Is the Second Life hype brought on by overly eager marketing types, killing Second Life?

Yesterday my feed reader was bombarded with Norwegian articles and blog posts about Second Life. Now, being a ‘job hunter’ who wants to continue working within the virtual world field, I get quite excited about such days! When I hardly have time to read all the Norwegian news about a virtual world – that means my future job prospects are looking up, right? Ssshhhh – don’t answer that – let me continue being deluded, sometimes ignorance is bliss and hopeful! ;)

The attention, it seems, comes from Wired’s “How Madison Avenue Is Wasting Millions on a Deserted Second Life” by Frank Rose about how most places in Second Life are deserted and businesses aren’t finding the consumer wealth they were looking for. I’m not certain what to make of it all. Two thoughts spring to mind: 1) Refreshing to see Second Life getting som critical press coverage from Wired 2) Do I really care enough about Second Life to go defend it on the different critical Norwegian blogs and websites? Not really.

BUT! Being a job hunter and all, has made me consider venturing into the marketing world and I think I should have some form of clear opinion when it comes to the matters of businesses advertising in virtual worlds, like Second Life.

Now, from what I can gather there’s people in Norway traveling around the country promoting the use of Second Life using words like “It’s the next big thing” – “People live their lives here!” and the usual yoo haa. I honestly don’t know who these people are. I’ve only been to one and followed the liveblogging of another – and I have to agree with the skeptics that it does seem like a lot of hoopla hype.

The other day I met someone who worked in marketing who did the mistake of asking me what I do (or would like to do in my case). The response I got was a slammed head on the table and a big grunt and a lot of fed up moans followed by “Ohhhhhhhhhh! I’m so sick and tired of hearing about how you can live your second life online, and we have to advertise there just because some sad sods spend all there time there an blah blah blah! So sick of hearing that speech. They give it at every conference I go to!”.

Well this made me wonder:

1) Just how many conferences do marketing people go to in the course of a year? Are they underground? Can I come?
2) Who’s giving these presentations that’s making this person sick and disgusted with me just mentioning virtual worlds?
3) Is there too much focus on the fact that people are really interacting and really earning real money and really feeling real feelings that the reality behind what Second Life can offer becomes overshadowed by hype?
4) Isn’t all this desertion just demonstrating consumer and advertising trends? Marketing has changed or needs to change if it wants to be effective. I believe consumers are interested in dialog. We’re not as susceptible to just being told what to buy, we want responsive media. We want companies who actually want to listen to us.

As a consumer I’m becoming increasingly annoyed with how little availability some business’ offer. If I have to spend more than 5 minutes trying to find an e-mail adress or telephone number I get the feeling that this business does not want to talk to me. They really couldn’t care less about me. Which doesn’t exactly make me loyal.

I think the same goes for setting up business in Second Life. DnB Nor, a Norwegian bank, has set up beautifully in Second Life. But no one’s there. They have to give me a reason for going there. Why not use that lovely conference senter they’ve built to give small lectures? Have personal consultations for consumers thinking about loans or (gasp!) investing in a Norwegian company? I’m just saying that setting up shop and just screaming “BUY! BUY! BUY!” isn’t enough. And I think Second Life definitely provides a worthy platform for conversations like these. Even better now that there’s a potential for Second Life to be browser based.

But I may be wrong. And all the skeptics may be right.

Update: Oh dear me! The real debate unravels on Long Tail Anderson’s blog “Why I gave up on Second Life”. Much smarter people than myself. On a personal note, I’m kinda finding it odd that I’m defending Second Life so much when I haven’t really become a Second Lifer…uhm…yet.

2 thoughts on “Is the Second Life hype brought on by overly eager marketing types, killing Second Life?

  1. – I think what we’re seeing is a backlash on they hype about SL. In some respects it was quite damaging for SL that all of a sudden, from last fall on, ‘everbody’ in media+corporate world were heading there, and too many with no clear idea of what exactly they wanted to accomplish – except real life press coverage perhaps. I for one am genuinely trying to learn more about how companies think about SL and their presence there, but I’m hearing too much gibberish in the process. It’s similar to other types of social media like blogs or social networks: suddenly it’s become very cool to be there, but too many big movers don’t take the time to get acquainted with the basic rules of engagement in the new environment they’re operating in. In this respect, there is a very real danger that PRs and marketeers can tarnish the reputation of these tools as they don’t understand what they’re getting into, but try to squeeze them into the outdated business models they were taught in school. The concept of listening, as you touch upon, is still pretty foreign to too many in the corporate world, and especially in Norway…

  2. Yeah – why is that? Why aren’t corporations listening to our plea to be listened to? I find it odd.I also find it odd that professional pr companies don’t seem to be informed well enough – about anything web 2.0 (urgh – is second life web 2.0? or am I just boxing everything up?).Fair enough that I’ve been locked into a cyberbox for the last few years, focusing only on such matters and I shouldn’t expect everyone to be as concerned these issues as much as I am, but…isn’t it a bit troublesome that most people in pr and marketing that I meet are big questionmarks when I mention ‘gift economy’? But it’s good and comforting to know that you’re out there reporting things as they are and taking that investigate step forward. I always enjoy your articles!

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