Sunday, September 2, 2007

OOPS - What happened to our strategist?

Lately, Second Life (SL) has received negative press about its ineffectiveness for business. The much discussed and publicized SL version of Starwood Hotels is closing its doors. I have been to Starwood Hotels in SL many times. The builds are gorgeous and the space is beautifully designed. The problem is, there is nothing to do. It’s like a big empty palace where you can look but can’t touch. That gets boring.

In order for companies to experience any kind of ROI whether it’s involvement and investment, it needs to consider how it will engage its target audience. Second Life and virtual worlds are new and companies aren't sure what to do with it. It’s not much different from the web in the early 90’s. Virtual worlds will be like the web in a few years – people will not be able to imagine a world without this technology.

Instead of bashing Second Life, get real for what it is and the possibilities it creates. Since I first created an account in 2005, I have attended the most interesting and educational conferences, interfaced with people from all over the world, studied foreign languages, and attended countless art shows hosted by New Media Consortium and other groups. And that’s not all.

As it relates to education, SL is also a powerful tool. Countless universities have virtual campuses in SL. It eliminates distance and creates an entirely different layer of interaction that would otherwise not be possible in the real world. The problem is so many companies rush in without thinking how to effectively use this technology. If I rush to open a restaurant just because I can, what are the chances of being successful, especially if I lack any significant understanding of the restaurant business?

I would think marketing strategists would know better and I am disappointed in my colleagues for being seduced by the wow factor and not considering how to properly use this technology.