When marketers are planning gadgets I have seen over and over again the first fateful and almost universal mistake.
Marketing team gets together, has phone conference, drinks coffee, eats donuts, and then leaves meeting with a great plan and a clear vision of what they want…
“We need a gadget, and we need it to go viral”
Um, I hate tell you this, but you do not need a viral gadget.
You need a useful one.
The more viral a gadget is, the broader the audience is that the gadget targets. If you are selling printer ink, you shouldn’t make a viral app, you should make one that some supply person in some office would find useful enough to use and keep and order your products through. You should target your potential clients, you should not target the entire universe.
There is nothing viral about small communities.
A great example of this is Sphinn, which in the internet world is a very small community, just as SEO is a very small community when compared to the whole internet. If you want people to actually use your gadget, make it serve a simple and useful purpose to your community.
The Sphinn Google gadget and the Sphinn Facebook gadget combined are used only by a few hundred people. Guess what? The Sphinn community is comprised of just a few hundred active people. Those gadgets serve their purpose well, and the community uses them. I am by no means an active user of Sphinn, but I have the Facebook app and I always scan the top stories displayed in that app. If one interests me, I will click the link and read the story. That app isn’t just useful to the avidly active members of a community, it is useful to inactive members as well. I visit Sphinn more often than I normally would because of that app.
If Sphinn made a gadget with dancing elves and a flash game, you know what?
Wouldn’t be useful, and wouldn’t be used by their community, so interaction wouldn’t really occur.
If you think that gadgets are just some form of creating links than you are thinking sorta dumb.
Interaction, brand recognition, and actual business are better than links.
As I often remind people… links are not the goal, links are a means to a goal.
Your goal is to do business on the web and have traffic. I have made several gadgets for companies where the gadgets are used by less than 5000 people, but create tens of thousands of dollars in actual business transactions every month. I made one that has less than 2000 active users that actually creates hundreds of thousands of dollars in transactions per month.
If you want to keep your brand in front of the eyes of your potential clients, if you want people to use your services rather than your competitors, if you want targeted traffic, then in all honesty I can say…
Useful is better than viral.