Get a Second Life now

Updated on June 29, 2006

I participated in a very interesting meeting yesterday evening. Shel was due to be there, too, but he couldn’t make it to the venue. I did bump into Joseph Jaffe who was there and met Mitch Joel for the first time. Sort of met some other folk like Ansible
Berkman
. I listened to some great discussion and asked a question too.

All from the comfort of my desk here in Amsterdam.

The meeting was a panel-led discussion on avatar-based marketing organized by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and took place in the virtual world of Second Life.

Here’s what it looked like at one point during the 70 minutes or so I was there, from my perspective (click on the image to see a full-size one):

That’s me in the immediate foreground. Joseph is the one on the left with the horizontal stripes. Mitch with the green hair is next to him. Ansible Berkman is directly across from me, the one with the antennae.

Although moderated by Ansible, the session was inevitably a bit chaotic as IM chat-type sessions tend to be. If you participated in the FIR Skypecast earlier this month, you’ll know what I mean.

Yet this was something quite extraordinary. Here was a group of people getting together in a virtual world for a business meeting. You didn’t know who anyone really was, whether who they say they are is who they really are, where they’re from, and whether it really is a man or a woman you’re talking to.

But none of that matters. It’s part of the experience and interactions in a virtual world.

The key speaker on the panel was Raz Schionning, the Web Director for American Apparel, the international fashion retailer who opened a store in Second Life a week ago.

Raz is responsible for the company’s websites, web development and online marketing. He said the company is very excited about their Second Life presence and talked about why they did it and what they hope to achieve from it:

[…] Our store in Second Life is an experiment in how we may establish relationships with our customers in this evolving medium. To speak like a marketing person for a moment… I see a strong overlap between SL users and AA consumers. They are sophisticated, educated, have money to spend, and fall into our target age range. So it makes sense to investigate how we can speak to this community… Not unlike the way we approach any potential audience in order to grow our business.

That said, I have few expectations about generating significant revenue right now – it’s not the objective at this point. As with all the marketing we do, we’re being innovative and keeping our ears to the ground; we want to see how people will respond to our presence in SL.

I asked a question that Shel raised when we discussed American Apparel’s virtual moves in FIR show #147 last Monday:

Me: If you could buy apparel in the AA store here and get it in the real world, that would be interetsing… Is that in your thinking?
Raz: It could go that way, but I’m not sure that a buying experience in SL connected to RL is ideal.
Me: I’m thinking of the impulse. you see something here and you want to buy it… So you order here rather than go to a browser and go to the website.
Raz: I’m expecting that people will be curious enough to go out and see our stores and our online store for those types of transactions. But it makes sense to build a smooth transition.
Another participant interjected: Please please please get some posters of sexy avs up in rl aa stores and advertising ;)
Me: Yes, i’m thinking of that relationship, another facet to building it.
Raz: I really do like that idea.

Many of the other participants have already posted their thoughts about the event. Some really great commentaries, worth reading. Hopefully the organizers will post the full transcript of all discussion.

Just after I was aware of Joseph being there, my Skype phone rang. It was Joseph and Mitch who had both been talking on Skype during the virtual meeting, recording their conversation for an eventual Across The Sound podcast.

So my part in that conversation was also recorded. Looking forward to hearing what Joseph does with it!

That was pretty cool, actually: the three of us meeting virtually and having a real-world phone conversation at the same time. Mitch sums up the feeling thus:

[…] Think about this: we’re in a 3D virtual world, Second Life, connecting three countries while conducting a Skype conference call and recording it for a Podcast.

There are some days when I am completely blown away by technology, social media and where our marketing world is going.

Today is one of those days.

You said it, Mitch.

My advice for every communicator – get to know Second Life. If you’ve not yet signed up, do it now. This virtual world will play a significant role in our profession. Trust me, just do it.

When you do, let’s connect. I’m Jangles Junot in Second Life. See you there.

[Update 26 June] A transcript of the complete panel discussion has now been posted, which includes panelists’ and participants’ commentaries.

[Technorati: Second Life, Berkman]

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Mitch Joel

    Hi Jangles,

    It was great to meet you in Second Life. I am a huge fan or your Real Life Podcast.

    I think that Skype call between us and Divo Dapto should somehow make it to the airwaves – either FIR, ATS or mine, Six Pixels of Separation (6POS).

    I look forward to more conversations – either here or in Second Life.

    At the end of the day, your last comment rings true. It is incumbent (like that word Jaffe, don’t you?) on us as Marketers to try this stuff out, play with it and understand it.

    I love this quote: “if you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” I took that one from Tom Peters’ book, Re-Imagine. I believe the source was a U.S. Army General of sorts.

    Take care,

    Mitch Till (aka Mitch Joel),

  2. neville

    Likewise, Mitch. That was a tremendous experience yesterday.

    Re the Skype call, I agree, it must make the airwaves! Maybe we all should do something with it in 6POS, ATS and FIR.

    So, see you in SL again soon.

  3. neville

    I’ll look for you next time I’m in there, Righteous!

    I was telling a PR friend yesterday afternoon about the Second Life meeting. Her reaction was to suggest to me that I get a life. In the traditional sense of that phrase, of course. She doesn’t see the potential of SL. Not yet. But she will eventually, I’m pretty sure.

    So more education work needed in our profession.

  4. ProPr » Is this my company’s next inter-office meeting?

    […] Neville Hobson last night participated in a meeting that may well point to the way that companies like Thornley Fallis cut out the travel time in the future. Neville reports on a panel session that was conducted in Second Life. The session drew marketing and new media professionals like Joseph Jaffe and Mitch Joel for a serious discussion of avatar-based marketing. […]

  5. Joseph Thornley

    Hi Neville,
    Great post! I’ve submitted it to the New PR Digg site. And I see you’ve incorporated Constantin’s new feedflare. Two innovations in one day. Neat!

  6. neville

    Thanks Joseph. Re your own post, you might well start something really groundbreaking if you plan to hold a meeting with your colleague in Second Life. As an experiment, go for it! If you do it, love to know how it goes.

  7. Sebastian

    Sounds like it was fun. I was there about 6 hours early, all seats empty…
    Just couldn’t make the time. Next time. Have your name marked though, I am Sab Bellambi.

  8. neville

    I did that too, Sab – checked in a couple of hours beforehand just to see if the place was up and running. A few others were there at that time. Once I’d ensured I had the correct coordinates, I was then able to teleport directly there at the right time.

    I’m sure we’ll see many more of these business events in Second Life as people begin to experiment. Look at Joseph’s plans, for instance.

    I’ll be sure to look for you when I’m in SL.

  9. Linda Zimmer

    Neville, I also attended the conference – I’m just sorry I didn’t know Jangles was you. I’m ZnetLady. You sat quite near me, actually! I haven’t had a chance to blog about it yet, but will post my thoughts in a day or so.

    I’m hopeful the Berkman Center will do this again. I agree this is something every communicator needs to start following. But we need so many more of these “thinking” sessions to explore what this means for RL (real life) companies.

    See you here, there, and everywhere.

  10. neville

    Hi Linda. I didn’t know Znetlady was you, either! That’s one of the interesting things about this SL experience – getting to know subsequently in the real world who’s who.

    I hope the Berkman Center does post their own commentary and opinions about Friday’s event as well as details about the overall discussions.

    Good to know you and hope to see you again in SL.

  11. Jeremy Pepper

    I wanted to be there, but I also wanted to be at BloggerCon for the Citizen Journalism session. BloggerCon won.

    But, well, at least I am in Second Life and have played around in it, unlike a bunch of other people that scream about it. It’s amazing, and the smart one’s of us ARE in it.

  12. Blog Run » Blog Archive » Second Lives, PR Girlz, Buzz Ethics

    […] Neville Hobson: Get a Second Life now On Friday, there was a conference within Second Life, an online world of avatars … and marketing. Already, there are real-world companies that are opening stores to interact with Second Lifers, such as American Apparel, and other companies are likely looking at the demographics and residents of Second Life to market to. As Neville notes, it’s the PR people that are not in there that are going to miss out the next stage of social media. I’m in there already … . Antony Mayfield has his own views here. […]

  13. neville

    I’ve read many of the posts about BloggerCon, Jeremy. Some interesting discussions.

    Now imagine if a virtual version of BloggerCon had been taking place in parallel in Second Life… Even just one session such as the one you took part in…

  14. Mitch Joel

    Jeremy and Neville,

    I actually attended BloggerCon this weekend… in Second Life. I was over at Podcasting.com’s area in Second Life and Avatar Koz Farina, had somehow managed to grab the live feed from BloggerCon. The full streaming audio was playing live as were images from the event that were posted in Flickr. I sat near the Podcasting.com Burning Man homage with 3-5 other Avatars and listened as we chatted about the event.

    Another mind-blowing experience in Second Life that I will certainly Blog about today over at my Twist Image Blog.

    Mitch Till (aka, Mitch Joel)

  15. neville

    Wow, Mitch, that’s really something. We’re going to see some very interesting, imaginative and creative ideas at play in Second Life. Can’t wait!

  16. Torley Linden

    I wish I could have attended that discussion! I was busy and doing other things at the time. What looks especially neat to me, from the photos anyway, is how the seating is arranged: sort of a semi-circle with a panel at the front. I haven’t seen many “panels” per se in SL: most of the time, it’s a single or maybe two hosts up at the front. Kinda odd that way… but refreshing.

  17. makethelogobigger

    “It could go that way, but I’m not sure that a buying experience in SL connected to RL is ideal.”

    So if I get what was actually being said, Raz wouldn’t prefer RL revenue, even if it came as a result of SL efforts? I realize the SL environment is more of an effort to build branding awareness, but that’s one helluva business model if you can refuse offline RL sales.

    Anyone else find it odd to supplant the WOM experience of a satisfied customer and an actual RL purchase with the perception of an online presence?

  18. neville

    I think what Raz was mostly getting at is AA’s focus right now. Revenue is not their primary goal: exposure, visibility, word of mouth are among the things that are.

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see AA connecting their SL presence more directly with their real world presence. Sooner rather than later.

  19. makethelogobigger

    n –

    True, and I agree. But I would think that no matter when in that cycle an increase in sales occurred, early rather than later, or, if in this case, if it came from sources other than where he intended, you have to say great. I’m gettin the message out in one channel while seeing a sales bump in another. That’s thebest of both worlds. (No pun, ;-p).

    ;-)

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