Thursday, December 11, 2008

Real Life in Second Life: RL Businesses Must Go Beyond SL Advertising by SLentrepreneur Magazine's Feldpar Epstein

Editorial By Feldpar Epstein ( Staff Writer)

- December 10th, 2008

It’s rare to hear about real life business success stories in Second Life.

The big ticket names – Pontiac, Adidas, Reebok, AOL, BMW, Aloft - seem to come - and then go. More to the point, they rush in with a big, splashy musical number and then take one of two routes out: they leave in a huff and a flurry of media attention, or they fade into nothingness before disappearing in the night. It seems that the louder a business yells about their entry in Second Life, the more likely it is that they will soon depart without fulfilling their objectives. These big-name businesses rely on conventional media to make a big noise about their entries into Second Life – and they shout for all to hear that they have left again. A Second Life build can merely be an excuse to get quick cheap media coverage - and for that an exit is just as good as an entrance.

On the other hand, there are just as many – if not more – businesses coming into Second Life with little or no fanfare - and staying long term. These companies are often not using Second Life as an advertising vehicle – or at least, not exclusively. Instead, they are using Second Life for their own purposes, and the builds they create, and the people they bring to Second Life, generate the Second Life community’s interest in the business. IBM and Cisco have developed facilities in Second Life for their own people to interact and collaborate with and these have been better tools for exposure than any unimaginative and sterile advertising-only build could ever hope to be. And by extension, they also have additional benefits not traditionally associated with advertising.

Another case in point is the CPA Island ( build. The MACPA (Maryland Certified Practicing Accountants) run conferences here on a regular basis; CPAs can attend these conferences in Second Life to earn CPE credit (this is a points system for the ongoing education of CPAs). The MACPA have engaged speakers from across the globe to lecture on a wide variety of topics; they started in the middle of this year, and the conferences have been so successful that they plan to continue into the foreseeable future. It has also raised the profile of CPAs within the consciousness of Second Life users.

As a counterpoint to companies that do well in Second Life because they are looking to do more than just jam advertising into people’s mouths, there is at least one notable company which has been successful in using Second Life as a more traditional advertising vehicle. Contrary to popular wisdom, Coca Cola have not withdrawn their presence from Second Life – in fact, they chose not to have a permanent presence in Second Life, choosing instead to rent space from Crayon for the duration of their campaign. Their intention was always to have temporary builds that would last the lifetime of each campaign. Indeed, the entire Coca Cola campaign was run with full intent and self-awareness. They determined their criteria for success before the campaign began. They worked with the existing market, instead of working against it or ignoring it entirely. They measured their successes according to their criteria. They are now spending a period of time learning from both the successes and failures of their campaign before they attempt to put another one together. The whole project was more like a well-run scientific experiment and less like a traditional marketing campaign.

Key points:

*Second Life can be used as an environment to be utilized for
interaction, collaboration and training of your staff. This
use doubles as a bit of advertising for your company that might prove
palatable to the general public.
* Using Second Life as an advertising-only vehicle is relatively
pointless unless you are willing to experiment somewhat rigorously
and learn from your mistakes.

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