Saturday, August 19, 2006

Second Life Convention: RL Business in SL

How are RL businesses working in SL - a group panel lead by Eric Rice (nee Spin Martin and the man in the photo in orange) of Hipcast. Panelists include Sibley Verbeck of The Electric Sheep Company, Kimberly Rufer-Bach of The Magicians, Rueben Steiger of Millions of Us, Boliver Oddfellow of Infinite Visions Media and Nick Laurence of Rivers Run Red.

You don't look at SL as a confined business, but a bigger picture that shows consumers are tired of being marketed to, but you work with them. It does take a lot of bravery to work within these new confines, but companies do need to embrace the new mediums.

Integrated campaigns with blogs, MySpace, YouTube and SecondLife - the most immersive in the social media spectrum. Unless you create value and commit to the long term to the residents of SL - a different culture than other communities - then get out of SL. Some companies do get, and the other ones do not. If they companies (or the marketing/PR firm that pretends to understand SL) do not get the value part of SL - working with the community, bring value and worth to the client - then they should not recommend such tactics.

You do not sell to SL - but participate. You participate in a way that makes sense, not just to sell. If you just try to sell, you are going to be told to "get the hell out of here" by these companies, and by some of the firms.

What the companies are doing is leading an onslaught, a way that brands and companies and experiences can go into SL, but also the users that want the experience and then come into the world (power users and newbies). You want to see the experience go well, and while no one knows what that means, and while we run a company but a lot of the group is thinking about the issues on how it best works with the community.

SL is an excellent way to engage the community, offer things new to the communities and the brands, a way to speak and have a relationship with the brands. We live with these brands, they are in our world, and it's a way to make them a part of the world we can live in.

The theme of participation is pretty standard - don't let the man annoy us. But, a lot of SL'ers are making their own brands. There needs to be a balance between the major brands, and the SL'ers that like to build their own brands. What is that balance?

If you think about it, brands comes from branding cows - it is companies branding you, owning you. If you want a big PR splash for your efforts, save your time and money. Consumers are not stupid, and you will do yourself more harm than good by going into SL. You are going to leave your brand as a ghost town - it's about a sustained commitment. The companies that are brave enough to go forward, to keep their builds interesting, they are going to have to program content. Such as major wrap ads - perform live, entertainers. It gives you something cool. The net-net if you follow a rule book is a good thing for both SL'ers and corporations.

If you are not in SL, and try to shoe horn your ideas in SL without stepping foot into them ... it is not going to work. The community drives the acceptance.

Media is changing how we work in SL as well. We can take the RL and SL, and blend it into one experience. Breaking down the fourth wall, mixing reality. It's where we have artists - movies or musicians - becomes part of the community, and having the conversation in the world. It is much about a sustained appearance, opening up the accessibility to the brands itself. Giving these people the new arena to engage with the public to interact with the "stars" - the new community interaction.

Right now, when a company goes into SL, it is still a big PR story. We are all trying to steer companies to do it right, get companies to do something of real meaning and value (the first stage). The thing for the large corporations is that they are trying to set up barriers to competitors from coming into SL - how do we as SL'ers make sure that companies do not interfere with the people who just want to do their thing in SL, or other companies ...

How do we measure return, though. Basically, SL is a fledgling environment, but you have some demographic data from SL, and add subjective analysis - cultural tastemakers in both RL and SL. If you do something in SL, you can measure the people that do come to it. The way that the content is portable - RSS, press mentions, YouTube videos - it's a composite of all the media to measure.

Updated with photos of Millions of Us and Rivers Run Red peeps. :)

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