Text 100 Saves Second Life

One of my jobs is marketing software (and a few other things). I know, to some people, that sounds like “one of my jobs is gassing puppies”, but I try to fit in, be transparent and help other people do their jobs. I’m pretty skeptical about marketing myself.

Over on my company’s blog, I wrote a post about the buzz around avatar-based marketing. Specifically, I’m talking about the corporate world’s discovery of Second Life.

Here’s an important fact: Second Life has about 350,000 residents. As I write this, all of 3260 are online. Now, it’s the middle of the work day here in North America, so I’m sure that number will shoot up in the evening. Still, consider this chart from an online game stats site. Second Life barely rates compared to the millions of, say, World of Warcraft users.

I’ve seen three articles in the mainstream media about Second Life in the past couple of weeks. Clearly SL is at the top of the hype curve.

Then I read Kevin Dugan’s funny post entitled “Second Life to Open in Second Life: Ultra-virtual ‘Third Life’ becomes the first virtual for virtuals”:

“Fluffy Poostar has been asking when he can play Second Life,” noted John Smith. “Hopefully this will shut him up so we can focus on more important things, like figuring out how to get off f%^&*@g Help Island.” Second Life creators consider this a natural brand extension.

It’s funny because it’s true. Today I read that global PR consultancy Text 100 (oy, people, with the popups?) has opened an office in Second Life:

We view virtual worlds like Second Life as the next stage in the evolution of peer-to-peer media like blogs, wikis, social networks and other online forums. People are using all of them to connect about things they are interested in and create the content they are passionate about. However, Second Life is adding a new dimension to it, because it provides an immersive 3-D environment that makes it more illustrative and inspiring than other platforms.

Whew! All those virtual, spikey-haired avatars were running, swimming and flying around without any reliable public relations consulting. How did they manage to get anything done? How’d they manage to build a theatre or Dublin or, I don’t know, Tetris, without brand synergy?

My initial response? Why go where you’re not wanted? Of course, I’m just assuming they won’t be wanted. I just logged into the Second Life forums, and searched for discussion about Text 100’s move. I couldn’t find any (and those forums are pretty darn active). I’ve posted a question (SL account required, I think) to solicit the community’s response.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve said elsewhere that I think important things are happening in Second Life. Those important things, however, are happening between people, not between people and PR agencies.

UPDATE: The results of my poll question (‘How do you feel about PR firms in Second Life?’) are few, but they’re in. They’re decidedly mixed:


  1. The importance for business communicators of Second Life is that it is a platform – much like the web is a platform. How the residents respond to Text 100 will be interesting, but I don’t think Text 100 is as much interested in engaging the residents as it is in using the platform to engage their own clients – and allow experimentation within virtual spaces.

    Come join us in the SL Business Communicators Group in SL! It is just getting started to discuss how we can keep from being a pain while exploring what will be a very different way of doing business someday. I just LOVE your perspective (and the way you express yourself)! Join us – and invite anyone who you feel might be interested.

  2. Darren,

    Skepticism about marketing is not a bad thing, in particular as a marketer! However, it also should be legitimate for a marketer that a PR agency is trying to explore a new public. We are there to learn about this new public first hand and understand its relations to businesses. I would ask you not to judge on what we are doing before we even started.

    While you quoted from my post, where I explained why we think SL is an innovative way of social networking, you didn’t address this view at all. Instead you simply implied we were wondering how SL residents could create their amazing content without our help. Such a conclusion is neither proper nor fair.

    The community of SL residents is not yet talking about us, because we haven’t reached out to them yet. As you might recall from my post, we will open our office to the public in a couple of weeks. We will then reach out to the residents with something that will hopefully catch their interest.

    With regards to the user stats you are quoting here again, please read the post I left on Kevin’s blog on that matter: http://prblog.typepad.com/strategic_public_relation/2006/08/second_life_to_.html
    We don’t go there for the reach. SL offers new ways of interactions we want to explore to the benefit of all parties involved: our clients, the residents and ourselves. Time will tell, if it works. It’s an adventure, but based on informed views, so that we are confident we can make it work for all.

    Thanks for your perspective anyway,
    Georg Kolb

  3. Thanks for your comments. To be clear, I don’t think I implied anything. I stated out-right that ‘SL residents could create their amazing content’ without anybody’s help.

    If you read my website, you’ll see that I don’t necessarily cite quotations to disprove them. I cite them to give a taste of where the link goes. So, you’re implication of impropriety and unfairness is inaccurate.

    If your goal is to learn about SL, then why build an office and make a splashy announcement about it? Why not just send some staff in to interact, investigate and learn?

  4. In a world where Warcraft items get sold on E-bay and where real estate offices sell “virtual” real estate for real money–anything at all is possible.

  5. Thanks Darren, I appreciate you didn’t want to imply anything. I apologise, if I was the only one to get this impression.

    Of course, we explored SL indidivually before we opened an office there. But – like many other businesses – we wanted to explore it as an organization.


  6. Intriguing post, Darren–thanks for gathering facts which help see through the current SL hype.

    On your exchange with George Kolb on whether you implied anything about Text 100’s intentions–doesn’t your title, “Text 100 Saves Second Life,” contain an implication which he probably feels is unfair?

  7. I am particularly interested in seeing how text’s experiment plays out…do they plan on having staffed presence at all times?

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