Monday, September 18, 2006

Getting a Second Life: An Interview – Part II

This is the second part of an interview on Second Life (SL) that I recently did with Aaron Uhrmacher, senior account executive at Text 100, our PR agency of record.  The first part was posted last Thursday.  He played a key role in developing Text 100′s presence on SL

Second Life has been generating a great deal of buzz in the PR community and is the subject of recent posts by Kami Huyse and Eric Kintz.  IBM even hosted an alumni reunion on SL.  In the second part of this interview, I want to focus on some of the challenges of SL and where it might be heading.

Dan Greenfield: What are common errors that SL newbies make? 

Aaron Uhrmacher: The biggest mistake you can make is looking at only one place and making a judgment too quickly. Go on a tour.  Do your research.  Seek out mentors and listen to conversations.  See what people are doing and saying.  You need to take the time to explore different locations and at different times of day.   Special events can drive traffic, and evenings are more popular than during the day in terms of the number of SL residents that are logged in. 

Greenfield: How do you balance a company’s real life brand with its SL counterpart?  What brand elements should be different and what should stay the same?

Uhrmacher: A company’s SL presence should reflect its real life (RL) work. Second Life is a platform that will extend the interaction with your brand, like blogs and wikis. Think of it as a place to enhance your communication at different levels – with your employees, your customers and your other constituents. Let the people conducting R&D or in the marketing department look at 3D versions of products and discuss them in real time. Encourage employees to replace conference calls with avatar meetings in your virtual office. The possibilities are limitless.  You should definitely check out this machinima clip, which Text 100 produced entirely within Second Life. It gives an overview of how businesses can leverage the emerging popularity of virtual worlds.

Greenfield: Given the story in CNET about the security breach, what can companies do to protect themselves?

Uhrmacher: The security breach affected every resident of Second Life, so there’s not much that a company could have done to protect itself against this particular attack. However, Linden Lab did a fantastic job of alerting the community to the incident and taking steps to resolve the issue as quickly and efficiently as possible. Every day, the security tools become more sophisticated and Linden Lab has shown that they will not tolerate bad behavior or griefing whatsoever.

Greenfield: How do you keep disruptive (protesters, saboteurs) avatars from undermining your online presence?

Uhrmacher: There are various ways to protect an island or store by setting permissions or limiting visitors to those who are approved using the group function. And while the security threat exists, companies should exercise the same vigilant oversight as they do with their company website and/or blog. At this stage, I don’t believe that security is an issue that should dissuade a company from entering Second Life. What should motivate them is that their customers are there. Communities of influencers are there.  People that can help them build their brands are there. That’s what should be top of mind. 
Greenfield: Is there life beyond SL? (What is on the technology horizon?)  

Uhrmacher:  SL is just one of several virtual worlds that exist today.  In the future, you may see one model developed as a more open source platform.  Blogs will still exist, but they will evolve with the growing popularity of virtual worlds and communities like SL.  It’s the same way that we’ve seen digital media evolve over the last several years.   The technology and graphics continue to improve and will benefit from PCs with better graphics cards and more RAM.  It is still unclear how communities will evolve as more companies start experimenting in SL, but we’re excited to help grow this platform as a tool for communications.   

Greenfield: If you were in charge of SL, what would you do differently? 

Uhrmacher:  At this point, nothing different.  We have gotten really positive feedback from employees and clients.   

Greenfield:  Thanks Aaron. 

Uhrmacher:  My pleasure. I think SL is an exciting opportunity for companies to extend their brand.  I would be interested to hear from companies about their experiences with SL. 


I will be interested to see how many other companies decide to create a presence in SL and how successful they are.  Given how new this technology is, I am also curious to know how companies will measure success.  In the short run, I will put my money on building brand awareness rather than making Linden dollars.

Let me get back to you.

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