I’ve been reading with fascination a series of articles that have appeared lately that question the value of maintaining a presence in Second Life. To make a long story short, a year or so ago, when the Second Life hype was deafening, companies appeared in mass to construct their own virtual presences as a way to market their products. Now a year later, companies are rethinking their presences in Second Life for the simple reason that no one comes to their online stores.

NBA commissioner David Stern had this to say about his league’s presence, which went live in May of 2007:

I think we’ve had 1,200 visitors. People tell us that’s very, very good. But I can’t say we have very precise expectations. We just want to be there.

To put that figure in perspective, our modest blog here sometimes attracts 1,200 visitors in a given day. But I think Stern’s quote is instructive beyond the number he reveals. Like with so many companies/politicians/organizations, he has launched a social media campaign that has no real purpose.

To me there seem to be distinct phases to the life cycle of the hype around these social platforms as marketing tool.

(Phase 1) The real first movers start experimenting with marketing in places like YouTube, MySpace or Second Life. The Wall Street Journal or Business Week writes a story touting what they are doing.

(Phase 2) The “me too” crowd dives in head first in the hopes of getting some earned media and branding themselves as a company/organization that “gets it”. The campaigns are often sloppy and the commitment is shallow. Most of the campaigns end in failure.

(Phase 3) The hype is over. The “me too” crowd has moved on to the next thing and success/failure of campaigns are judged by the actual results that they produce as opposed to the hype they generate.

I think Second Life is in Phase 3. MySpace probably is too. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are in the middle of Phase 2.

So what’s my point? I don’t really have a big one. I’ve just seen some pretty awful videos on YouTube lately with no rationale beyond “me too-ism.” Before diving in head first, I’d encourage folks to truly think through what they are hoping to achieve and not do something just for the sake of doing it.

Not every company needs a Second Life island and not every politician needs a presence on 24 social networks.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.