If you don’t know what Second Life is, it’s an online 3D social media environment that users experience through avatars. In Second Life, you (your avatar, that is) can be anyone you want to be. You can make friends, buy property and go to the cinema or the shopping mall. In short, you can do anything you can do in the “real” world. You can also do things you can’t do in the real world, such as fly.
Some think of it as a multi-user game that thousands of people can interact with and participate in at one time. However, Second Life is more than a game. It has also created a viable economy for virtual goods. Second Life businesses have sprung up selling virtual items as diverse as clothes, furniture, books, skateboards, even property.
The growth curve is similar to where blogging was 18-24 months ago. The user base is rapidly expanding – at around 20% a month. That’s without any marketing by Linden Lab, Second Life’s creators.
But I dug a bit deeper when I suggested to a client that they get a Second Life. I thought it was a good fit for the brand (I can’t disclose the company yet for confidentiality reasons). My client was a global corporation and having a presence in this new world made sense for them. But looking at the stats, having a presence on Second Life is not yet a way to win throngs of new customers. BBC hosted a 2-day concert which only attracted 6,000 users; in fact the maximum number of users that can attend an event at any one time is 60-100. That can make events like MLB’s home-run competition with an empty-looking stadium. Only 50 people turned up.
So if you’re not getting new customers, why get a Second Life? The answer is press coverage. There’s been a lot of buzz about the businesses in Second Life. In the past few months, Second Life has had press coverage in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Observer, Business Week Online, The Globe and Mail, Harvard Business Review, Forbes.com, USA Today, Times Online, The Economist, MSNBC.com and more.
If these are the kinds of publications that your client’s customers read, then you should consider Second Life as part of your marketing mix. But hurry, depending on what you build it could take at least two months to launch… and in six months you’ll no longer get the PR benefits of being an early corporate adopter.