By Kim Roach (c) 2006
Over 1 million people have traded in their real lives to explore an online world known as Second Life.
Second Life is a 3-D virtual world built entirely by its residents. This new world was released in 2003, before blogs and user-generated content hit the mainstream. Needless to say, Second Life was way ahead of its time.
However, Second Life still shows a very close resemblance to real life. Within the buzzing online world, people are buying houses, buying clothes (one of Second Life’s hottest industries), throwing parties, going to concerts, and taking their own pictures, and even opening up their own businesses.
American Apparel was the first “real world” company to open a store in the virtual world of Second Life. Their ultra-modern clothing store is located on a beach resort and has quickly become a hot-spot within Second Life. The launch of their new store has created a viral buzz that spread to Forbes, Business Week, and many other news outlets. The viral buzz has bolstered salÃ«s for their online and offline clothing.
A number of other real-world brands are getting involved as well. They include Intel, Nissan, Reuters, Sony BMG, Adidas, CNET, and Wired. Major marketers, advertising agencies, and news outfits are all starting to take part in Second Life.
And why not? Second Life recently hit one million members. Over $500,000 dollars is spent within Second Life every day. This is real monÃ«y, not just the Linden dollar, the universal currency within Second Life. A couple hundred people are even making a full-time living on Second Life. With these kind of numbers, this is certainly a platform that businesses should be looking at as a potential marketing opportunÃty. Second Life is a great way for businesses to reach consumers, test marketing strategies and release new product ideas with relatively little Ãnvestment.
Now, before you take your own business into this virtual world, you should first learn the marketing strategies that are required to successfully market your brand and products within Second Life. You will find that many of these tactics are quite similar to the search engine optimization strategies and online marketing tactics that you have been studying for years.
SEO, press, advertising, web design, alternative search engines, directory listings, link optimization, and classifieds can all be found within Second Life.
To begin, let’s get started with some familiar search engine optimization strategies.
When creating your own virtual real estate, you will need to include a few important keywords in the title, just like you would for your Web sites.
Remember to use terms that people would actually search for, not just your company name.
For example, if you are American Apparel and selling clothing, you might use the title, “American Apparel clothing and fashion”. This would work well because it includes keywords that avatars within Second Life are likely to search for.
You will also need a description for your virtual property, including more of your secondary keywords. Make sure it is enticing so that visitors will want to clÃck through to your store when searching within Second Life.
Staying with our example of American Apparel, you might use the following description.
“Find the hottest styles and latest fashions for your avatar. Whether you are looking for shirts, skirts, pants, shorts, or tank tops, you’ll find it all at American Apparel.”
This description uses inviting copy as well as secondary keywords that people may be searching for.
Your next step is to get your company listed in the Second Life directory. Make sure your virtual real estate is listed for your targeted keywords. This will help ensure that your listing shows up when doing a Find in-world search.
Building inbound links within Second Life is a little bit different from what you would normally do for your traditional Web sites. However, you can certainly take advantage of cross-promotion within this massive virtual landscape. Simply offer teleportation between your online virtual roperties and your partners. It may sound far-fetched now, but partnerships and joint ventures could very easily become mainstream in Second Life. When it does, linking to others will be as easy as setting up a teleport.
Your organic search campaign is very important within Second Life. However, you can also increase your exposure through paid advertising.
MetaAdverse, an advertising network for Second Life, has a database of properties in which marketers can post billboards. In fact, they even allow you to track your visitors based on the advertisements you place.
Unfortunately, paid advertising does have its drawbacks. Banners and other in-your-face advertisements have lost much of their value due to banner blindness. Within Second Life, avatars are quickly doing the same thing: ignoring the mass of advertising that has surrounded their virtual cities.
To succeed in Second Life, you must bring your prospects true value through an engaged online experience. Build relationships and add content that adds to their online entertainment. If you are a band, then put on a free concert within this massive virtual world. If you are a politician, why not hold a public debate? If you are a fashion designer, get involved in one of the Second Life fashion shows.
Pontiac has created a great example of creating an exciting user experience within Second Life. They have set up Motorati island, a 96-acre plot of land in Second Life where they sell virtual versions of the Pontiac Solstice GXP and stage races on their very own race track.
You must create an experience that is fun and exciting. People don’t come online to have the very same experiences they do offline.
Multiple Search Engines:
Much like the Internet, Second Life has one dominant search engine. It is located at the bottom of the screen within this virtual world and can be compared to Google in it’s domination. However, there are outside efforts to improve the Second Life search engines with secondary offerings. An example is Second411. This alternative search engine allows Second Life store owners to list all of their items within a consolidated shopping search engine.
To get the most amount of exposure, you need to be present in the main search engine as well as any alternative search engines that are created.
You should be running a classified ad every week within Second Life. Your classified listings come with basic statistics, so you’ll know exactly how many people are coming to your shop through your classified listing. If you find that you aren’t getting very good results, simply change your copy until you get it right.
Location is Key:
On the Web, it is very important to choose a good domain name. In Second Life, it’s important to choose a good virtual location. Look for an area that already contains some established merchants. If you have some friends, you could also partner together and create your own shopping area. Either way, you will need to leverage the marketing and promotions of your neighbors.
If you want to spread your products even further, you may also want to consider getting your virtual products into malls and booths.
Almost everything that can be accomplished in the offline world is made available in some form or fashion within your own virtual world, including business networking. Online and offline, it’s still very much about who you know.
So, why not take your potential clients and partners out for lunch at the nearest virtual cafe?
Reuters is the first news bureau to set up shop in Second Life. However, there are a number of other news outlets and websites that are reporting on the daily events within Second Life.
If your business is doing something newsworthy within Second Life, then you certainly need to let these media outlets know. Good press is one of the keys to viral buzz.
Here are a few of the places in the press line who are reporting on Second Life.
Are you starting to see the potential of Second Life optimization? The rules of marketing are changing and we as webmasters must keep up if we want to thrive.
Get ready for the future of search…
About The Author
Kim Roach is a staff writer and editor for the SiteProNews and SEO-News newsletters. You can also find additional tips and news on webmaster and SEO topics by Kim at the SiteProNews blog. Kim’s email is: kim @ seo-news.com