Get a Second Life now

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
. 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]

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