmercial:
1. Decide what you are promoting. If you simply want to show off a few products from your online catalog, choose the best images you have. If you’re promoting an event, you’ll want to choose the best photos from the bunch. If you want to tell a story, you can use clip art or stock photos for a slick, professional edge. It takes a marketing eye to know what works, so you may want to consult with business associated or friends if you don’t have your own marketing department.
2. Remember it’s all about branding. The text and music you add should reflect your business or the commercial’s theme. For example, if you own an online boutique that sells hot club clothing, you’ll want to play hip club music rather soft classical music. If you are a virtual assistant, you’ll probably want to keep the music slow and professional. A webmercial communicates to two primary senses – sight and sound. Make sure you don’t annoy your prospects with music that isn’t synced to the visuals.
3. Get to the point – quickly. You’ll want to grab your viewer’s attention with a strong opening image. Keep your message simple and stress your benefits. A webmercial allows you to the opportunity to “show” and “tell”. But nobody wants a webmercial that shows your entire business plan.
4. Don’t forget a call to action. At the end of your webmercial, close the sale. Ask for action. Post your website address or email address. Tell them about your Yahoo group. You don’t have a lot of room, so send them to either your primary home on the web or whatever part of your web promotion you are trying to expand.
Getting eyeballs to your slideshow webmercials
A few tricks to getting people to view your webmercial:
1. Use a webmercial as an intro to your site (i.e. landing page…) 2. Cut and paste the code into Myspace, Bizpreneur, and any other social networking website profiles you may own. 2. Bookmark your slideshow using social book marking websites (such as Digg or Del.icio.us) 3. Link to your webmercial in your next newsletter. (Or, make a weekly webmercial for your newsletter!) 4. Link to your webmercial in your blog. (Or embed it.) 5. Send out a press release announcing your new webmercial (or its purpose – such as the event you are promoting or your new product line) 6. Link to your webmercial in your tag lines, articles, directory listings and anywhere else you can post a standard html link. 7. Share it with me! (Shameless plug, but I would love to see what you’ve created. Send me a message or join my network at LinkedIn (capitalcreativeinc) or Myspace (capitalcreative). (I am at other networks with the email address “yourfreelanceneeds at gmail.com”)
Other uses for slideshows
If you’re trying to sell a concept or an idea, or simply want to add some multimedia for your website, there are other uses for slideshows as well. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Short business presentations you can email to prospects, bosses, or clients. 2. Ecards featuring your products, websites, or URL. (If you are posting these on somebody’s social profile, besides your own, you probably want to nix the music.) 3. Quick tutorials and how-to’s. 4. Any other occasion that you want to communicate visually and quickly.
Webmercials are nothing new, but they’re moving toward simplicity and accessibility for all small businesses that want to market “web 2.0 style”. They’re also a lot of fun to create and share. Take your time choosing the right visuals and copy for your webmercial, and you’ll be able to share your message with a larger audience. And, with any luck, that audience will pass it on for new prospects to share.