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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  1. Jeremy, I've been in SL 2 years running a large inworld mainland rentals business so I get to work with a lot of different kinds of people.

    It strikes me that the handful of "metaverse consultants" like Electric Sheep, Millions of Us, etc. who have parlayed their inworld experience and connections to Linden Lab into lucrative businesses are in a sense themselves trying to act as gate-keepers now -- and this is probably unnecessary. In some ways,l they're overcomplexifying the world of Second Life in part to sell their own services. That's to be expected, and their servers will be needed, even if hyped far less. But many, many people successfully enter and engage with SL in a huge variety of ways for fun, non-profit, and profit, and it's getting easier, not harder, and new group tools coming next week will make management of a product even better.

    There isn't any such thing as "the community" in Second Life -- it's actually a hugely atomized and sporadic population and the "communities" that have identity and visibility and are "taste-makers" are very diverse, i.e. everything from Buddhists to Goreans to furries to Siths and numerous people uninvolved in any of these role-playing activities who are merely there socializing and looking for partners or to work a business.

    Any business from the "outside" large or small can enter Second Life at any end of the spectrum on their own, without permission or hand-holding, by taking a free account and just flying around to explore or buying an island for $1250 and setting up a conference center or store. If you have no staff available familiar with programming or 3-D building, it will take at least 30 days to get some rough familiarity with the tools yourself, but there are enough prefabs, inworld services, and classes that the way is very much paved for you. You can interact with others as much or as little as you like.

    It's true that you're likely to be only a one-hit wonder if you pin your success on the "first to do X in SL" strategy -- those niches are rapidly filling. But if you have "value-add" like a concert or a live radio program or authors to meet, you have to be very conscious of the limitations -- to avoid enraging the people beyond the mere 40-100 special ones who can get on your simulator or 4-corners at a time, you have to figure out how to enable people to mix their home brews -- and that means making sure you have an absolutely locked-down absolutely trouble-free working URL that *works on land in SL* i.e. not "pls" etc but a numbered IP address to be pasted in the media parcels. Not rocket science.

    Taking your star quickly on flyabouts around to those networks of people in their villas/pubs/commons/palaces/beaches is also something nobody ever tries, they keep using the recipe of making the masses flock to these overloaded event sims, and that is just going to jam and break as a model sooner rather than later.

    The other value to provide is lasting interest "stickyness" on the parcel for asynchronous visits, i.e. music to hear by interacting, text/pictures to look at, interesting builds, socializing areas, boating, etc.

    There is a demonstrable way to measure advertising -- clickthrough rates measured by those actually teleporting to the parcel from the inworld classifieds ad, and the traffic numbers automatically posted on the land daily.

    People like me with indigenous businesses are hoping that both the metaverse sherpas and the big gentlemen explorers and East India Companies they bring into this country don't displace us; by not displacing us they can assure viability to the many other customers that we help sustain in the world while they are off somewhere else, having finished their 45 minutes in SL doing their ad campaigns.

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