|On Thursday, June 25th, 2020 at the SL17B celebrations, the fourth of five Meet the Lindens sessions was held, featuring Linden Lab’s Marketing team, led by Brett Linden, the Lab’s Senior Director of Marketing, Darcy Linden, Maverick Linden, Tara Linden and Strawberry Linden.
The following is a summary of the session covering the core topics raised, with selected audio extracts. The notes provided have been taken directly from the official video of the session, which is embedded at the end of this article. Time stamps to the video are also provided for ease of reference.
|Table of Contents
- Due to the random approach taken in presenting subjects, this summary attempts to offer a logical flow to information by topic, and so does not follow the chronology of the session video.
- Audio extracts, where included, have been cleaned-up and balanced to remove pauses, repetitions, etc.
- Audience questions were taken at the end of the session (from the 52:00 mark in the video). However:
- As some were related to the core discussion topics, responses to them have been given under the appropriate topic heading below, with a time stamp to where they were asked in the video.
- Others – such as land fees, educational use of SL, etc. – were more thoroughly answered in the sessions with Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, summarised here, and / or with Patch Linden, summarised here. I therefore refer readers to those summaries.
- In places, information that is supplementary to the team’s comments is provided in square braces (i.e. [ and ]) are used in the body text below to indicate where this is the case.
- For more information on the Marketing Second of Life, please also refer to the following:
About The Marketing Team
- Brett: joined Linden Lab in 2007, and is a former music journalist who has interviewed David Bowie, Bjork, 2Pac, Peter Gabriel, Stevie Wonder and more.
- Darcy Linden – Senior Marketing Manager – joined the Lab in 2018.
- Maveric Linden – Marketing Analyst – joined linden Lab in 2014, refers to himself as “the data guy”.
- Tara Linden – Marketing Content Specialist – joined Linden Lab in 2019.
- Strawberry Linden – Marketing Content Specialist – joined Linden Lab in 2019 (formerly resident Strawberry Singh).
- Primary focus is the acquisition of new users and retention of existing users in SL.
- Also work closely with other teams within LL such as Product and Engineering, and may be consulted about various SL features – Name Changes, user on-boarding processes, avatar customisation, etc., but the team is not necessarily the decision makers on such aspects of the platform.
- User acquisition takes a number of forms such as both paid and unpaid advertising campaigns using both traditional and digital media outlets.
- The team’s experience is broad-ranging: web analytics, advertising, public relations, journalism, e-commerce, editorial, search engine optimisation (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) – both of which (and their differences) are explained here -, social media marketing (SMM) and social media community management.
- More information on the team’s individual backgrounds and roles can be heard between 3:53-8:21.
What Impact has the Pandemic Had?
- Brett: on a human level, there have been a variety of reactions throughout LL.
- In terms of SL, there has been something of a resurgence of interest in the platform as a result of people having to maintain physical / social distancing / being in isolation.
- Whilst many are discovering / returning to the platform have done so because it offers a safe haven for social interaction and fun, some have been drawn to the platform due to its utility.
- The upturn in interest is being reflected in the media.
- Makes for an awkward dichotomy: on the one hand the world is caught within the throes of the pandemic, but professionally, the Lab and SL are benefiting.
Active User Numbers
- Brett: In April 2020 – regarded as the “peak” of the resurgence at the time of the event – the monthly active user count was “just shy” of 900,000.
- [Note a You Tube comment from @Secondlife Official indicates for June, the figure appears to be around the “lower mid-800,000s”.]
- This increase has been both new users and returning users who have not logged-in for some time.
- Darcy: Second life has actually been “growing steadily” in user numbers for the last few years, even with surge resulting from the pandemic, so the focus is on maintaining that broader growth trend.
Marketing and Second Life
What Are the Challenges Marketing Faces With Returning Users / New Users?
- Darcy: Residents tend to come in three “buckets”: new users; returning with little prior engagement; returning with significant prior engagement.
- Overall the issues new / returning users who have been absent a long time are facing are not any different during the pandemic as prior to it. They are generally all issues of which LL has been aware of and is trying to address.
- Part of the approach to issues is a case of “learn by doing” as much as anything else (just how hard is it to create and dress a new avatar?).
- However, as with much else with SL, until the Uplift project has been completed, there are unlikely to be significant changes that will further assist the new user experience / growing the number of retained users.
- Steeltoe Linden [referred to as being “back” on SL, so potentially a returnee from Sansar?] has a lot of ideas for improving the viewer UI in this regard.
- Strawberry Linden: the official Second Life You Tube channel includes a playlist of “official” tutorials and a playlist of community tutorials that can help new / returning users.
- [1:01:02-1:03:53] Darcy: tests have been going on directly and with community gateways (notably Firestorm) for the on-boards “first hour”. As a result of this, additional back-end technology that will be used on the learning islands to better monitor approaches to how new users learn and engage – what helps move them towards sticking, etc.
Diversity and Representation in Second Life Marketing
- Tara: LL has always believed that inclusiveness is an important element of Second Life, as is the freedom for people to positively express themselves.
- Events such as Black Lives Matter have helped underline the need to further emphasise this in marketing the platform.
- Representation is not just a matter of presenting images featuring a diverse array of avatars but also in normalising identities that exist outside of the “accepted” [e.g. straight, white, able-bodied] and accepting and presenting the outlook of minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, disabled people, etc., is a valid position / proposition.
- Doing so helps those who identify recognise SL is a safe place for people to be where they are welcome to express themselves.
Strategy for Paid Advertising
- Darcy: Have run a number of campaigns for both new users and users who have lapsed away from SL. These utilise Google Ads as well as being across the digital advertising landscape.
- There is also the Affiliate Programme.
- Currently looking at the possibility of new video ads for Second Life to be viewed across multiple platforms.
- Ads are always being tested / optimised – advertising SL can be hit-and-miss given the broadness of content / avatar looks, so formats, images, etc., always being tested.
- Hoping also to do more community advertising – promoting specific community types that are active in SL to target potential users who might be interested in joining those communities. Testing has already been done with “anthro / non-human” communities.
- [1:15:36-1:15:58] LL also uses some advertising agencies outside of Google and Facebook. As with everything else, these are always monitored in terms of performance [ROI, etc.].
How is Data Used in Marketing?
- Maveric: Data is an important part of the marketing engine.
- A lot is gathered via monitoring user behaviour – particularly new users coming into SL through the on-boarding process, and trying to view all that is going on in SL as world to try to help steer incoming users to where they want to go.
- A lot of data comes through assorted testing as well.
- All of this then informs the structure and content of future marketing campaigns.
- Part of the data gathering extends to trying to find some high-level ways in which information / gathered data can be shared with existing users to reinforce their engagement.
- An example of this: in a closed beta of rezday e-mails sent to users, LL included some “personal milestones” to users to help commend them for their engagement in the platform.
- This approach was positively received by those users who were a part of the test.
- [1:15:59-1:18:09] Brett: would emphasise that it’s not all data; there’s a balance between using hard science and data and accounting for the sheer diversity of use within Second Life. So would emphasise:
- Right now SL is experiencing user growth across the board – concurrency, new user sign-ups, Premium subscriptions, economic activity, etc.
Brands Returning to SL
- Brett: Has been exciting to see mainstream organisations / brands / artists / performers all take another look at SL, but LL are still aware it is the community as a whole who have stuck with the platform down the years who are responsible for its longevity.
- Some of the focus from mainstream brands / organisations has been instigated by the community. for example:
- The licensing deal struck with Sanrio by user Astralia to promote Hello Kitty in SL.
- The recent NFL Alumni event held in Second Life was user-driven.
- LL have also partnered with Adult Swim for the Shivering Truth event [see: Adult Swim special streaming event in Second Life].
- There is more to come, but nothing that could be shared at this event. In particular, the new ability to stream into Second Life [as used for the Adult Swim event] offers up new opportunities for both the community and possibly for external brands.
- [Note: reference in the event was made to the CEF (Chrome Embedded Framework) viewer for streaming into Second Life, referring to it as “coming soon”. This viewer actually became the de facto official release viewer on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020.]
Can the Lab Make it Easier for Creators to Reach a Broader Audience?
- Darcy: LL has such an opportunity on all of their web properties to help creator show off their wares / creations to other residents and those looking at the various SL web properties.
- One idea is for an “SL Advertiser Network”:
- Essentially allowing creators to pay a L$ and have targeted adverts for their products delivered to specific users as the peruse the different SL web properties, and based on anonymised data gathered on the users’ shopping habits.
- Ads could even allow direct purchase of items, delivered to inventory, and creators would also get reports on the effectiveness of the advertising, etc.
- This is still very much an idea right now, but the hope is to be looking more closely at it in 2021.
- The approach could also work with events that would allow adverts to events to be displayed on SL web pages as a user browses them, and based on the types of event for which they’ve previously demonstrated an interest.
- [Video: 35:29-36:05] Strawberry: public regions, event venues, etc., should also make sure they are in the Destination Guide. Blogger should join the Second Life Blogger Network. and photographers submit images to the Second Life Flickr group.
How Can the User Community Help Market Second Life?
- Brett Linden: The number one thing is word of mouth – people sharing their involvement in Second Life – either directly or via social media.
Why Was the Second Life Logo Refreshed? What is the position on the Community using It?
- Maveric Linden: Steeltoe Linden spearheaded the redesign as a result of a general company consensus that the brand required a refresh, the last update being over a decade ago.
- Currently in the middle of the process to ensure everything is updated – most of the web properties should now be done, although getting everything in-world properly updated will take time.
- Brett: in terms of logo use, and without wishing to talk against the legal team, if there is a specific use case someone want to make with the SL logo / trademark, then a formal request should be made to legal-at-lindenlab.com or ipteam-at-lindenlab.com. However, there has been no change to requirements for use just because the logo has changed.
- [Note: use of SL logos, trademarks, etc., can be found in the Second Life Trademark Guidelines.]
- Strawberry: More blog posts as LL is trying to have a much more visible presence on social media and on the official blogs.
- Part of this is down to the Lab in general being a lot more prolific in developing and providing information and content – e.g. official videos.
- This is in turn in part driven by a desire to showcase all that is going on in Second Life.
The “Meet the Lindens” Social Media Campaign
- Strawberry Linden: idea originated with Naz Linden, and Steeltoe Linden.
- Was run on a volunteer basis among staff, with 47 rising to the call.
- Demonstrated that the Lab’s employees are as richly diverse as SL residents, both in interests and in their avatar selection.
Second Life Blogger Network and Second Life Book Club
- Strawberry Linden: the Blogger Network is around 450 bloggers and vloggers, with more signing-up daily.
- Try to showcase around 10 posts per day.
- Shared via the forums, social media and the viewer log-in page.
- Has proven popular with those participating.
- Event organisers can sign-up.
- Brett: the Second Life Book Club [actually a carry over from Sansar] is going well.
- LL supported the idea because of the manner in which the pandemic has hit certain vertical markets, such as a book industry, where authors have been impacted by the inability to do readings, signing sessions, meet-and-greets, etc.
- LL now looking at other verticals where similar initiatives could be developed.
- [1:4::0-1:5:32] How do you plan to use the success of Bellisseria in marketing campaigns?
- Brett: There is a very active dialogue within LL on how to leverage the success of Bellisseria with exsiting [non-Premium] users. Demand has been such that it has been hard to know when to go ahead with e-mail promotions to users about it as available homes go so quickly.
- However, work is in progress to integrate pictures of the Bellisseria environments into Second Life marketing campaigns.
- [1:8:41-1:11:18] Is anything being done about Twitch not allowing streaming out from Second Life?
- Brett: LL is in on-going and direct discussions with Twitch on the issue, including pointing them to the official content on You Tube, Facebook, etc.
- Trying to determine what are Twitch’s best practices for streaming, and offering to work with Twitch to ensure streams from SL are compliant.
- As it is, and unrelated to the discussions with LL, Twitch have started a process to re-assess their policies on streaming.
- In the meantime, there are platforms that support streaming out of SL – so support the platforms that support you!