I met Lance Tokuda, the co-founder of the popular widget maker RockYou last night and he explained his strategy for using Facebook to create a widget network.
Step one: Win the initial landgrab.
Veteran widget makers, who’ve been through the experience of competing with each other for an audience when a social network site first opens up to widgets, know that only a handful of the thousands of widgets created end up getting the lionshare of usage. Thus the massive spam war that people initially experienced, which Facebook soon squashed by throttling back how many friends a member could invite to sign up for a widget each day.
Step two: Cross promote to increase penetration.
Once a few of RockYou’s widgets gained popularity, RockYou then used them to promote other widgets to increase it’s overall penetratation and usage on Facebook. People are trying widgets and swapping out knew ones for old ones, so RockYou says it kept crosspromoting different widgets to keep its widgets top of mind for folks. It now claims that 30% of the members on Facebook its widgets.
Step three: Use the widget network to promote other companies widgets.
This is the next step that RockYou is working on. Now there are around 1,200 widgets that aren’t getting much usage, including ones from big name companies like Flickr. RockYou sees an opportunity to get paid to promote these widgets.