The Second Life tidal wave has finally crossed the Atlantic and is leaping on European shores. By and large, communication professionals are perplexed about whether they should surf the hype or not.
But, to their credit, they recognize a "PR opportunity" when they see one: Over the last six months, media coverage related to Second Life (SL) increased nearly 150%1 while SL blog mentions increased 260%.2
But how long will the Second-Life media frenzy last? And if not for PR, what is the value of investing time and money with avatars when marketing budgets are under renewed pressure to deliver real returns from real consumers?
While a reality check is overdue, I would argue that there is more than meets the eye in SL, and there is genuine value to be extracted for brands that are willing to learn the dynamics of the "metaverse" and play by its rules.
Second Life is a land of plenty, not of many
There are over 2.9 million registered users in SL,3 but most reports talk of about 300,000 active users; and it is estimated that concurrent users are only around 20,000.4
Marketers are interested in knowing their audience. Reliable estimates on SL demographics are hard to come by, but it is thought that 25-45% of users come from outside the US, mostly from Canada, the UK, Australia, and Western Europe.5
SL is developing quickly outside North America, and local European enclaves such as a virtual Dublin or Parioli, a replica of a Roman street, are flourishing. SL users' median age is 32, with an equal gender split.6
Joel Cere is vice-president of Hill & Knowlton's online communication practice (Netcoms) for Europe, Middle East and Africa. He blogs at beyondpr.blogspot.com and has been a guest lecturer at the University of Metz, France since 1999.