KickApps Invites You to The Social Media Buffet

Call it social media à la carte.

With the release of version 3.0 of its Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) suite, KickApps is courting Web publishers looking to build a social dimension into their sites by adding widgets, media players, blogging or other user-generated content.

But you don’t need an engineering degree to give your site a Web 2.0 makeover.

The company’s SaaS applications range from simple, out-of-the-box deployments that less tech-savvy users can slap on their sites in a few mouse clicks, to a more advanced developer kit offering APIs for a full-blown widgetization.

“Our vision is to eliminate all barriers for publishers looking to deploy a wide range of social media applications at their own Web sites,” KickApps CEO Alex Blum said in a statement.

The idea of offering Web publishers a bevy of à la carte services, so customers can cherry-pick the social media applications that best fit their site and skill level, is reminiscent of the approach that IBM has taken with its social networking offerings for enterprises.

Of course, KickApps operates on the consumer side, where it finds itself in competition with companies like Pluck, which powers the social applications on the Web sites of media companies like The Washington Post and Discovery Communications.

KickApps has an impressive list of clients in its own right, including HBO, Cox Television and The New York Knicks, and it is growing quickly. KickApps serves about 14,000 customers already, and Blum told that it is adding new clients at a rate close to 500 a week.

Many clients simply enlist KickApps to embed a single interactive feature, like a programmable media player or a wiki, into their site. For small companies looking to build from the ground up, KickApps has a team of consultants at the ready.

Interestingly, KickApps also has partnerships with about 100 interactive advertising agencies. Blum describes the flow of traffic between his company and the agencies as a two-way street. When companies need major guidance on getting their interactive strategy going, KickApps can recommend an agency to help them launch; likewise, the partner agencies will often direct clients to KickApps to bake the social elements into their site.

The new version features a revamped affiliate center. This is the command room, where site operators monitor traffic and other engagement metrics. The affiliate center also contains an advertising manager, to help publishers monetize their online communities through link-ups with ad networks.

Like Pluck, KickApps features syndication to popular social networking sites, including Facebook and MySpace.

The widget studio offers default layouts and drag-and-drop authoring kits for beginners, but also offers more sophisticated tools for advanced Flash programmers. The widget studio is available in beta today, with the final version coming out in March.

KickApps promises to socialize any Web site with an SaaS suite that conforms to the scale of the company and the skill level of its staff. With Web 2.0 patrons accustomed to flitting in and out of wikis, blogs and on-demand video players as the whim strikes, KickApps’ strategy of serving up social media applications buffet-style seems in step with the times.

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