Second Life has a vibrant and thriving community of thousands and thousands of bloggers, vloggers, photographers, and machinima makers. Combine that with a flourishing ecosystem of programs and tools, such as the Black Dragon viewer, and you get a creative frenzy of activity which is, as yet, unmatched by any other social VR platform or virtual world (although VRChat comes close!). It’s essentially a self-sustaining marketing machine at this point, selling SL to a wide outside audience…
So my message. to all those companies which are toiling away, hoping to inherit the mantle of Second Life and become the next massive metaverse platform, is this: pay attention to your community, and encourage their creative pursuits! You might be pleasantly surprised at the spin-off benefits of cultivating and leveraging your fanbases.
Well, today I want to spotlight a great example of someone who has done just that, promoting the blockchain-based social VR/virtual world platform Somnium Space. Somnium Times is a website and an associated YouTube channel focused on news and events in Somnium Space, by Marc Demar. Here’s an example video:
Yes, that’s right, in much the same way that I originally started this blog four years ago to focus on Sansar, Marc has started his website and channel to focus on what’s happening in Somnium Space. Every social VR platforms out there should be asking themselves: What do I have to do to find someone like Marc Demar?
And if you can’t find someone to volunteer to do it because they’re such a fan of your platform, perhaps you should consider how to better cultivate those raving fans. You might want to ask yourself if there are ways or tools (like the Black Dragon viewer) to allow those fans to create high-quality, compelling content to spread via social media. Perhaps, you should consider even taking the step to (gasp!) pay someone to create sponsored content to advertise your world. (If you’re interested, here are my rates for advertising and sponsored blogposts. Was that subtle enough for you? 😉 )
The point I am trying to make is this: you can’t just create a platform, then sit back and do nothing to either a) promote it, or b) enable other people to promote it. The platforms are not just going to magically sell themselves (as Sansar has discovered to its detriment over the past four years). As RuPaul says: You have to work!
I believe that Second Life, at the ripe old age of 18, is the perfect model of a mature, fully-evolved virtual world, which many newer entrants into the metaverse market would be very wise to study. And one of the things which those newer platforms would be smart to emulate, is the cultivation of a fervent and creative fanbase, who make and post content on all kinds of social media on the internet.
Second Life has a vibrant and thriving community of thousands and thousands of bloggers, vloggers, photographers, and machinima makers. Combine that with a flourishing ecosystem of programs and tools, such as the Black Dragon viewer, and you get a creative frenzy of activity which is, as yet, unmatched by any other social VR platform or virtual world (although VRChat comes close!). It’s essentially a self-sustaining marketing machine at this point, selling SL to a wide outside audience.
Second Life has even evolved its own particular brand of celebrity, such as those vloggers whose content attracts thousands of views on YouTube. You might call them virtual influencers! While I have been in (semi-) lockdown during the past year-and-a-half of the coronavirus pandemic, I have spent many an hour curled up on the sofa with my trusty iPad, watching some of these videos!
Some, like Cat Pink and Naria Panthar, tend to focus on Second Life shopping events and hunts. Others, like Meela Vanderbuilt and Carmen King, offer entertaining commentary as they go about their daily Second Lives. Here’s a recent example of a Carmen King video:
Now, Carmen King might not agree with your taste or sensibilities (I personally think she’s hilarious). But Carmen also vlogs regularly about her adventures in IMVU, the Sims 4, and games like Grand Theft Auto V, and I can tell you that this is exactly the sort of thing which intrigues her cross-over video audience, and tends to bring them into Second Life, to try it out for themselves. (I’m quite sure that any number of Sims players have ventured into SL because of Carmen’s videos.)
See the lesson here? If the newer social VR platforms were wise, they would create incentives (monetary or otherwise) to cultivate the users who create this sort of content. It’s the best and most natural form of advertising, that’s inspired by the fanbase of the platform, and driven by the enthusiasm of the creators themselves.
So my message. to all those companies which are toiling away, hoping to inherit the mantle of Second Life and become the next massive metaverse platform, is this: pay attention to your community, and encourage their creative pursuits! You might be pleasantly surprised at the spin-off benefits of cultivating and leveraging your fanbases. So go, get out there, and find your own Carmen King! 😉
There was a time, back in the day (ohhh, let’s say, May of 2006) when a Second Life avatar named Anshe Chung graced the cover of Businessweek magazine, which told the story of how she became the first online personality to achieve a net worth exceeding one million US dollars from profits entirely earned inside a virtual world.
It can be argued that this Businessweek article, and the resulting media attention it caused, was the spark that ignited a period of explosive population growth in Second Life, as people realized that they, too, could earn money on Second Life, and they began joining the platform in ever-increasing numbers.
In particular, between late 2006 and early 2007, dozens of real-life companies and brands decided to set up shop in Second Life: Dell, Toyota, Nissan, Sun Microsystems, IBM, even American Apparel and Playboy. Unfortunately, this corporate heyday did not last long. By the end of 2008, most real-world corporations were pulling out, not seeing the benefit (i.e. profit) in running operations on a virtual world, especially during a somewhat brutal recession.
And, for a long time, burned by their initial enthusiastic foray into Second Life, most real-world brands pretty much steered clear of virtual worlds, leaving them to the mom-and-pop stores, the individual content creators who were able to make a go of it.
Well, I am starting to notice the beginnings of a new trend lately: real-life brands are starting to enter into partnerships with social VR and virtual worlds once again. Is this the start of a new trend in marketing?
Two different news items, about two completely different types of partnerships, crossed my desk yesterday, one for Bacardi rum and the other for Coca-Cola, which tickled my fancy and made me laugh (hence the clever title of this blogpost!). Both are instructive examples of how such corporate partnerships have evolved and changed since the Anshe Chung summer of 2006 in Second Life.
Barcardi and Sansar: The Casa Bacardi Virtual Island Festival
Bring home some Caribbean vibes and get grooving to your favourite beats at a music experience like never before.
Casa Bacardi is a whole new virtual world on Sansar, with an epic stage for your favourite artists to perform on, games to play with your friends, hang out with them, play cocktail games and meet new people. Enjoy all of this and more from the comfort of your home along with your favourite Bacardi Cocktails.
You can even design your own look and express yourselves through your avatar before you land on Casa Bacardi Island. Festival fashion doesn’t go away, you know?
Find liberation from the real world on a virtual Caribbean island. Teleport to Casa Bacardi this Rum Month!
Performers at this event include a mix of afrobeat, hip hop, electronica and dance music artists:
Divine and the Gully Gang
Tsumyoki with Kidd Mange
Tickets are quite inexpensive, only US$1.99 for a concert pass, and US$2.99 for a concert pass plus a limited after-party event (you can pay via credit card or PayPal).
Coca-Cola, Tafi and Decentraland: The Friendship Box NFT
In a piece of news which I somehow missed, Coca-Cola entered the ultra-trendy NFT space with a limited-edition auction, partnering with the Tafi avatar creation system and the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland (NFT, of course, stands for Non-Fungible Tokens, the concept that blockchain-based property is a unique, distinguishable, indivisible blockchain-based asset which has some sort of monetary value, usually denoted in a cryptocurrency like ETH/Ethereum).
Coca-Cola is not the first big brand name to jump into Decentraland, of course; not too long ago I wrote about how Sotheby’s set up shop. It would appear that the current unabated frenzy over blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs is bringing together some rather unlikely bedfellows!
Tafi announced today that it has partnered with Coca-Cola® by designing virtual wearables for Coca-Cola’s first-ever non-fungible token (NFT) collectibles offering in the “metaverse” to celebrate International Friendship Day on July 30th, Coca-Cola will be auctioning an NFT loot box on OpenSea, that contains Tafi-designed digital apparel that can be worn forever in the virtual world of Decentraland.
Tafi, a leading designer of avatars and digital wearables, is a digital strategy and development partner with Coca-Cola. Tafi worked alongside Coca-Cola to produce the NFTs, as well as Virtue, the agency by Vice, who developed the initial concept. Details of Tafi’s involvement in Coca-Cola’s NFT Lootbox can be found at https://maketafi.com/coca-cola-nft.
Coca-Cola collaborated with designers at Tafi on all the NFTs including the branded wearable apparel. Auction-goers can bid on the Coca-Cola Friendship Box, a reimagined version of Coca-Cola’s highly collectible vending machine, itself an NFT, and once opened there will be three one-of-a-kind digital assets to own:
• A custom Coca-Cola Bubble Jacket Wearable – a futuristic jacket – is illuminated with effervescent fizz, purposely designed with subtle nods to Coke’s nostalgic delivery uniforms. It also will include an unlockable version that can be worn in the Decentraland 3D virtual reality platform. Inspired by metaverse trends and utility, the jacket features the Coca-Cola color palette, fusing the metallic red of the aluminum can and caramel brown of the delicious drink.
• The Sound Visualizer captures the experience of sharing a Coca-Cola using instantly recognizable audio cues: the pop of a bottle opening, the sound of a beverage being poured over ice, the unmistakable fizz and that first refreshing taste.
• The Friendship Card reimagines the design of Coca-Cola’s famous friendship-inspired trading cards from the 1940s for the digital world. The cards bear the “Symbol of Friendship” moniker.
This one-of-a-kind loot box contained some ultra-exclusive items, including a puffy jacket which can be worn by Decentraland avatars, and it sold for a whopping 217 ETH (which works out to about half a million U.S. dollars)!
Now I can tell you one thing for damn sure: no matter how luxurious and glossy that Coca-Cola puffed jacket may look on the OpenSea marketplace (and you can check out the fancy animations here), it is not going to look anywhere near as good when your avatar wears it around Decentraland! The current state of graphics in Decentraland looks like this, in case you needed a reality check:
Perhaps I am not the best person to explain all this, because frankly I am still mystified as to why people would want to spend outrageous sums of money on NFTs, except perhaps for bragging rights. However, it is clear that blockchain, crypto, and NFTs are not going away anytime soon (although they will not doubt continue to fluctuate wildly in value). I just report on what I see, safely from the sidelines.
And I repeat my usual warning: do EVERY. SINGLE. SCRAP. of your homework before investing a penny in any blockchain/cryptocurrency project.
Are we seeing a renaissance in such partnerships between real-world brands and social VR platforms and virtual worlds? Who knows. But it is fascinating to watch!
And no, I do not consider Sansar a success, despite the most valiant efforts of the remaining staff who are still working on the platform, and the COMETS, a small group of hard-working volunteers creating and promoting events. Linden Lab themselves did not consider Sansar a success. Why else would the company sell the money-losing platform to Wookey, a company known for buying other companies which have fallen into financial distress, in a last-ditch effort to turn some sort of profit out of it?
What disturbs me most about the change in ownership is that Wookey does not seem to be doing anything different from what Linden Lab has done. The focus remains squarely on live events, but so far, I do not see a whole hell of a lot of those happening, aside from the Monstercat: Call of the Wild series of concerts (okay, there was also a Virtual Rave Prom last Friday, with DJ Yultron).
If this is supposed to be a live events platform, where are all the (NON-volunteer driven) events? Where are the performers? We should have had some announcements by now, surely. During the change in ownership, Sansar lost a lot of those events, and I do not see a lot of new events to replace those that were lost.
Tong Zou, a YouTuber who recently posted a lightly-edited one hour and 40 minute video of his adventures exploring Sansar, had this to say at the very end of his video, after finding Sansar essentially empty in his travels, and only finding a handful of other avatars hanging out at the Nexus:
I mean, this is pretty much the only players on Sansar right now, which is really sad, because in my opinion, Sansar has the best worlds out of any social VR app, but they have the least people, so what the heck? Why do AltspaceVR and VRChat have more people than here, I don’t get it. Not enough marketing or something, I dunno. This is all the people in Sansar. Give me a break. Linden Lab has got to do a better job of promoting this game. This is just sad. This game deserves better than this. This app deserves better than this. C’mon, there only about 10 people here across the entire app.
Tong Zou hits the nail on the head when he says that the company (no longer Linden Lab, but Wookey) needs to actively promote Sansar. If the Wookey-owned Sansar is doing any marketing or promotion, I sure the hell am not seeing any evidence of that. And if they are hoping that word-of-mouth advertising is going to work to attract people to Sansar, they are badly mistaken.
Seriously, what the hell are they doing? From my perspective, Sansar is simply drifting aimlessly. Just because you’ve built a social VR platform that allows for the creation of beautiful worlds, and allows for customizable avatars, and supports a marketplace for content creators to earn money, you can’t just set it out there, among all the current and upcoming competition (e.g. Fortnite Party Royale, Facebook Horizon), and just expect it to grow on its own, without promotion. There’s simply too much else out there competing for attention.