One track I have been following here and there at the SLCC was the business track. While there have been some great presentation by e.g. Crayon/Coke or Jeff Barr there also have been some where I wondered if they really got Second Life. Let’s give it a name and let’s say that I think the “cluetrain factor” is somewhat missing.
So here are some examples of ideas which are mentioned a lot of times when it comes to marketing in Second Life:
Product incentives: give out freebies or lower priced products which are branded so people have a reason to come.
Money incentives: give out money to people in order to attract them to the location. This can be in form of simple camping chairs or some more elaborate method of winning something.
Location experience: The guys from Involve were talking a bit about that. It is about making your build not just a build but an experience by adding atmosphere, a central theme and a clear message. This might also include inviting other people to do that with you. While I do think this is very important I also do think that even this can only set the stage for what needs to come.
Call to Action?
There are also some things which seem to be missing in several coporate builds these days, the most important one a clear call to action. The resident comes and visits your site but all he can actually see is a shiny build and maybe some interactive goodies. This might keep him happy for 10 minutes and then he’s off. What is missing here is a goal of what you want the resident to do. Is there a product he maybe should buy? Should he at least sign up in a mailing list for further marketing? And so on. Just giving a link to your webpage and some video kiosk is not really enough.
Traffic is god
Now I made the experience that the main goal of many companies coming into Second Life is to have a lot of traffic. If they notice that traffic is not that good they usually want to change this by either using product or money incentives to make people come. But what does that actually mean? Don’t you think you have a problem if people do not come just because they want but because you pay them? IMHO this sounds very much like lying to yourself. You pay people to come and you have traffic but the final result has probably not change at all. Your brand will still stand for a boring SL presence, for quick money and people will surely not really interact with it. And the goal of an SL presence apparently should not only to have traffic.
The missing piece
People who have read the Cluetrain Manifesto should have guessed what is missing here: Conversation. The internet these days is clearly about conversations about all and everything. You wanna buy a new camera? You probably don’t head to the website of the creator but instead google it and search for some reviews online. You migh also ask in forums or blogs. The original creator is mostly left out of the equation. Sometimes you don’t even find complete specsheets on these websites but only on third party offerings like shops.
Now Second Life is a great chance of changing that and finally get in touch with your customer again. And even not only Second Life but the whole web2.0 world. Be it blogging, podcasting or videocasting. All of these things can help to create a conversation and get a bit more personal than your average brand these days. One good example here is proabably Jeff Barr who even without having a build in Second Life was just all over and is well known by now. And while this was simply impossibe in the pre-internet days it is possible now. And this is a big chance to finally get in touch with your customers again.
So if you build something in Second Life, don’t think so much about the build, think about a conversation with residents!
What is the result?
If you do it right then you will simply have more loyal customers. They feel that you care about them and they will go out and spread the word, defend you in difficult situations and maybe give you valuable tips on what you can make better (ask Linden Lab about that 😉 ).
The main problem here is of course metrics because measuring traffic is not really the key metric here. You somehow have to measure how good word of mouth is working and it also very much depends on the campaign. One possibility is of course to measure blog mentions and the like. But if you look at what you do you certainly can find more usefull metrics. For Virtual Thirst for instance it could have been number of entries.
This sort of also renders most of the traffic tools useless. They might help in analyzing where you can improve your sim maybe but I doubt that they really can measure the success of your presence. Tools developed for the web might not really work in Second Life. And also tools created for old school marketing like conversion rates and the like are not really applicable 1:1 to Second Life. I guess some research needs to and will go into that.
Some brands might have moved out of Second Life again because all those effects promised by mainstream press have not become true. They now might blame Second Life for that but the truth is that they need to blame themselves for that. The hope is now that some companies start to understand the potential a virtual world like Second Life has and that they learn how to utilize it. Once this has become a critical mass of it’s own companies and customers a like should be happy to talk again to each other.