Can Second Life get a Second Life?

I read Mitch Wagner’s Computerworld blog post last week, “Fast, Easy, Fun” with Second Life founder Philip Rosedale –  and it made me wonder – what would it take for me to try Second Life again. My first experience with using Second Life was not positive to say the least and I don’t think just hearing that it had new functionality would be enough to entice me to change my mind. What I didn’t hear in this article is what Rosedale has planned for changing the way people think of Second Life.

In my opinion, Second Life’s problem is twofold –

  1. Technology: Yes, they HAVE to make it fast, easy and fun because when I tried it, it was slow, difficult and boring.  For all of the press and promise Second Life had, it did not appeal to me in the least. In fact it was kind of creepy. I do recall liking the name I came up with and my outfit, but beyond that, it just seemed like a bad trip. I REALLY wanted to like it but in the end, it did nothing for me but crash my computer and waste my time.
  2. Public Perception: Aside from Mitch, I do not know ONE person who is on Second Life. Obviously someone is, but it’s no Facebook. They are going to have to really work hard to make people think its “cool” and be willing to try it again as it seems to me that the world has moved on.  No one is there, not much is going on.  I’m not sure people would even admit trying it – like going to a lame party and then hoping no one found out you were there.

So, what would make me try Second Life again? How can they revive their brand?

What would make me try any service or product again that is not only dated but that is often ridiculed by the general public?  Would I say I just started a new Plurk account?  Would I tell a friend that I just cut my hair with a Flow-bee? Would I say I just bought my boyfriend some Old Spice…..well…I wouldn’t have a year ago because I’d be afraid to hear, “Hey Lisa, 1975 called, they want their cologne back.”

So why would I now?  How did they revive their brand?

As we know, Old Spice did something brilliant but simple – they made people talk about their product again.  They made it seem cool to use their product, they made it seem like cool people were already using their product, and they made people laugh.

It sounds like high school, but honestly, people want to know that other people are doing something before they will do it, especially if they fear being mocked for doing it. They really want to know that the cool people are doing it. And they want the promise that they will get something out of it – fun or learning, they have to believe there is good reason to try again.

Second Life has to invest just as much in PR, marketing  and advertising as they do in the technology.  People say that PR & marketing are now irrelevant – but think about how many times you’ve said Old Spice in the last ten years, and then think about how many times you’ve said it in the last two months. Old Spice didn’t change their product, they just changed how people thought about their product. Of course the quality of technology, product, or service matters, but how it’s packaged up and sold matters almost as much.

For me, its going to take a better experience and some very cool promotions. My friend even suggested setting up a Sterling, Cooper, Draper Pryce and letting people interact with the characters – now that would get me back there.

So, what would make YOU try Second Life again?

Disclosure: Mitch Wagner is currently a client of PerkettPR

12 thoughts on “Can Second Life get a Second Life?

  1. They would have to pay my organization to maintain a presence – that’s about the only way

  2. Wow, Second Life! This post took me back to a couple of years ago when it was booming and I figured I should at least try the service. Like you, Lisa, I created my character and really enjoyed my user name. I remember wandering around by myself and ending up in some club where one of the other users kept bumping into me and basically forced me to leave. “Creepy” was a good word. The other impression I left with was: “Giant Time Suck Potential”. As if there aren’t too little hours in the day to begin with, I’m going to start spending my time in a fantasy world? No thanks.

    There isn’t much chance I’d go back. Some things that *might* convince me:

    1. Perhaps a scavenger hunt that would lead me to something that could benefit me in real life (an extension of your promotion idea)
    2. Exclusive content for a TV show, sports team, or something else that appeals to me. This should be something I couldn’t find anywhere else but Second Life.
    3. A tour guide option like they do at college campuses. Have an experienced user lead a small group of inexperienced users through the worlds and show them things that are tough to find on their own. I just remember feeling completely lost when I was there, and it felt like the time investment required to learn my way around just wasn’t worth it.
    4. Comedy. Second Life should poke fun at itself through social channels and acknowledge this perception that all its users are lonely introverts living in their parents’ basements. Inject some humor and maybe (just maybe) people will realize it’s OK to try it out.

  3. I think I’d give 2nd Life a try if I thought ít would bring some value, other than entertainment, to my first life.

  4. Hi, Lisa! Thanks for the link and the great analysis.

    I think that appealing to the cool people comes later. First you have
    to communicate what there is to do in Second Life — what’s the value
    to the service?

    Second Life offers live music, games, roleplay (which I believe will
    go mainstream at some point, but probably not in SL, and first you
    have to explain to people what it is and why they’d want to do it),
    the opportunity to create simulated 3D art and architecture and share
    it with other people, adult entertainment, and the opportunity to meet
    and become friends with people from all walks of life, and all over
    the world.

    But, still, when people try it they don’t find anything to
    do, because activities are hard to find and confusing.

  5. Pingback: A tough sell

  6. Chad – those are great ideas and I totally agree with you on what it would take to make me go back. And, I thought it would make the post too long, but I really think the “welcome” experience needs to be SO much better. I actually tried it again when I was writing this and I was totally lost once again. They need some sort of guide for sure.

    Will – yes, it would need to have some educational/learning component or I wouldn’t be able to find the time for it.

    Thomas – someone else mentioned that to me as well – paying big companies to come in a do some cool promotions to drive adoption.

    thanks guys!

  7. Right – I didn’t get into that part in the blog post because I was talking more about the public perception – but you are right. Its like pitching a reporter or sending a cover letter – you have about 10 secs to make an impression. Should I stay or should I go. I tried it again the other day, and because of you I actually tried, but I honestly could not figure out what to do. That is a big hurdle.

  8. Second Life used to have volunteer ‘tour guides’ (of a sort) that you could opt for during registration, but the actual logistics of it were quite poor, and (according to Linden Lab) never really seemed to boost retention to a statistically significant degree.

  9. Lisa – If you want to try yet a third time, let me know and I’ll find you a native guide.

    I don’t know whether the number is 10 seconds, but it’s less than an hour. Philip Rosedale, CEO of Linden Lab, the company that created and operates Second Life, says the difference between people who stay with SL and the ones who abandon it (like you) is that the ones who stay make a friend in their first 24 hours.

  10. Well that is telling for sure – I don’t know about the technology, but if that is the truth, then they should really figure out how to get a “friend” to greet every new person that joined. Again – like going to a party where you don’t know anyone – if you don’t feel comfortable and can’t figure out what to do, you will leave. If the host greets you at the door, tells you where everything is and introduces you around, you are more likely to stay. I think figuring out some way to automate that would be important.

  11. Yes, the SL technology requires good broadband and good graphics card. Many new people don’t realize this dispite Sys Requirements and they have a pretty miserable experience until they do get both. One good thing that has come in the past 2 years has been a much more stable environment tho.

    “it’s no facebook”, true. SL is a virtual world, FB is a social network. Unfortunately, for the past 2 years the now ex-CEO was trying to make SL into something like FB. With true visionary development, I beleive that SL could become as good an entertainment as anything you are likely to find on television. No, that’s not FB.

    “It sounds like high school”, true again. But us denizens of SL are a whole lot smarter than we were in h/s. hehe And that’s where a lot of the fun is, in creating a fantasy world or role playing in a different universe alltogether or, of course, there are those who prefer to use SL to be an extension of their real life, but “it’s like going to sea to make yourself seasick.” Otoh, SL could easily be used as a RL marketplace, but this got confused in the past 2 years also.

    You are right about the PR. When the company decided to become something that I don’t think anyone really understands, it confused everyone and it needs to refocus then let the world know what it is.

    I think some of us who enjoy SL are making it into things that the original visionaries never quite imagined. It has that kind of potential but the leadership, perhaps especially Mr. Kapor need to let the world evolve.

    Jus ma 2 cents.

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