Thursday, July 12, 2007

My Random Rant on Second Life

Now that the corporate euphoria about Second Life is on the decline, I see my chance to jump on the bandwagon and throw in my two cents worth. Firms are starting to abandon their virtual corporate islands and business suites they had hailed as the future of marketing just months before.

In my opinion, the hype about the new platform came at an incredibly inopportune time (i.e. too early) for Linden Lab. Companies, intrigued by the media storm and the prospect of some free press attention, are making their decisions about setting up shop in Second Life now, while there are still lots of kinks to be worked out and acceptance is far from widespread. I have to admit that I am a big proponent of virtual environments and I see incredible potential for such platforms in the future (especially in a business context), but I also advised the company I work for, not to enter the metaverse just yet.

But it would be ignorant to blame the glitches and high learning curve of the platform for the poor performance most company projects display. A lot of companies simply refuse to see SL for what it really is. It makes little sense to conduct job interviews or sales meetings over a medium, which relies on text based communication (unless you use a third-party provider) and doesn’t allow you to see the body language of your opposite. Building enormous shrines of worship for your brand will not get consumers engaged. It is time to end the virtual corporate pissing contest and face some realities:

Second Life is not a search engine! This means, if people look for information about your company, they visit your website or read your blog. People want to be entertained in SL, so unless you have interesting, engaging content to offer (not to say that that can’t be informative at the same time), there is no point in joining second life. It might be fun to test drive a Mercedes, but what drives your potential costumers to come back a second or third time?

One company I would like to mention for doing a great job at creating a space, appropriate for the Second Life platform is GM. No matter what you read or hear about Second Life, one keyword keeps coming back: User-Created Content! On Motorati Island, GM has given users an opportunity to realize their car related projects for free. If this strategy will pay off for GM remains to be seen, but you have to commend them for knowing what they are getting into.

Of course I realize that there are many, many more pros and cons to Second Life, but they have been discussed ad nauseam in other blogs and articles. These are just some points that have been bugging me for a while.

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