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

What is a Web. 2.0 PR Agency?

There’s a lot of buzz about PR these days. Is it dead? Has social media taken over? Does everyone do PR now? What’s wrong with PR? Why is it broken? Is it even necessary anymore?

The latest rant about how PR is broken comes from Michael Arrington of TechCrunch. I was on vacation when this post appeared so I did not participate in the comments parade (145 and counting!) following his post. But I have to say that I don’t blame him. Like Mike and his post-muse, Steve Rubel, I have recently experienced what it’s like to receive really bad, really off-focus PR pitches (since I started blogging outside of PerkettPR for This Mommy Gig, Women for Hire, etc.). The pitches I’ve received have embarrassed me, knowing that these are the professionals representing our industry… and doing such a bad job that reporters and bloggers are compelled to publicly cry out against PR in general. I don’t have time to read – let alone respond to – lazy, off-topic pitches and I’m pretty sure that I’m not even half as busy as guys like Mike.

All of this hoopla – combined with recent incoming new business inquires where prospects told me they are looking for a “Web 2.0 PR Agency” – has me thinking. Is there a difference between “traditional PR” and ” Web 2.0 PR?” Is PR really broken or are executives under pressures from clients who don’t understand, now more than ever, what PR is about? What is a Web 2.0 PR Agency, anyway? I think it depends on who you ask.

One prospect defined a “Web 2.0 PR Agency” through a series of posts describing the agency as having “current clients in the Web 2.0 space with funny sounding names” and the ability to demonstrate “out-of-the-boxiness” – preferably by wearing jeans and t-shirts to the pitch meeting and not bringing paper presentations. Numerous other prospects defined Web 2.0 PR as having a blog (you’d be surprised how many companies haven’t even taken this step yet). Still others said they were heavily weighing their decision on a new agency around the amount of Twitter followers or Facebook friends each agency had (although, since most agencies don’t yet have – or keep up – a corporate entity like @PerkettPR, they instead looked at one individual most of the time).

None of the above makes a successful “Web 2.0 PR Agency.” You can still abuse Twitter and Facebook if you use them to send bad pitches (or any pitches, in some cases). You can be a savvy PR firm and still wear suits (in fact 99 percent of the time if we showed up in jeans and a t-shirt, we’d never get the job). You can have thousands of followers on Twitter and not one of them who cares about your clients or their products (hence delivering no value).  Anyone can create a blog.

PR has always been about “people skills,” as vague as that sounds. It’s not only about how many existing relationships you have, but rather about the ability to connect with others in a valuable and meaningful way – whether we’ve met or not. It’s also about mutual benefit and communication – not just calling when you need something.  And finally, it’s about time – we’re not brain surgeons, but just as you could paint your own house, you most likely have other things you need to do, so you pay someone to do it for you. PR is not dead because everyone wants promotion. Some are good at doing it themselves, some need help and still others simply want to pay someone to do it for them.

A “Web 2.0 PR Agency” is simply one that understands the new ways that people are connecting and building relationships. They understand that today, “people skills,” go beyond attending networking events or taking a reporter to dinner once in awhile. They take the time to join the conversation, read and comment, share a bit of their own insights and give something back to the community in terms of participation. As Arrington said, “… participate in the fascinating conversations [and suddenly] you are a person that gives and takes. Someone who makes the overall network stronger.” PR executives can do this as well, if they make the time for it – think of what you can learn! In this regard, a good “Web 2.0 PR Agency” isn’t afraid to experiment and take chances – breaking out of the usual PR mold (which clearly isn’t working anymore).

Any “Web 2.0 PR Agency” understands that it may take more time to read, comment, write, build and share original content, and provide information – but that consistent participation is the key to success. You can’t watch from the sidelines anymore. PR agencies are suffering because they are used to maximizing billable hours by skimming the surface – they find a basic formula, teach junior executives what it is and apply it to all reporters, analysts, bloggers, etc. They don’t want to spend hours personalizing efforts for clients when they can service more clients – hence, more retainers – if one formula fits all.

This doesn’t work anymore yet they don’t know how to change. Managers demand reports of who received a press release, rather than recognizing the value in ongoing conversations and the time it takes to actually read and respond appropriately to individual constituents or to execute direct-to-customer communications. But it isn’t just agencies, the demand for such reports and lists – and the failure to recognize value in building relationships through two-way conversations – also lies with clients. They don’t measure conversations, they measure clips and ask for your Rolodex. Blasting news can quickly create a pretty list of reporters who the firm “pitched” and, sadly, can often create more quantity – not quality – “hits” than the time it takes to work with a reporter for a feature story or to build a viral campaign.

PR isn’t dead – it’s alive and well in almost anything you read on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and more (disclosure: The Style Observer and Constant Contact are clients). Traditional PR (media, speaking, awards, analyst relations, events, etc.) can still be effective – but in conjunction with these new social channels. I believe a “Web 2.0 PR Agency” understands this, has come to grips with the fact that a reusable formula no longer works, takes the time to participate, and is flexible and wise enough to adapt to this reality – and teach clients how to do so as well.

Persuasive Picks for the Week of 03/24/08

There were a lot of juicy bits to choose from this week. Here are a few that made our Persuasive Picks:

A Successful MySpace Social Media Campaign
While not all businesses will find MySpace to be suitable platform for their Social Media campaigns, those who might will find inspiration in this post on the Social Media Optimization blog. It details the success that Disney had during its recent campaign to promote its “Step Up” movie franchise.

15 Reasons Why Blogging Matters More Than Ever
If Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation Blog and Podcast aren’t on the top of your reading and listening lists each week, then you should take some time to work them to the top of your list. This week he touches upon why blogging still matters. While its a topic that has been beaten to death on hundreds of blogs already, Mitch’s points are all very relevant and are presented in a thoughtful way that keep the material fresh.

The Ready, Fire, Aim, Reload Strategy for Social Media Success
Brian Clark from Copyblogger touches upon a new a new style of thinking that should be understood when adapting to the process of creating content for your site’s visitors.

Case Study: Dissecting the Dell Regeneration Graffiti Facebook Campaign
Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang analyzes Dell’s recent Regeneration Graffiti campaign on Facebook and shows that sometimes letting go and letting the community drive the “campaign bus” can yield very positive results.

The Beauty, Secrets and Utility of Twitter for Business
Social Media Strategy Consultant, B.L Ochman shares her experiences and love for Twitter and how it fits into her daily ritual as a favorite business tool.

Turning radicals into revolutionaries: the key to kick-starting your social strategy
More good nuggets from the Forrester camp this week with this post by Charlene Li who taps more content from her upcoming book Groundswell. This time Charlene speaks towards harnessing the power of your most passionate employees to lead the charge in engaging your customers online.

Are We Too Old for Facebook?

We are doing a lot of work on the social networking front here at PerkettPR – training workshops, new hires/social media staff and holding some really valuable analyst and media discussions. We’re following Forrester Research as you know, and their Groundswell activities, as well as watching closely for great examples of business use of social media. Many of these include YouTube and LinkedIn and some are extending campaigns to Facebook, MySpace and others.

A few weeks ago, Dan Costa of PC Magazine, wrote about social networking and indicated that perhaps some of the more popular of these sites do not hold credible value for the over-30 crowd. His column, “MySpace is Not Your Space,” provides a guideline (his opinion) on who should be on which site. While we don’t totally agree – we think some of his thoughts on the use of these sites are short sighted – it’s interesting to think about. (For example, he states “I am not trying to keep the 50-something, married software engineer away from the 17-year old coed cheerleader majoring in Art History—although maybe I should be.” We don’t’ think that’s what professionals are focusing on with their use of these sites – and can’t the two co-exist without crossing paths? For example, if we’re trying to reach high school students for a campaign, isn’t it better that we are involved in and understand the medium that we are using?)

We believe that social networking will continue to evolve as an industry and, while Facebook may not launch a separate site as Dan suggests, it has inspired many new sites that do provide a more laser focus on specific issues and groups. For example, our client Sermo focuses on medical doctors, other focused sites already exist for PR professionals, the town you live in and various hobbies – even venture capitalism, as today’s Boston Globe reported on next month’s launch of VentureNetwork.vc, an online social network for professionals looking for another channel to connect and talk shop. The user numbers on these sites may not reach Facebook’s level, but as we all continue to figure out the value and monetary possibilities for such communities, the value will increase regardless of the numbers – camaraderie, additional support and encouragement, new networks, collective insight and more are invaluable.

For example, Guy Kawasaki wrote a great blog post at AlwaysOn regarding how one of the less-understood social networking tools, Twitter, can add value today. Many people out there don’t get the value of Twitter (we just started exploring this ourselves) and may say, as Dan does about MySpace and Facebook, that it’s a better tool for the younger crowd with time on their hands. Guy shows that it’s so much more – already driving “tens of thousands of page views,” debunking rumors and extending networks. And, since no one person seems to really have the answers on social networking’s value to business – yet – keep exploring, keep trialing and keep sharing your insights.

Tech-Savvy High School Students and Universities Connect at CollegeWeekLive

Today’s high school students have grown up online. The Facebook/MySpace/YouTube generation now has another new online destination: their future college. We’re not talking about attending college – no one wants to miss the real thing – but rather, maximizing their time and budgets to meet with a myriad of colleges across the country before choosing the right one.

With the average student-to-counselor ratio in US high schools at 315:1, students could use some additional guidance around which colleges to visit, what questions to ask and even what current students have to say about their experience. But touring campuses takes a good deal of time and money – both the student’s and their parents. Enter CollegeWeekLive, a one-of-a-kind virtual event produced next month by our client PlatformQ that provides an opportunity to visit more colleges in two days than many students would have the opportunity to before graduation.

CollegeWeekLive is free for students and will be an interactive two day conference held online. Students can visit interactive booths, talk to guidance counselors and even follow along as current students provide a peek into campus life. Sessions include topics such as “Key Factors in College Admissions Today” and “How to Win a Sports Scholarship,” as well as lively student panels from students around the nation. To-date, participating universities include notables such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as the University of Virginia, University of Mississippi – Ole Miss, University of California – Irvine, University of Connecticut, UMass Boston, Northeastern University, Tufts University, Air Force Academy and many others. Stay tuned as the list grows daily.

Take a virtual tour to learn more – CollegeWeekLive will be held November 13th and 14th from 3:00 p.m. EST to 11:00 p.m. EST.

 

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