If you haven't heard of Second Life, it is simply an online 3D world, where you choose an avatar, create online meeting opportunities and interact with others. Think of The Sims fully online and on steroids. Their tag line on their front page reads, “Largest-ever 3D world created by users.”
Second life has more than 20 million registered users and those users are from all corners of the globe. This gives you a wide audience. Engadget reports this number as high as 36 million in 2013, so 20 million is a conservative number as registrations can and do fluctuate over time.
Obviously, no one is saying you're going to reach all of those registered users simply by hosting an event. Even out of the nearly 1 million active users a month (still a large number of people), you won't reach them all. However, you will still have that wide audience and the ones who are interested will attend.
Yes, you're going to have to invest some time in the endeavor, but if you're on a budget and/or you're looking for new and creative ways to promote, this is well worth a second and even third look. Even a dozen new leads can be worth your time and effort.
Set Up Your Account
Accounts are free to set up. Simply click on the orange “Play for Free” button as seen in the image above. Then, choose your avatar. Now, as a business professional try to keep in mind that it is probably best to go with a generic, businesslike figure. For example, Second Life has vampire avatars available. Unless you run a Halloween products site, that isn't the best choice for promotional purposes.
Name Your Character
The next step after you click on “Choose This Avatar” will be to name your character. Keep in mind that you want your avatar's name to do several things:
- Be memorable
- Be professional
- Connect with your audience and business image
You can certainly use your real name, but keep in mind that you will be putting things out in a public forum, so you'll want to maintain professionalism at all times. Alternately, you can create a character to represent your brand. Think of this character as your mascot. For example, 17 years ago when I first started a little website called Word Museum, I created a tour guide character.
My character was Amelia and her role was to guide visitors through the different areas of the site. I know that might seem a bit juvenile today, but back then it was more cutting edge than it is now.
Names can only have letters and numbers. No spaces or special characters are allowed. So, if I wanted to use my name, I would create a character named LoriSoard (no spaces).
The system will inform you whether your name is available. If so, click “Next Step.”
You'll then fill in some additional info, such as:
- Your email
- Birth date
- Choose a password
- Set up security controls
You can also link up with Facebook if you'd like.
Choose an Account
The basic account is free and is a great place to get started. If you want to set up a Second Life meeting place, though, you'll need a Premium account, which will cost you about $6/month.
You will be prompted to download and install Second Life. Don't worry. It doesn't take up much space.
To start moving around Second Life, you will want to visit Learning Island, which will explain everything you need to know about navigating the Second Life world, interacting with others, and even setting up your own home base and events.
How You Can Promote Yourself on Second Life
There are numerous ways you can use Second Life to promote yourself, but as with most social sites, you don't want to be blatantly spammy. Instead, think about what you can offer to others that is of value.
Case Study: Karen Kay
Novelist Karen Kay used Second Life as a promotional tool a few years back. She offered a lecture on the platform and invited her readers to attend. At the actual “lecture”, Karen discussed writing and the business of being a writer.
“It was extremely interesting and it was a little difficult for me at first,” said Karen.
She adds that it was challenging to figure out the avatar and how she wanted to dress it and change its appearance.
You can see from Karen's screenshots below that she set up a room that essentially looks like it has a stage and then chairs for the audience to sit in. This is a fun way to attract new customers, or in her case readers, you might not otherwise attract.
Case Study: Promoting Health
When it comes to promoting health online, your first instinct might not be to look to a social media/virtual world platform like Second Life, but that is exactly what researchers did to see how effective promoting health on the platform might be.
The purpose was to encourage people to make healthier lifestyle choices. Researchers then quizzed participants to find out how much impact the messages had when delivered in a virtual world platform.
The experiment was conducted in a common area for a university called an amphitheater. 25 women and 15 men participated.
The results? Participants felt engaged and absorbed the information better than they might otherwise have. What you can learn from this experiment is that people are hungry for information.
Ideas You Can Implement
If you'd like to try your own experiment with Second Life and reach out to other social media and 3-D virtual world networks, there are some ideas you can implement today that will help you make the most of the experience.
- Invite your current customers and newsletter subscribers to check out your Second Life space.
- Take the time to set up a forum that makes sense for your business. For Karen Kay, a beautiful room like you might see on the set of a talk show. For the health forum, an outdoor style amphitheater for a concert-like experience. If you work one-on-one as a life coach, a comfortable living room with some chairs might work better. You have to decide what kind of format you want to create and go from there.
- The main goal is to provide fresh and interesting content that will help you interact with Second Life residents. There are many ways to promote these activities, such as via event notices, or by taking out ads in newsletters related to Second Life.
- Offer free samples of some sort to give away. The key is to make sure it is somehow related to your real world business and will make residents want more from you.
- Purchase ad space on Second Life to directly promote your business. It is completely customizable. You can choose the length of a campaign, etc.
- Set up a main store of office space. You can rent this space, but it is smarter to own the location. Don't worry. It won't cost much to get set up, although costs can vary. When you sell something, include a landmark with it. This will help customers find you again and you'll develop a loyal following.
Second Life offers many additional ideas for free and inexpensive advertising in their virtual world. For under $100 a year, you can gain a lot of promotional traction on this site. Not to mention, most of your competition likely is not using this site to promote to potential customers.
Be careful, though. It's easy to get lost in this virtual world and forget about the work in the real world that you need to finish to be successful.