SL18B Meet the Lindens: Brett Linden – summary with video

Thursday, June 24th, 2021 saw the fourth in a series of Meet the Lindens events take place for the SL Birthday celebrations, featuring Brett Linden, the Lab’s Vice President of Marketing.

The following is a summary of the session covering the core topics raised, with selected audio extracts. The full video is located at the end of this article.

Table of Contents

Also, information given in braces ({ and ]), has been provided by myself and did not form a part of the conversation.

About Brett Linden

  • As VP of marketing, Brett Linden manages the team responsible for developing media campaigns and strategic content partnerships for Second Life. Together, they focus on both the acquisition of new users and the retention of existing users for the virtual world.
  • Has more then 2 decades of marketing and journalism experience.
  • In the past decade, he has produced numerous virtual and “mixed reality” events and panels on various academic topics with an emphasis on legitimising and better surfacing the many cultures and communities within virtual environments.
  • From Rolling Stone to Billboard, Brett has also written for major publications and managed multimedia initiatives for Amazon.com and RealNetworks. He has co-founded numerous media sites on-line, including the Second Life Destination Guide and Rolling Stone Radio. As a co-founding editor at Billboard.com, he interviewed Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Shania Twain, and Bjork.
  • Was drawn to Second Life after trying the platform during its first burst of media exposure in 2006 – specifically trying to find the CNN and Reuters bureaux that were active in SL at that time.
  • At the same time, he received a grant from the McCormick Foundation to run the Virtual Journalism Summit, some of which took place in-world, allowing him to meet Philip Rosedale.
  • He moved from being a resident to being a Linden in 2007.
  • He is as fascinated and intrigued – and sometimes frustrated – but always illuminated by the platform, the residents, the diversity of use and creativity, etc., today, as he was when he started.
  • Did not work on Sansar to a great extent, his focus has always been on Second Life, which is true for the majority of his team.

Back to top

Loss of Ebbe Altberg

[Video: 6:05-9:00]

Brett offered his own words in remembrance of Ebbe Altberg, the Lab’s CEO, who passed away recently. Rather than paraphrase him, I’m including an audio recording of his comments.

As a reminder, those wishing to pay their respect to Ebbe can do so at his in-world memorial (see also: Paying respects to Ebbe Altberg in Second Life).

Back to top

Second life and the Pandemic

[Video: 10:38-15:23]

  • On a personal level, it’s been tough on the entire marketing team in both the mental toll of being in lockdown, and for some being directly impacted by the loss of others through COVID.
  • The pandemic has caused a lot of attention to be focused on “the metaverse” and virtual worlds / spaces.
  • The early months of the pandemic in 2020 saw a significant spike in SL use in terms of new registrations, concurrency and returning “old” users. This has since dropped, but the metrics are still strong.
  • For the Marketing team, it has meant a major acceleration in workload and pivoting plans and activities, with work levels still at a high level.
  • It felt odd that the pandemic turned the spotlight onto virtual spaces and “the metaverse”, with Second life sharing in some of it, and then working to provide the means for people to leverage the platform to  meet their needs.
  • Even now, media enquiries on the state of Second life remain much higher than they were pre-pandemic, thanks to even tangential things such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs),  so media and PR efforts have had to be extended.
  • LL has hired-in Elizabeth Olsen, who was a founding Executive Editor of Game Informer magazine, as a consultant to support media outreach work, working closely with Brett.

Back to top

Marketing Partnerships

[Video: 17:16-25:28]

The NFL Alumni stadium
  • More partnerships coming – possibly in late summer: comics, music, film and graphic novels, etc.
  • All of these are regarded as part of the overall “year of experimenting” for Marketing in an attempt to learn what works / does not work in attracting a new audience.
  • Partnership are not happenstance or based on brand name alone – there is an attempt to build inroads to user engagement where partners have a “fit” with SL and can make active use of the platform.
  • Such partnerships also help with media promotion of SL, allowing LL to point to the partner brands and so generate further media interest.
  • The work is not at the point of bringing in “Triple A” artists, etc., but the partnerships are with well-known entities that are open to using SL to extend their fanbase or their communities.

Back to top

Diversity in Marketing

[Video: 27:45-29:57]

  • LL does try to promote diversity in SL, but acknowledges more could be done. Work is put into promoting community work through Flickr and YouTube.
  • Promotional work through the likes of social media is subject to checking that it is being as inclusive as possible given the broad diversity of Second Life communities.
  • The furry community has recently been a focus, but rather than being self-congratulatory about it, the team notes it is something that has been overdue – and their are other communities that also deserve promotion.

Back to top

Blogs and Social Media Strategy

[Video: 30:22-36:05]

  • Social media is a core element in promoting Second Life – not just through official channels, but because users themselves are prolific in promoting the platform through their channels. Flickr is s good example of this.
  • LL tries to leverage this organic content to help amplify the community and Second Life.
  • YouTube influencers are another means for the Lab to help promote SL.
  • The Lab’s own content includes the likes of the Destination videos that help highlight locations and communities; the Lab Gab series; Second life Book Club; Music Mondays, the newer Showcase Streams – drop-in livestreams of in-world events; picture of the day, etc.
  • All of this is promoted in the official blogs, but is also amplified to broader audiences as well.
  • There’s also the Second Life Blogger Network (SLBN) that showcases users’ blogs, with 660 bloggers already enrolled.

Back to top

External Media Advertising, Paid Ads, and Strategies

[Video: 41:42-48:31]

  • External media advertising is a strategy, and does vary month-by-month due to budget and things like the seasonality of Second Life in terms of balancing ad spend against growth.
  • The Marketing budget also covers general PR for Second Life.
  • A portion of the Marketing budget does go on ad spend / performance marketing (where advertisers pay marketing companies or advertising platforms for results achieved, such as clicks or conversion). This has seen an accelerated return over the last two years, again possible due to the pandemic.
  • A new area the Lab is now looking at is on-line video advertising. This has been taking the form of 30-second clips from the Destination videos produced for LL, which are pushed to various channel for promotion (and are not necessarily seen on the Lab’s main YouTube channel).
  • Another area for advertising is via cord-cutting platforms (essentially people moving away from traditional satellite and cable services and into streaming services, many of which are ad-supported).  This offers enormous potential for ad placement, as is something the Lab is looking at.
  • Most / all of these strategies are developed by Darcy Linden, who is now the Director of Marketing, and who has a wealth of experience in the digital advertising sphere.
  • Another aspect of the Marketing work is the brand refresh and renewing the message of what does Second Life mean to different audiences – and what it could mean to those who have never heard of it.
  • The “win back” campaign is a further spoke in the wheel – trying to win back users who have stopped using SL for whatever reason.
    • [1:23:36-1:26:47] one aspect of this is an incentive (Linden Dollars of varying amounts) and rewards (free virtual gifts) based approach. Such approaches are not uncommon in the US, and the Lab has achieved reasonable success with it.
    • Another approach to to win back former users organically – showing them the value of coming back (e.g. reconnecting with old friends, showing them new opportunities for engagement / discovery, etc.).
    • When handled correctly, such campaigns can be very successful, but they also can be difficult to get right, simply because people can leave a platform for a wide range of reasons; thus there is a lot more to be done in refining the work in this area, but the results have been pleasing.

Back to top

General Q&A

The following is a selection of the questions that generated fuller answers and / or had a marketing lean.

  • [36:10-41:00] Helping in-world Businesses market themselves: is there a way LL can help in-world business promote themselves and reach a wider audience?
    • First off – full credit to the likes of Seraphim and blogs that do similar work.
    • Also appreciates all the e-zines produced by SL users and made available through the likes of issuu.com.
    • LL wants to support these endeavours and draw attention to them, again through featuring on the SLBN pages, etc.
    • There are also obviously tools such as the Destination Guide, the Marketplace and events listings that can all be leveraged by users, creators and communities.
    • A new service people can sign-up to is the events e-mail list.
    • There’s also the official Message of the Day (MOTD) in the viewer’s log-in screen which can at times be used to promote events [note: some TPVs generate their own MOTD, so this may differ from what is seen in the official viewer].
  • [48:33-53:44] How can SL residents help promote the platform?
    • Word of Mouth. Now more than ever, SL is something to be proud of in the way it enables social connections through situations like this pandemic, and give people the means to reach out, connect and share.
    • Not everyone may be comfortable is talking about their involvement with the platform, but for those who are, the encouragement to do so is there to do so by showing off activities, sharing with friends, etc.
    • Also – be kind to newcomers within the platform; help them with any issues they may be having, be welcoming, etc. As much as the sign-up and New User Experience is for on-boarding, a big slice of whether newcomers stay or not is how the local population respond to them.
  • [1:02:33-1:05:59] What do you think SL will be like when it turns 20?
    • This has been a topic of discussion within the Lab already, simply because it is such a milestone, including the potential for product and feature sets, but these are outside of the Marketing remit to discuss.
    • On a personal perspective, essentially cracking the challenge that ensures incoming users have an experience that matches the promise of whatever ad , etc., than brought them through the door, and where the basics of just on-boarding and customising an avatar are so straightforward, the churn of users arriving and leaving is greatly reduced, and the entire process is much more engaging and encourages people to stay and learn and explore.
  • [1:08:09-1:09:36] Is the Lab entirely US-centric?
    • The Marketing Team is entirely US-centric, and the company by its nature is US-centric [being based in California, etc.]
    • There are contractors (the Moles) who are more global in nature.
  • [1:14:45-1:16:32] Will Mainland be promoted?
    • Mainland is an area where the Marketing team needs to do more.  There are unique characteristics available there – such as the ability to  explore on foot or by vehicles.
    • LL have done a six-part video series on the Second Life Rail Road (SLRR), which covered the Mainland tracks, and more could be done in that vein.
  • [1:18:27-1:22:43] Could LL get Facebook to allow the use of accounts in avatar names?
    • Aware that this has been a problem for many SL / Facebook users, and that some have worked around it by using Facebook pages.
    • It would be good for those wish wish, and who prefer to use their SL identities over their wallet identities to be able to use Facebook, although that’s a policy decision on FB’s part.
    • Equally, is aware that many SL users either do not want to use Facebook, and/or only want their SL identities in the public eye, and so doesn’t want to give the impression either of these choices would be at risk; it is purely in the context of helping those who want to do so, not forcing SL users to use it.
  • [1:27:02-1:31:15] Why doesn’t Twitch allow streaming from SL? Can this be changed?
    • Second Life is currently on the Twitch restricted games list due to SL supporting full freedom of expression, including adult content, which can fall outside of Twitch’s usage guidelines. This is obviously Twitch’s choice
    • There are clearly strategic reasons why LL would like to see Twitch allow streaming from SL; however, LL also don’t want to compromise the integrity of SL and all of its communities by changing the platform purely to allow streaming to Twitch.
    •  As such, there is a dialogue between the two companies that may lead to this being changed,  although it is early days, and nothing can be promised purely from LL’s side on whether Twitch will change their view of SL.
  • [1:31:23-1:36:38] Can LL get rock groups in to SL?
    • LL is looking at entertainment / brand partnerships that are a good fit. Established musicians are among some of those the Lab is talking to. The beauty here is that this is a low-risk, potentially mutually beneficial approach that lets both LL and the partner concerned try something, and explore what works / doesn’t work.
    • Critical aspects to consider (from the potential partner’s perspective) is the the potential audience reach, quality and integrity of the experience, will there been an option to embedded merchandise / e-commerce into the experience,  etc. However, there are brands and artists that LL is is discussion with, and one may be announced in the near future.
    • These initiatives should not been seen as trying to take anything away from SL’s own vibrant music community – live performers and DJs. They are purely about raising the platforms visibility and trying to extend its audience reach,.
    • Virtual cinemas and working with the likes of Titmouse is another approach.
    • [In a somewhat different context, Duran Duran once dabbled in Second Life, and in 2011 there was a competition run in SL on behalf of the group.]
  • [1:42:50-1:45:00] Has LL engaged with the arts community / museums, etc., for Marketing? Have there been successes?
Virtual Peale in Second Life
  • [1:45:51-1:50:02] What is the Lab’s strategy for attracting young adults to the platform?
    • This is an important aspect, given the success of Roblox over the last couple of years. While that audience is predominantly of an age that is too young for SL, they are a potential audience for the future as they start to look for more sophisticated creative outlets. So the question is how can SL be positioned for this, particularly given an audience from something like Roblox will already be well-versed in the concepts of user-generated content and sandbox-style environments.
    • Should Second Life itself seek a younger audience? That’s a tougher question. Yes, it would be nice to have broader, younger engagement if the platform were set-up to support it. However, the platform is mature, does have sophisticated [adult] content, so a lot of capabilities [/safeguards] that are not currently in place would be needed in  order for the platform to accommodation minors;  so how would the platform reach a younger audience without jeopardising what has been achieved would need to be carefully addressed.
    • In addition, the product development teams are developing a roadmap of feature sets that might open up or restrict how SL would be amenable / agreeable to a younger audience.
    • LL  also looks at the senior demographic as well as  an opportunity, but ultimately, what SL does today, and does well, has to be a significant factor in marketing the platform.
  • [1:51:25-1:53:08] Can LL help support those who manage communities in SL – promotion, etc?
    • From a marketing perspective, always want to support those who support SL and a positive user experience, with a particular emphasis on new users coming into the platform who are critical to growth. So in this regard, there is the Community Gateway Programme.
    • If people have a proposal for how LL can help support communities, then please submit it to the leadership team.
  • [1:54:14-End] Will data / metrics on SL use be made more regularly available for journos, etc?
    • Data does play a big role in Marketing [see: The Heart & Science of Second Life Marketing], but this does not mean that everything is purely driven by algorithms. There is a combination of analysis and data collection to ensure marketing efforts aren’t skewed in a certain direction.
    • In terms of general metrics, LL does try to be transparent, although there are some data points that are not made public. The stats that are vetted for accuracy and publicly shared include:
      • Total registered accounts: +70 million.
      • Average daily usage: currently 200,000 users across 200 countries.
      • GDP: equivalent to US $600 million.
      • Creator cash-outs in last 12 months: over US $80 million.
    • It may be possible to put these stats on the SL website.

Feedback on Marketing

[Video: 26:00-27:39]

Feedback on marketing campaigns, on ideas, etc., can be given through the following channels:

  • E-mail editor@lindenlab.com.
  • In-world IM.
  • Official forums.

Have any thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.