Seven reasons your organization should consider Second Life in 2007

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I'll remember 2006 as the year when people stopped staring at me blankly when I mentioned my involvement in the virtual world of Second Life. Sure, I still get plenty of questions, but more and more people have heard about this new space where you can create a digital body that walks around and chats with people and buys stuff. Maybe they read a newspaper article describing it as online game, or maybe they read a business story that called it the next big marketplace. But 2006 was the year that blank stares turned into vague nods.

2007 will be the year those vague nods turn into people saying, "yeah, I just logged in!" At the rate Second Life is growing -- from 100,000 registered users a year ago to one million in October, and now all the way up to two million -- it may be over thirty million a year from now. At thirty million users Second Life is no longer a sideshow, but is something everyone has heard of and many people are experiencing for themselves.

What does that mean for organizations who are trying to stay in touch with customers or supporters -- people who are more and more likely to be in Second Life, and spending more and more time in SL once they get there? It means 2007 is the year those organizations have to figure out Second Life for themselves, and in many cases, establish some sort of Second Life presence.

So, why should your organization think about establishing a presence in Second Life this year? Let me give you seven good reasons.

1. Tap into immersive marketing

2006 saw Second Life emerge as a cutting-edge communications and simulation platform. Just as the web is already replacing and extending the capabilities of traditional print media, Second Life is likewise extending the capabilities of broadcast media and chat. Second Life now surpasses the intensity of broadcast advertising at an even more favourable price point than print. So shake out that ad budget and consider where your dollars are best spent.

2. Earn media coverage

When you invest in a Second Life presence, it's not like you're just advertising to people in Second Life. At this point, simply being a real-world organization with a presence in Second Life is enough to guarantee media interest. However, we’re already seeing a shift away from that, to one where media organizations are not simply content to report on yet another company entering Second Life, but rather, are interested in talking about truly novel uses of virtual worlds. 2007 will see a shift towards media coverage of SL being limited to applications that feature interactivity and community networking. But if you're one of the organizations smart enough to do something interesting, a Second Life presence is still a great way to get free media coverage.

3. Get in on the ground floor

While it's becoming harder to catch people's attention in Second Life, it's still much easier now than it will be in another year or two. As more people and more organizations get into Second Life it's going to become harder -- and more expensive -- to catch people's attention. But by establishing your presence now, you create a profile that will grow as Second Life grows -- the same way that early bloggers have grown into massive audiences as blogging has taken off. As Second Life grows, more people want to use it, and more people want to do business with the organizations who have been around a while.

And don't forget the grandchildren factor: don't you want to tell your grandkids that you got into SL before it got massive and commercialized?

4. Make your web site work harder

A Second Life presence is a great complement to an existing web presence, marketing site or online community. By creating an SL space for members of your online community, you give them a meeting place where they can cement the relationships they're establishing on the web. A Second Life presence also gives your users a chance to directly experience the things they're talking about on the community site. A Second Life simulation can illustrate or elaborate on ideas or information you present on your web site.

5. Amplify your live events

Live events are very popular in Second Life (sometimes TOO popular: a Second Life can actually get filled to capacity during a popular event). Holding an event in Second Life is a great way to make a real-life event accessible to people who can't join you in person. You can hold an event simultaneously in both real life and a corresponding SL space, allowing remote guests to participate and feel as if they’re actually there. You can make your real-life meeting reach further by holding a parallel event in Second Life, or even hold your event in SL entirely.

6. Conquer new markets

I sometimes like to describe Second Life as being like a grown-up version of Lego and Barbies; it's a playful space, where people spend a lot of time building things and dressing up. They spend real dollars on all this fun: hundreds of people are now making a full-time living by selling products and services in Second Life, and thousands more are making something between latte money and a second income. If you sell virtual versions of your products in Second Life -- or run a virtual version of a fundraising campaign -- you can earn Second Life Linden dollars that convert into real-world money. This is more than just a new market and revenue stream: it's a great way to demonstrate your real-world products or message.

7. Play a leadership role

Second Life grew quickly last year, but these are still early days compared to the role it's going to play in our lives in another five or ten years. Maybe the virtual world we end up living in won't look exactly like today's Second Life, but as the biggest virtual world out there (by far!) Second Life is going to have a big impact on how our virtual lives evolve. By getting involved with Second Life now, you have a chance to shape the market, culture and politics of an important online space -- an online space that will become the face of the Internet in the years ahead.


C.C. Chapman says

January 2, 2007 - 6:41am
A very powerful and dead on list! Great to see more people talking about new marketing such as this! Glad I found your blog.

Clay Shirky says

January 4, 2007 - 9:23am
Second Life doesn't have 2 million registered users. They have recorded two million signups, a very different thing. At least 20% of the most recent million signups have never even signed in, there is an unknown amount of double-counting because of the 'multiple avatars per account' issue, and after that, as the CEO and CTO have recently said, there is a 90% bailout rate. If you are going to make an argument for in-world marketing, you should at least use real numbers, not "Resident" numbers.

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