For some Second Life critics, conclusion is based on faulty assumption2007-08-01
I’ve just gotten around to reading some of the many blog posts that gleefully point to Frank Rose’s Wired piece about real-world businesses failing in Second Life and proclaiming, “I told you so.”
A lot of what Rose writes is true; companies are, indeed, blowing it in Second Life. I have long maintained that the goal of getting into Second Life is to figure out how a company can engage with avatar communities since it’ll only be a few more years before the World Wide Web is pretty much one big avatar community. Plenty of mainstream business publications and analysts have agreed over the last several months that the Web is destined to go 3D, and it just makes sense for companies to make their mistakes now when the consequences are so much lighter than five or seven years from now when the entire online population will witness your screw-ups.
That means that raking in big bucks shouldn’t be a key objective for any company’s Second Life activities (even if the American Cancer Society can raise real money in a virtual fundraiser).
But there’s another part of the story that bugs me. It’s characterized by statements like this, from a blog called Team Spirit:
I think spending valuable budget on Second Life is a huge mistake. Finally, here’s the proof: Coca-Cola’s ‘Virtual Thirst’ pavilion receiving just 27 visits on “a random day in June??” Just so you know, there are now over 7 million avatars in Second Life.
and this, from The Brand Wiki:
The story goes on to detail how Michael Donnelly, Coke’s head of interactive marketing, went through all the steps to create a Second Life avatar and set up a Virtual Thirst pavillion only to find that “you can long linger without encountering another avatar.”
Don’t you just love it when people reach conclusions based on assumptions that are profoundly incorrect? I was with crayon when we were working on the Virtual Thirst project, so I’m well aware that the Coca Cola Pavilion was not built in hopes that avatars would drop on by for a visit whenever the hell the felt like it. Rather, it was built as a venue for special, scheduled, promoted events. These included the project launch and a series of dance parties, all of which were perfectly well attended, thank you very much.
In fact, the Pavilion was built on crayon’s island in Second Life specifically so Coca Cola would not have to invest in an island, a terrible mistake many companies have made. crayon’s advice (led by the brilliant C.C. Chapman, was for Coca Cola not to construct an edifice to itself, but rather to engage the population as part of an effort to learn how to market in virtual worlds. That’s why the Virtual Thirst effort wound up as a design competition with information in a variety of places, including MySpace and YouTube.
It’s not just the bloggers who have made the mistake of equating low random traffic to the Pavilion with failure. Rose did, too:
On a random day in June, the most popular location was Money Island (where Linden dollars, the official currency, are given away gratis), with a score of 136,000. Sexy Beach, one of several regions that offer virtual sex shops, dancing, and no-strings hookups, came in at 133,000. The Sears store on IBM’s Innovation Island had a traffic score of 281; Coke’s Virtual Thirst pavilion, a mere 27.
Well, um, yeah. There was nothing scheduled and promoted at the Pavilion on that “random day in June.”
Journalists and bloggers alike would be well served to make sure they’re drawing conclusions from facts and not assumptions.
(By way of disclosure, I should note that I’m not a huge Second Life user or booster. I’m just a realist about where things are headed.)