Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Second Life, brands, and theatre :) #SL

A friend of mine told me he met with an prominent Ad agency who told him "second life is dead" and my friend shares the opinion. The Marketing industry is  not interested, the hype turned out to just be hype, they feel SL was a scam and have moved onto the bigger players in Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, Quora and 4Square. 

I've watched as Facebook and twitter find what they are, what place they can perform best in the industry and flourish. I use Facebook and twitter, mostly twitter. Its very useful and it's part of every minute of my life now, i'm constantly bombarded with information from my friends and others that i follow with interest. Over half of my twitter feeds relate to my Second Life existence.

Second life was never the place for the digital marketing industry to muscle in and build their own coca cola islands, looking back at it now i wonder who ever thought that would have worked. And then for M Linden to come in and try repackaging SL exclusively to business as a glorified and impractical conference room was… unimaginative.

So i think the reason so many are excited about the new CEO of second life Rod Humble is because he's the first to hit nails in his outlook on Second Life. Suddenly there is a flurry of ideas being thrown out in the hope of nudging Second life in a direction that will perform in the industry.

The first idea i want to share was posted by Gianna Borgnine who made a good case for why it's ridiculous to compare Second Life to the success paths of Facebook, twitter and other social info hubs. 

"Today we live in a “NOW” society.  We want things to be quick and easy.   Social media gives us the ability to check in and check out in a few seconds.   The problem with social media is that the connections we make there can often on there own be superficial." 
"So why use virtual worlds?  Because more than any other space, people are engaging/collaborating/creating/etc in virtual worlds in a  uncommonly immersive way that is highly emotionally and significant.  A place where you can not only be part of the story, you can also create it.    It’s hands on.  I don’t want to just read about something, I want to do it!  I want to experience it myself."

John Pathfinder Lester also takes a similar view on his blog.

"Lightweight social media platforms are like magazines.  Virtual Worlds are like participatory theatre."

Another favourite idea about Second Life is by Tom Boellstorff an anthropologist i became aware of thanks to an awesome article by Dusan Writer, where he touched upon the concept of Digital Arts & Crafts, an idea that those who create homes, games, clothes, user generated content are engaged in Digital Art & Crafts. 

"what’s happening here where in what’s supposed to be the age of information, we’re getting all of this stuff happening in virtual worlds about craft, not about knowing about houses in Second Life, but about building a house in Second Life. Building relationships and all the crafting stuff seems to be so important."
"what if this actually may be not the age of information or only information, but about the age of craft or about sort of a new working towards craft. "

This made perfect sense to me as a Steampunk which has been referred to as the new arts and crafts movement.

Understanding it the way i do now it seems ridiculous for companies to come into SL to set up Coca Cola island, or spam our profile and search pages with adverts when SL residents are only interested in what they craft for themselves and their friends. It's possible that Second Life and virtual world user generated content has yet to reach it's actual potential in the industry where money moves to who ever is selling your attention most.

My good friend that i mentioned at the start entertains the possibility that advertising could shift to 'community driven marketing' online.

"We’re beginning to see some bigger transformations in the market that hint at a future free of advertising, at least in its current form. Take the viral nature of Groupon, the power of the social graph and some sort of rewards or affiliation model, and we could find ourselves with a much more efficient mechanism for passing on marketing messages."
"Finally, let’s remove the ads altogether and simply reward those who influence their social network to buy. We find the influential people through studying their online behaviour and engage them directly in the job of selling. The rewards don’t need to be financial but could be exclusive access to brands or products, even just badges of recognition."

For second life to be in a position to take part in this future of marketing, it needs to solve the major issue of complexity. People need to be able to enter SL as if visiting a digital theatre that they heard about via their twitter account, then two hours later they log off with a happy memory. No issues with controls, no issues with hardware, no lag, and whats pleasing a lot of people is that Rod Humble seems to feel the same.

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