Monday, August 21, 2006

Second Life Convention: SL Views and my views

The second day of SLCC has been pretty much a full day of sessions, originally I was planning to go to the non-profits in Second Life (which was led by the person from American Cancer Society), and wanted to tie that into Camp ASCCA (the blog has uploaded its 300th media clip today, congrats Robert French) and Ike Piggot, who has put Accentuate the Positive 2.0 on hold for a big job at American Red Cross....

But, I woke up late and then got a spot in the SL Views session. The first half was a more deep tech session, but I was able to put in some views as a newbie and consumer thinking, and the second half was lead by Catherine Smith, director of marketing, on marketing SL and marketing SL companies.

The session was off-the-record, so I can not go too in-depth on what happened, but the interesting point is that SL businesses have the same issues and questions about PR in SL as small businesses in RL have about PR in RL.

The SLCC was an interesting event. Some of the people were what you expected at an avatar / online world conference, and others were more surprising. Yes, I bought the T-shirt, and yes, once again there seemed to be just me and one other PR person there to learn / experience SL moreso, and be able to give better counsel to clients and our agencies. I was a little suprised that Text 100 was not there, especially after their big to-do about their SL office, but not surprised that other PR voices who hype SL were not there. But, then again, this seemed like a replay of Vloggercon - some people just talk the talk, while some of us go to the events to participate. And, well, the social part of social media is participation, but some people do not get that.

A note to self for work: just because it's cool, does not mean you need to shoe horn every damned client into the environment, or open an office. How about just experiencing the environment, learn what it is about, and if you think you have a client or product that makes sense and gives something to the community - repeating that, gives something to the community - then move forward with an SL plan and strategy.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Second Life Convention - Building Your Brand and Marketing

With Second Life, it is about a relationship. At the end of the day, it's about harnessing the community and the brand for the better good. Building the new brands with the community - it is a new revenue stream for traditional companies.

Building trust, engaging the community - it is about how the brands learn to work with the community. It is not much different - nor are the challenges different - from opening companies or stores in RL versus SL.

The biggest misperception that there is a big difference between corporate identity and manufactured goods. The difference is that it's not enough to stick your name on the package. The brand is more than just the name, but an identity. As a brand manager, do not be afraid to come together with own groups for your own brands to be stronger, and do not forget that you are a customer yourself.

The brand is defined by the quality of work, the customer service, all across the board. You build it across the board. It's the holistic approach, the word of mouth aspect. With WOM, don't be afraid to tell your own story. That's part of what we buy into - don't be afraid to give away your stock to create evangelists, giving back to the SL community.

And, it has been interesting that the SL businesses have created off world / RL cross-platform marketing. Many businesses have launched Web sites in the RL to promote the business, build the reputation of quality online in RL, as well as in SL. It is about creating your own marketing strategy that works in both RL and SL. And, with a Web site, you reach potential audiences.

Harness the brands as business, and when Duran Duran came into SL, the fans came into SL without much knowledge of SL. The brand of Duran Duran extended beyond RL into SL, the people came to SL, and then these new SL'ers went around and bought clothes, brought in more to the SL community.

Reflecting RL, the SL businesses have learned that they need to go to where the people are. It's easier to find the green dots - the new SL'er members - and to go to them to sell, find where they are. Just like RL businesses open in areas where the new customers are, the SL businesses learned to do the same.

There was also a lot of Aimee Weber love ... whom I already interviewed, and will be posting later this week.

Updated with photo of panel.

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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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Second Life Convention Intro and Mitch Kapor

At the Second Life Convention, the presentation is about the convergence of Second Life and Real Life. How people are reacting, interacting within their Second Life is affecting (in a positive way) the way the react in their Real Life. In the movies that are being shown, one person met another person in SL, fell in love, moved and married. One person became a Buddhist, built a full Buddhist temple in SecondLife for others to find relaxation - with a always-on sunset for people to have the relaxed set of mind. Pictured to the left is the founder, Philip Rosedale. :)

The keynote is by Mitch Kapor (on stage below) - his blog is here - who turns out to be an (early) investor in SL, and is speaking on the larger question and how disruptive technologies are changing the world, and might start small but tend to be huge influences on the world. When things come around, there is always a small group of early adopters. As technology improves, price drops, more value - there is the second wave of pragmatists who early on spot the value, and find ways to use it. Then, there's the large block of the mainstream audience that come along, and then there are the laggards - the last to adopt.

Enthusiast, fan, supporter, evangelist - it is about the community, technology and how it is transformative. And, while SecondLife is "not ready for everyone," as others note - it will be. It's at the early adopters, the early stage - and we will see maturation growth and further change.

Hard to grasp what the long-term impact of SecondLife is going to be, though - in the short term, there is a chasm between the power users and the newbies, and it's just not ready for primetime (and this will not change overnight). It will become mainstream, just not overnight... . But, you have things like the American Cancer Society opening an office in SecondLife, and you see that there is value because members in SL and ACS RL'ers wanted to do outreach within the community, and find ways to share information.

Updated with photos and captions ...

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Guest Blogger: The Poor Girl's Guide to PR

A buncha months back, I was interviewed by Aliza Sherman Risdahl for her new book, The Everything Blogging Book. In the small world of the small world, it turned out that Pilar and I have a friend in common, Tery Spataro of Daily Eats. So, when Aliza sent out a request for a virtual book tour because she was unable to go out on a real one (pregnancy can do that), I said "sure, send me a post that is on PR for the book, a photo, and we're good to go."

So, here it is ...

Okay, so I'm not (too) poor but I'm not rich either. I'm on a budget. And like anyone on a budget, public relations sometimes seems to be a challenge. But not if you get creative.

My new (6th) book is out this month - "The Everything Blogging Book" - and because it was a "work-for-hire" project instead of a regular book deal like my previous books, there is no budget for promoting the book other than their already established formula.

That means:

1. No book tour
2. No promotional materials
3. No financial support if I do anything to promote the book

I can live with this because I've had to personally promote my previous books after the first few weeks of publication anyway - that is just how the book publishing industry works. Books are promoted for a few weeks and unless something totally unusual happens (accidentally get on Oprah, for instance), most book publisher publicists move on to the next book without looking back.

So what does a gal with a book do to get the word about about her book? Well, since the book is about blogging, someone suggested that I do a "virtual book tour" to promote my book on other blogs and Web sites. I wish I could claim this idea as my own, but I'm woman enough to admit it came from another. Unfortunately now I cannot remember who or I'd give them kudos and credit.

"The Everything Blogging Book" is not rocket science explained. It is an easy-to-understand guide to using and creating blogs for personal and professional gain. It is part of "The Everything" series of how-to books by Adams Media.

The audience for the book is anyone who doesn't really yet get the blogging thing but it may also be a fast, fun read for someone with more blogging experience. I've included quotes from a variety of bloggers throughout the book to add their diverse voices. I also
mention a ton of blogs throughout the text so it is a great way to find new and unexpected blogs.

How did I do "The Tour"?

I love blogs and I love email. Setting up the tour consisted of the following:

1. Email everyone I mentioned in my blog book and ask them if they'd like to be a part of the tour. Also invite other bloggers and Web publishers to be a part of it.
2. Either participate in a Q&A composed by the blogger or write a guest blog post, tailored specifically for the host blog.

Over the course of August, I will add new virtual book tour "appearances" to my official book blog at where I also archive links to each participating blog. And I'm promoting the tour on my other blogs/sites where appropriate.

I also did a quickie press release through PRWeb to announce the tour.

Total Cost for this:
$40 for PRWeb ... and a few hours of my time.

Total Value:

Have I changed the world with this virtual blog book tour? Of course not. I'm sure I'm not the first to do this and not the last. Have I sold more books because of it? Well, that remains to be seen but ultimately, I had to determine my major goal for this tactic. It was
not to sell more books because frankly, on a work for hire book project, you rarely see royalties.

My main motivation for getting out there to promote the book was to get back out there. I've been on a bit of a hiatus, I'm living in Alaska so am far removed from most things, and I wanted to let people know I'm still alive and kicking, still doing some Internet stuff. So the tour will certainly help me accomplish this more modest goal.

I love the Internet. I love blogging. And I couldn't think of a better way to promote a book, get exposure and make connections than hop, skip and jump to blogs around the world!

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Stranger in a Strange Land: My Adventure at BlogHer

This past weekend was BlogHer. I only was able to make it down for the Saturday sessions, but overall, I think it was a great event. In a sentence, it was the most valuable blogging-related event I have attended in the past year.

Now, some might think this is a little overblown, but, well, let them choke on their own bile. The event was how such blogging events should be: the newbies and the veterans getting together to discuss blogging and blogging practices. This is the only time that I have not seen the newbies attacked as idiots or undeserving the veterans attention, but rather working together to make the community better. Let me ask you: is that such a bad thing?

As others have noted, there was hugging and kissing and giggling - but that was pretty much just me, as I tend to hug and kiss people I know hello. And, well, I got to meet a lot of people that I read, but have not seen yet in person, or people that I met at the conference or people that are friends: Nellie Lide, Teresa Valdez Klein, Toby Bloomberg, Susan Getgood, Amy Gahran, Josh Hallett, Erin Caldwell, Robert Scoble, Stacy Libby ... the list goes on and on, and the people that I forgot, I apologize.

And, well, Lisa and Elisa and Jory did a great job - and that's not a shock. Yep, me talking to Jory and Elisa...

Well, read the other posts via Technorati. Check out the fast growing Flickr stream (thanks Josh). The people that weren't there, they just don't get it. They didn't feel the vibe, they didn't see the camaraderie. The show was well-done, it was smartly presented, and people built and supported a community.

Isn't that what blogging is about? Building and supporting the community? Of course. Or, well, maybe not because some people don't like to give up power.

Now, why was I there as a guy? To show off my orange Crocs. Okay, seriously, to me the BlogHer community is one of the most important for my profession. Simply stated. Plus, to find the next Martha Stewart and debate the morality of child outreach. :)

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Photo credits: Neezee and Hollyster.