Lab launches resident-focused Second Life promotional videos

secondlifeOn July 20th, 2015, Linden Lab issued two new Second Life  promotional videos on their official YouTube channel.

Both are entitled Second Life – The Largest-Ever 3D Virtual World Created By Users, and combine footage shot by the Lab (some of which has been seen in past promotional videos) with footage from Draxtor Despres’ outstanding World Makers series.

There’s nothing actually new in this per se; the Lab combined their own footage with some from World Makers in their December 2013 promotional pieces, which I reviewed here.

However, what makes these different is that overlaying the video footage are a series of audio clips taken from the World Makers series (and possibly elsewhere), featuring Second Life users talking directly about the platform.

Thus, unlike the purely music-based videos before them, these offer a very user-centric look at Second Life which makes them compelling viewing, and perhaps the best promotional videos yet produced for the platform.

At a minute in length, the first video can afford to offer a more visual lead-in, with a series of clips from around SL. It can also obviously offer more audio content, and I have to say that the inclusion of a clip of Zachh Barkley talking about his own attraction to SL is particularly effective in adding depth to the piece.

The second video, just 30 seconds in length, offers a more defined view of Second Life ideally suited to the shorter attention span, but which is no less compelling or effective than the longer version.

I’ve long been an advocate of the Lab collaborating with users to produce suitable promotional material for Second Life, both by working with machinima makers and using the creative talents of users themselves.

While these videos move in a somewhat different direction to the one I imagined when writing on the subject, they are nevertheless a move entirely in the right direction. Both showcase Second Life beautifully and in a manner that really speaks to the audience. As such, I hope we’ll see them used widely in promotional campaigns – and see more pieces of a similar nature in the future.

Kudos to the Lab and all involved in their production.

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A look at the Lab’s new promo videos

secondlifeUpdate: December 26th: Seems I may have been a little hasty in critiquing the Welcome to Second Life video. Both of the new videos are intended as part of an e-mail campaign, and so additional context will be given. 

Tuesday, December 23rd saw the Lab issue two new promotional videos on You Tube (although interestingly, at the time of writing, one one appears on the WhatIs page of the official SL website). I missed both when released – so thank you to Whirly Fizzle for sending a G+ notification of both, which showed-up on my Nexus tablet.

There has often been strong criticism of past SL promotional videos produced by the Lab, some if which have seemed a tad confusing, while others have perhaps given a bit of a false impression about the platform. In the past I’ve droned on about the Lab doing more to work with established machinima makers to put together promotional material; in fact I did so as recently as January, thanks to Strawberry Singh raising awareness of a very slick promo video for an in-world brand.

So what are the latest videos like?

Well, pretty good, actually. The first one I caught is called Create in Second Life, and it’s a very good demonstration of just that – content creation in Second Life. It comes with the descriptive tag of Second Life is a powerful platform for creativity. Everything in Second Life – interactive 3D objects, unique experiences, global communities, and more – is created by people just like you.

It runs for bang-on one minute (with 52 seconds of actual footage). The editing is fast-paced without being confusing, and the various sequences provide a pretty good glimpse at various elements of content creation within the platform.  There is a lot showcased in the film, including Cica Ghost’s Little Town and the famous Dwarfins, together with Chouchou, to name the three I instantly recognised. What’s more, footage from The Drax Files: world Makers series is used (notably clips from segment #23, featuring Loz Hyde).

All told, it is a snappy, tightly-produced video that showcases SL very well.

The second (for me in terms of viewing order) is entitled Welcome to Second Life. It runs to slightly longer – 1:07 minutes, with 1:04 comprising footage. It also includes a more detailed description:

Second Life is an online 3D virtual world imagined and designed by you. From the moment you enter Second Life, you’ll discover a universe brimming with people and possibilities.

Create and customize your own digital 3D persona, also known as your avatar. Be a fashion diva, a business-savvy entrepreneur, or a robot or all three. Changing identities is quick and easy, so if you tire of your avatars outfit or body, shop for a new one in Second Life or from your web browser. Then switch it in seconds.

Every minute, Residents assemble buildings, design new fashion lines and launch clubs and businesses. There’s always more to see and do.

However, as much as I like it, it does cause something of a niggle; the video supposedly takes one through engaging in Second Life in “five easy steps”. However, actually joining SL by creating an account is completely missed. Instead, the video  gives the visual impression that all someone has to do is download the viewer and start from there (i.e. any sign-up process is inclusive to the viewer, when in fact it is a separate step), the second step being to “login to Second Life”.

A persona niggle for me with the second video is it does gloss over the need to have an SL account before downloading the viewer
A personal niggle for me in the “Welcome to Second Life” video, which is otherwise pretty good overall, is it does gloss over the need to have an SL account before a new user downloads the viewer and attempts to log-in.

This may sound nit-picky, given it is a promotional, rather than instructional, video. While I don’t expect a promo video to get bogged-down in all the steps required to sign-up, at the same time I can’t help but feel that failing to even point to the Join Now options on the web page could result in people following the steps as outlined by the video only to find themselves facing the viewer log-in screen and screaming a frustrated, “HOW?!”

Beyond this, however, the video is again slick, well-edited and does show off SL’s better features – and it is certainly good to see attention drawn to the likes of the Destination Guide to help people with their engagement in the platform, and to aspects of help and support, as well as to the broader community as represented through the website and forums.

Having said that, both videos do offer a bright, positive look at SL, with Create in Second Life really carrying the banner very well.

The Secret (Store) sauce of promoting a brand (and SL)

I caught a Tweet earlier on Monday April 28th, which came from Strawberry Singh and was aimed at Ebbe Altberg. It concerned a promo video for a fairly well-known (if relatively new) brand in SL.

Berry-video

I try not to do outright product promotion in this blog (with, admittedly, a few exceptions where brands I’ve come to personally enjoy are concerned), but this video is so gobsmackingly good, I am going to include it here.

It’s for Maylee Oh’s Secret Store brand, and is produced by Maylee herself. Not only does it show enormous talent and shines with a professional finish worthy of a TV ad (just count the beat and watch the moves), it showcases the amazing talent that is available in SL which could so easily be harnessed to work with the Lab to produce some really first-rate material for helping to promote SL to a wider audience.

So, how about it Ebbe? How about putting the feelers out to the talent within SL that uses the platform daily, and seeing how that talent can help you promote the platform that so captivates us? After all, your customers are your best ambassdors!

Reaching out: SL as a platform for “outside” events?

Following on the heels of this year’s Fantasy Faire, follow blogger and Lord of Dee Ciaran Laval comments that Outside Companies Should Create Their Own Second Life Faires. In it, he examines how external companies and authors – notably in the fantasy business – could use Second Life as a promotional tool and could, together with the Lab and SL itself, greatly benefit from doing so.

Fantasy Faire: demonstrating the viability of SL as an events platform?
Fantasy Faire: demonstrating the viability of SL as an events platform?

And he has a point. As Zander Greene pointed out in The Drax Files special on Fantasy Faire, when all is said and done, Second Life is one of the most cost-effective mediums for fundraising – and the same is true of global outreach. Yes, the cost of server space isn’t cheap, but when compared to the cost of venue hire, etc., and the scope of what can be laid-on, it is an intensely cost-effective medium.

In his article, Ciaran looks specifically at the case of fantasy and the opportunities of fantasy-focused MMOs and authors. However, I’d suggest that the potential reach here is far greater – and while some may shudder at the thought of SL returning to the bad old corporate-focused days of 2008-2010, this needn’t necessarily be the case.

Rather, there are mechanisms which, although dormant / disbanded / forgotten, could actually be revitalised and used to the benefit of both the Lab and the platform.

For example, for several years, the Lab ran the Solution Providers programme. This provided a means by which corporate entities could get in contact with people with expertise both within SL and a range of other disciplines they could harness to help develop an in-world presence. Such a scheme could be implemented by which those organisations could connect with in-world content creators and sim builders who can develop the necessary in-world environments on which their could host faires and promotional events.

The promotional poster for the event
The SL Science Fiction convention in 2012 saw real-world TV personalities Jonathan Frakes, Garrett Wang and Richard Hatch appearing in-world. SF conventions are a major crowd-pulling draw

A collaborative marketing venture by which LL would seek to promote SL as a venue for conventions / faires and such-like and which demonstrates its viability as such, specifically targeted at key market audiences while at the same time folding-in the in-world expertise of the community to make things happen, could be enormously beneficial to all.

Of course, things would have to be carefully managed, and additional capabilities put in place. LL would, for example, have to be willing to handle the marketing effort and work to overcome the more negative perceptions many have of SL as either being “unsuitable” for their market or “dead”. They’ve also have to work creatively to demonstrate the power of the platform as a promotional medium and suitable venue for such events and be willing to work cooperatively with sections of the community.

More practically, things like how the prospective visitors for a focused faire could be readily brought-in to Second Life and not only arrive at their intended destination, but also understand the basics of avatar  / viewer use would need to be carefully considered. However, these are not insurmountable issues. In terms of avatar use, it’s likely that in the case of MMOs and the like, users will already have a grasp of basic movement controls, and the rest could be simplified through the provision of a specialised viewer, possibly based around the old “basic” viewer (but with a few enhancements). And if that viewer includes a means by which the user can opt to download the “full” viewer (even as a separate install option) by which they can explore the rest of Second Life, then potentially so much the better.  And putting in place a sign-up process which successfully delivers incoming users to a desired venue also shouldn’t be too hard to achieve.

Obviously, everything would require careful management – not the least, as Ciaran again touches upon, the possible reaction of some sections of the SL community itself – and this might not be considered worth the time and effort by the Lab. There would also need to be some careful balancing of the scales – for example, I personally wouldn’t wish to see something like Fantasy Faire, with its very clear focus on RFL, being usurped by a more commercial endeavour.  However, I do believe that the idea has merit and that the Lab would be foolish to pass completely on at least investigating the potential here.

The possible benefits are clear: SL would gain broader recognition; there could be an opportunity for LL to establish another modest revenue stream which may actually attract more users into Second Life (with the additional benefits that would bring). Those companies utilising the ability to use the platform as a promotional environment get to stage a rich, immersive and global outreach opportunity which may equally gain them users and expand their networking opportunities without being tied to a more costly investment in SL which may not gain them the same level of return in attracting users, etc., and so on.

As such, the idea could well be worth exploring. Danko Whitfield comments on Ciaran’s post that there is a degree of this kind of promotional activity already occurring within OpenSim. So why shouldn’t the Lab look into the feasibility of grabbing something of the market, particularly as they could be well-placed to attract some of the big players?

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Linden Lab comments on new advertising moves

LL logoAdvertising on SL has been something of a minor theme on this blog of late. Most recently, I returned to the idea of LL using machinima collaboratively with users (via a competition) to help promote Second Life to the world at large. Prior to that, and paralleling Ciaran Laval, I’ve touched on the topic of the SL websites being perhaps a means for the Lab to leverage revenue through advertising as a means of helping to offset falling tier revenue  – something which the Lab actually embarked upon recently.

The move has been met with mixed feedback from users, with many objections being raised (unsurprisingly) and some mistakenly believing they were somehow “milking” their own userbase – as if the revenue generated from the ads was coming directly out of their own pockets. Some of this negative feedback may have been driven by the initial ads displayed on things like people’s dashboards to start with, although it is evident now that LL are seeking to more robustly curate the nature of the ads with show up – not always successfully, but the improvements are there to be seen.

Advertising on the SL dashboard has raised mixed responses
Advertising on the SL dashboard has raised mixed responses

Some of the backlash against the new move appears to be on the grounds that advertising somehow devalues the SL brand. However, as Gywneth Llewelyn points out, the SL web properties potentially offer a rich vein of revenue flow which could significantly assist LL (with a potential beyond anything I admit to imagining).

Obviously, given my own stance on the matter, I’m supportive of the move – and have actually suggested it should be broadened to incorporate other SL web properties such as both our profile feeds (which already advertise SL in a case of “preaching to the converted”) and  the Marketplace. The latter is something some have drawn the line at, alongside the use of people’s SL dashboard. Although objections to the use of former have been given with caveats, the idea of excluding either would appear to be counter-productive to the aim of helping to generate revenue for LL – simply because of the amount of traffic they generate.

Possibly in response to the wider negative reaction to the move, and in confirmation that LL very clearly see their web properties as a valuable source of revenue generation, the Lab has issued a Featured News blog post on the matter, covering both the current advertising and the moves to expand it, confirming that as of the 12th March, advertising will encompass the SL marketplace. The post reads in full:

As you may have noticed, we recently added some banner ads to SecondLife.com. Today, we’ve also added them to the Marketplace, and we’ll soon expand the program to other Second Life web properties as well. The placement of these ads is designed to be unobtrusive, as we don’t want them to interfere with your Second Life experience on the web, and we’re taking care to keep the content appropriate.

These ads are a great opportunity for advertisers to reach the large, global audience that visits the Second Life web properties every day, and we want to extend that opportunity to Second Life merchants as soon as we can. For Merchants, advertising on the Second Life web properties will be a new way to get their offerings in front of potential customers, while at the same time making the ads extremely relevant to every Second Life user who sees them.

We have some work to do before we can make the ads purchasable by Second Life business owners, and it’s too soon to say precisely when we’ll be able to, but we wanted to let you all in on this plan early on. We’ll blog again when we have more info to share, so keep an eye on this space!

Ads now on the SL Marketplace - although initial offering suggest some refinement of the filters might be in order
Ads now on the SL Marketplace – although initial offerings suggest some refinement of the filters might be in order

That the ad spaces will be expanded to include user-run business should amount to good news, and help mitigate objections relating to ads appearing on the various SL web properties. Allowing SL businesses to use the capability (assuming they are in a position to do so) brings both added relevance to the ads and helps SL businesses promotion themselves to SL consumers across an even broader front.

Obviously, with regards to the Marketplace in particular, some careful consideration needs to be given to how advertising for SL business will sit alongside existing aspects of Marketplace promotion, such as listing enhancements. If merchants using the latter feel that the advertising option is undermining the listing enhancement options, then it is likely that there could be a wider withdrawal from the latter than has been experienced in the past when the scheme has hit problems.

Some have called for those with Premium accounts to escape the advertising. There’s actually some merit in this – other websites offer “advertising opt-outs” on payment of a fee, so given that Premium members have already paid out, then automatically opting them out from any advertising campaign of this nature is liable to go down very well (and potentially make Premium accounts a little more attractive than offering-up cars, boats, planes and other trinkets). Certainly, I wouldn’t be against seeing the ads vanish from my views of the various SL website – although I don’t actually see them as actually impinging on my SL experience as it is.

Whether such an “opt out” could actually be easily achieved, however, is perhaps a matter of debate. As we’ve seen in matters of logging-in etc., the various SL web properties are perhaps not as well-integrated as they first appear, making any attempts to “ring-fence” Premium accounts from the advertising, even were LL so minded (which I actually doubt) potentially harder than may first appear.

Given the initial reaction to the advertising move, it’ll be interesting to see what the response to the news that the programme is being expanding is liable to be.

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The Amazon deal: LL demonstrating they can’t see the wood for the trees?

On Friday 4th January, I was one of many who reported on the “unexpected” (given the move had apparently been made of December 10th, 2012) move to make Second Life available via Amazon following a tweet from the official Second Life account. Ciaran Laval was perhaps the first (certainly that I know of) to blog on the matter, and Tateru gave a very pithy commentary on the nature of the packages and on promoting SL as a “game”, which drew considerable commentary on Plurk as well as on her blog.

The tweet announcing the promotion / "expansion"
The tweet announcing the promotion / “expansion”

For my part, I resisted passing direct comment on the move in my original piece, in keeping with my attempts to avoid colouring any “news” items with personal bias. However, I have to say that the Amazon deal leaves me feeling that – once again – the Lab has bungled an opportunity, or at least failed to launch it fully and properly or in a manner liable to serve Second Life and themselves particularly well; although perhaps not for the reasons others have cited.

In difference to many critiquing the move, I have no problem in Amazon presenting SL as a game. Not that I’m saying I think SL is a game, I most certainly don’t, per se. I simply have no problem in Amazon presenting it as such, and for a couple of reasons:

  • Whether we like it or not, SL is largely referred to by the broader media and the more specialist (dare I say gaming media) as a “game” (even if the latter does make some attempt to sub-categorise SL in some way) – ergo, the wider perception is that SL “is a game”, whether we agree with that perception or not
  • More directly, and as Uccello Poultry comments on Tateru’s piece, the simple fact is that “game” is probably the only listing option in Amazon’s catalogue they consider to be the closest “fit” for SL – and it is a little unreasonable for us to expect them to develop a dedicated category on the basis that we find the “game” label offensive.

At the end of the day, issues over the listing category could be overcome had time been taken to give a reasonable explanation / description of the product itself. Sadly, and as demonstrated by the pages for the Viewer, the Lab has done the barest minimum required. Rather than providing insight into the platform through a mixture of text and screen shots, all we have are five bland bullet points which fail to leverage SL’s potential or appeal. The effort does, being brutally honest, leave me wondering once more if there is anyone working at the Lab who actually a) has real, hands-on marketing experience, b) is capable of writing attention-grabbing promotional material, and c) actually grasps what SL is about for themselves.

For me, this lack off effort on LL’s part is more damning than Amazon’s sin of promoting SL as a game.

Vehicle Packages: opportunity missed
Vehicle Packages: opportunity missed

Turning to the vehicle packages themselves, I have to say I don’t necessarily agree with all the criticism levelled at them – SL actually can be quite good for using some vehicles / craft, as I’ve personally discovered as result of receiving the Premium sail boat, which is one of the “vehicles” in the packs.

Again, from my perspective, the crux of the matter is that the packages are indicative of thinking at the Lab which is at worst, simply lazy, or at best, demonstrating an inability to think an idea through in terms of its potential to benefit the platform and by extension, LL’s own bottom line.

In short, in opting for the packages on offer, rather than being a little more ambitious, it would appear the Lab has missed an opportunity right from the get-go. That is to address, at least in part, the perennially thorny issue of user retention.

Continue reading “The Amazon deal: LL demonstrating they can’t see the wood for the trees?”