Second Life Tip Sheet
1. Design your avatar. The first place to start -- even just to research firsthand what other corporations are doing -- is to sign up for a free Second Life account and create your avatar, or online alter-ego. If you want to buy property for your virtual store, you need to sign up for a $9.95-a-month premium account through PayPal (EBAY ).
2. Buy some land. Fees range from $5 for 512 square meters of a region to large islands priced at $5,000 for 262,144 square meters (about 64 acres) and $780 in monthly maintenance fees. Most real-world companies have been spending $1,250 for an island (about 16 acres).
3. Shop around for a developer. In Linden Lab's Developer Directory, you can find the right company to build your virtual office, get celebrities to perform at your launch event, and keep generating buzz with regular programs. Check out developers' Web-based portfolios and schedule an in-world tour of their past projects.
4. Define your brand experience. Some companies make the mistake of turning to virtual worlds for incremental revenue. Even though there is real money moving through Second Life, it does not yet produce a meaningful revenue stream for companies. Instead, focus on defining the core aspects of your brand and translating your products into virtual ones.
5. Understand the local culture. Take this as seriously as taking your company to a new country or continent. For example, do Second Life residents really wear and, more important, buy simple T-shirts and jeans? Many have flashy, costume-like clothes. Consider what styles and types of products would appeal in Second Life.
6. Define your virtual strategy. Launch your presence with a high-profile event and consider cross-promoting with other companies. Sony BMG launched in Second Life with a Ben Folds Five concert in the Aloft virtual hotel developed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide (HOT ). Also consider incentives. American Apparel offers a 15% discount to Second Life residents who visit online and later shop in a physical boutique.
7. Measure real-world results at regular intervals. Think of Second Life as a complement to, not a replacement for, a standard Web site or real-world presence. Even though only about 40 avatars attended a press conference with Mark Warner, former tech entrepreneur and Democratic Governor of Virginia, it was covered more widely by bloggers and the mainstream media than just another flesh-and-blood town hall meeting.
8. Troubleshoot tech and design issues. More than 60 to 90 visitors to a virtual event cause the server to slow down. The American Cancer Society had to turn away potential donors. Next year, it plans to host events in multiple locations to accommodate more Second Life residents. And boxy, modern buildings and objects tend to work best in Second Life (think of Telus' cube-like store or Toyota's Scion). Avoid more ornate designs.
9. Keep an eye on other Web worlds. While Second Life is getting popular, it could be even more innovative to explore alternative marketing platforms. Active Worlds' offers stand-alone immersive corporate worlds, which clients like Wells Fargo opted for instead of Second Life. There.com helped MTV (VIA ) develop an independent virtual Laguna Beach. Habbo, an off-shoot of the pioneering virtual meeting place Habbo Hotel, is an online universe for teens. Cyworld is a growing Korean site that marries MySpace to Second Life.