Does Second Life Need Another Life?
Wired Magazine has pronounced Second Life dead.
This is the inevitable backlash against anything that draws a great deal of hype, but in this case I think there are legitimate questions to ask. Is Second Life merely a way for the traditional brand marketer to seem cool while doing the same old stuff?
I suspect for some that it is. When Pontiac uses Second Life for marketing, I can't help but wonder if putting a replica of a real car in a virtual world is the least cool thing there.
If marketers want to be in Second Life because their customers are there, that smacks of the same old advertising that we do in print, on TV, or on billboards, for that matter. It also smacks of delusion-Wired says that only 100,000 Americans venture into Second Life each week.
So what is Second Life good for? My company, IBM, sets up events where people can interact and see presentations, which I think is a good experiment. But as I wrote recently, I wonder if private virtual worlds might actually serve these purposes better.
You get the ability to talk to your customers by name, you know who you are telling your secrets to, and you can measure everything they do-those are qualities that marketers cherish that Second Life struggles to fulfill.
I think the main reason to be in Second Life is to experiment. Looking for immediate payback may miss the point-you really need to learn how to operate in this new kind of environment, regardless of whether Second Life will take off and be that mainstream marketing vehicle or not.
Something will come along (or more likely, dozens of somethings) that will allow people to interact using these virtual techniques. Marketers need to learn how to operate in those worlds and experimentation is the only way to do it.
Because it is experimentation, however, you might want to figure out how to do it for as low a cost as possible. Maybe, like with most bouts of irrational exuberance, it's not what marketers are experimenting with, but instead how much cash they are blowing along the way.
Marketers who can get most of the learning while keeping most of the cash in their pockets are the ones who will truly be rewarded. So, can you experiment in private virtual worlds for a fraction of the price? I'd love to hear from someone who is doing that.
Speaking of hearing from folks, I have heard from just one person entering my latest (failed) contest. If you have a success story to pass along of how to "do it wrong quickly," please let me know so you can win a free copy of my book.
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Copyright Mike Moran
Mike Moran is an IBM Distinguished Engineer, expert on Internet marketing, and the author of Search Engine Marketing, Inc., the best-selling book on search marketing. Mike also writes the popular Biznology newsletter and blog.
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