Thursday, May 10, 2007

Inside Out: Blogs and the Virtual World of Second Life

The blogging world has moved beyond our first life and now encompasses Second Life. Second Life is an online community that exchanges real currency and currently has over six million users. Developed by Linden Lab, it enables its users, called "Residents," to interact with each other through motional avatars. These residents can explore Second Life, meet other residents, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade items (virtual property) with one another. As Second Life has gained popularity, bloggers have taken what is occurring inside Second Life and begun discussing it in the form of blogs in the real world. This has created an extremely effective form of marketing for both Second Life and the companies that participate in this virtual world. Many blogs, such as Second Life Insider, provide daily accounts of the goings on in Second Life. Much like a blog that concentrates on a particular city or town, these blogs provide daily updates on Second Life, including news, gossip and financial recaps for the day.

Most importantly, these blogs often highlight the activities of companies who are testing new products in Second Life. For example, Starwood Hotels tested its new brand of Aloft hotels in September by building a virtual one in Second Life and hosting an open house to obtain feedback. After receiving advice on the look and design, Starwood Hotels re-opened the Aloft hotel on Tuesday, May 8th, incorporating many of the suggestions made by the residents. The re-opening of the Aloft brand hotel piqued the attention of a blogger on Second Life Insider, helping to translate brand awareness from Second Life to the real world and generating buzz that is extremely viral in its nature. Even more impressive is the fact that this recent post provided a link to the “Aloft in Second Life” website, thereby directing readers of this highly popular blog to another blog dedicated solely to the virtual aloft.

Now let’s be clear - smart companies know how this works. By testing a product or purchasing land in Second Life, companies such as Starwood Hotels generate substantial buzz for their company with minimal investment of resources. They are well aware that their actions may garner them a spot on a Second Life related blog and behave with this in mind. In the case of Starwood Hotels, they became the first company in history to open a new hotel brand inside a virtual world. And in order to keep people talking about the Aloft hotel brand they have created a contest in which the land upon which the hotel currently stands will be given to the resident who best explains how they will use it. In order to enter the contest, residents must submit their entry to the aloft blog. Is this a coincidence? Of course not. But it works, and the good companies know this. They understand the power of Second Life and its associated blogs as a marketing tool, and as a result, they should be adequately rewarded with increased publicity and brand awareness. It goes to show that when companies utilize multiple forms of social media simultaneously, they can generate a degree of word of mouth nearly impossible to do so otherwise.

Until Next Time…
If you are interested in learning more about the world of Second Life, you can join a group of IMC students from Northwestern University (Kate, Chin, Shrina, Tip, Benz, and Shivram) at the Gronstedt Group Train for Success on May 16th at 9pm for a provocative lecture regarding marketing strategies and techniques within Second Life. They will discuss opportunities within the site, fun Second Life facts, companies currently utilizing SL marketing and future prospects. Additionally, a SL party with snacks and drinks will be held in the McCormick Tribune Center room 3-119 on the Northwestern campus prior to the event to assist those who have not yet created an avatar.


Shivram said...

Thanks for the shout out, remember to come to our event this wed at 9pm in the Gronstedt train for Second Life Marketing Excitement!

Eric said...

Hi All,

I think lots of people must have fun in Second Life now. Please join the "Ultimate Dance Off Contest" held by Shake Your Oodle Team(Shaun Ching, Paul Hsu,
Eric Lin, Yara Najjar,
Relvin Sun, Chinta Wajeepolkumheng)at 9 p.m, on 5/17 (Thur.)
Let's dance with your beloved IMC professors!!

See you guys there!

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