Residents of the virtual world Second Life act a lot like they do in the real world—they shop, they gamble, they hang out at clubs, and they don’t like it when companies assault them with marketing efforts. If you’re trying to help your company or your customers market products or services in Second Life, where more than 84 million real-world dollars changed hands in 2006, beware: Old-world advertising wisdom won’t play. For starters, don’t expect to make a splash with onetime efforts.
“Marketers like to be in on the newest trend. Some of them missed the YouTube/MySpace wave, and Second Life is their opportunity to get in on something cool,” says Marc Girolimetti, executive director of Green Grotto Studios. His interactive services agency helps companies design and create a brand presence in the new virtual medium. “The biggest mistake people make is thinking that because they are a well-known, global brand, people will flock to them,” he says.
Users don’t want to be sold to, they want an experience, he says. “Think long-term,” says Girolimetti. “Refresh your content daily.” Also, if you’re a retailer, have a virtual staff interact with users who enter your virtual establishment. Taking part in the community is essential, he says.
Second Life, launched in June 2003 and recently surpassing 2 million registered users, also gives companies a place to try new ideas and prototype products with online residents. Companies can track how people interact with their products. If you visit the Second Life Dell store, you can build your own computer—and Dell can track what’s popular in its in-world factory.
The best way for a company to interact with residents? Give an event they will remember, says Girolimetti: He recently promoted a Warner Home Video DVD release with an in-world party that included DJ performances and a media room that streamed movie clips, in addition to traditional banner promotions.