The Second Life Bubble

July 10, 2007

So the marketing surge into Second Life seems to have slowed down amidst the many less than successful ventures some RL brands made into it. To be fair it’s probably a good thing, hoepfully it means that brands considering going in there will be more cautious and spend a little more time thinking about why exactly they’re doing it in the first place.

It’s also a time to reflect on what went right and what has gone wrong and what the solutions to these problems are. In relative terms there are popular, and therefore successful, sites but in comparison to say web traffic the weekly numbers are relatively low. I know not everyone agrees with Tateru’s method of collecting data, but her figures aren’t too out from the other data collection sources as I understand it. In her latest set of figures IBM sit at the top of the RL brand pile with almost 10,000 visits a week, but the first question is is this enough to convince other companies to come in, and secondly what exactly is it IBM want to get out of their presence and what do they actually get out of it.

Engagement is obviously something we can attempt to measure in both a qualitative and quantitative way, butmy issue with this approach is that engagement, if it is working effectively, should go beyond the confines of Second Life. My greatest concern about brands going into Second Life is that they consider it a self-sustaining ecology, that you can go into Second Life and, following the initial PR fanfare, not have to worry again about telling people you’re there. This is a logic that consistently goes against the grain of what brands strive for in real-life – salience and awareness – and this can make or break a brand. Having a great Second Life site is no good if nobody knows it’s there. In some ways Second Life appears to be the most porous of virtual worlds but it isn’t treated as such by those who stand to benefit from this fact the most.

Second Life isn’t a bubble, it isn’t an alternate reality, it’s not a fun simulation of real life it is one more node in a network of nodes that includes both new and old media, ranging from blogs to Sunday supplements and it should be treated as such. Its 3D engine may allow for different kind sof interactivity from a webpage, but a blog offers a different degree to a static website as does a wiki, but all three of these formats link to each other for mutual benefit.

The other issue realates to the otehr question I asked at the end of the second paragraph: what do brands want out of Second Life? If they just want to be part of the next gen, 3D, web 3.0 cutting edge then they’ll have to be satisfied with being a very small part. Brands need to set themselves concrete goals about what they want to achieve in Second Life and integrate this into their overall strategy, only then will they be able to say whether or not they have been successful or not.



  1. I think the key here is ‘concrete goals’. But most companies could actually afford to do some inworld familiarization. You don’t just ‘hop in’. You don’t just toss a newbie skin on a corporate avatar and fumble around – you look like what some think of corporations: corporate clones.

    People like people. What I find entertaining about this is that many companies want to be what I want them to be. But what I want them to be is themselves – not a reaction to questionable marketing demographics.

  2. The scary thing is that some companies do just want a ‘presence’, a glossy, but empty sim, and that’s that. There not interested in integrating it into their overall brand strategy nor are they concerned about engagement or ROI – crazy!!

    I guess these companies are using Second Life as a way to signal to their respective industries that they’re at the ‘cutting egde’ – must be immensely frustrating for the design agencies involved.

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