January 25, 2009

Socialtwist's Widget Puts New Twist On Social Content Sharing

By Eric Berlin of Online Media Cultist (FriendFeed/Twitter)

When reading a blog post, it's not uncommon that you will see a "Share This!" button at the bottom that you allows you to do such things as share it with friends or to publish it on your own blog or social media profile. A new Tell-a-Friend widget, produced by SocialTwist, aims to expand on that idea by enabling distribution to such communications platforms as instant messaging services and by allowing easy selection of contacts through e-mail and social networking address books. Here's how they describe it:
Unlike other sharing utilities, Tell-a-Friend stands unique to give you a single button which enables both one-to-one personal recommendations and social broadcasting. Tell-a-Friend is the only sharing widget to support Instant Messengers (chat) and personal messages to friends on social networks. That's clearly the best of word of mouth marketing rolled in one.
The idea is that the widget is easily installable, highly customizable, supports more than 80 services, and comes packed with analytics so that you can monitor your "viral campaigns." With support for all major instant messenger services and social media services spanning from Bebo to Yardbarker, it's hard to think of a place that you can't use Tell-a-Friend to send to. And the fact that Tell-a-Friend displays as a pop-up within the Web page that you're visiting makes for a seamless and easy user experience. I also really like the tabbed interface that allows you to easily select that type of service you'd like to use to distribute the content.

It's a pretty cool and timely service as it builds upon already available services and aims to please publishers who are always eager to enable the distribution of their content. And the ability to track the metrics of that distribution is potentially important in quantifying the ever elusive notion of "influence."

So if everything about the Tell-a-Friend widget makes sense and is looking good, I think the challenge will be to make it as easy as possible for publishers to understand and install. The Web site showcases a really cute and well produced explainer video:

But I was left wondering, "Where's the Tell-a-Friend widget?" I realized that I didn't know what it looked like! To be fair, a sample version of it is sitting in the middle of the homepage, but it took me some time to track it down.

And so if that leaves room for argument that I'm slow on the uptake, keep that in mind while I explain that I had some trouble getting the widget installed and running. I began by trying to install Tell-a-Friend on a Blogger site, figuring that would be the easiest way to test it out.

However, I couldn't get the widget to publish. I followed the step-by-step instructions that were provided, but could not get the widget to appear.

Even though there were several screenshots given to help me, there was no final screenshot showing the widget displayed on a "live website" so that publishers can see what the widget is supposed to look like on a published webpage. Translated, I did not see any written or visual instruction that tips the audience off that Tell-a-Friend is supposed to appear directly beneath the bottom of each article.

After trying to "hack" the Blogger template in a few different ways, I gave up and moved onto a WordPress site. That one proved to be successful, though it does take a little bit of technical knowhow to get it running: You have to download a .zip file with the widget code, FTP it to your WordPress plug-ins folder, and then go into your WP management tools to activate it.

Overall, I believe that there's a market for widgets that are truly useful to both publishers and Web site visitors, and Tell-a-Friend is certainly a part of that conversation.

Read more by Eric Berlin at Online Media Cultist