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Build your business a Second Life

June 30, 2007

Wrote up this blog post for Graphic Arts Monthly last month, but thought it was a good basic description for others to enjoy. Original Blog Post


Build your business a Second Life
Brian Regan, COO, Semper International

There’s a new medium that will provide extraordinary opportunities for printers with vision. It is called Web 2.0. In general, they’re called metaverses, which, described in Wikipedia, are fully immersive 3D virtual spaces; environments where humans interact with each other— socially and economically—using the metaphor of the real world, but without physical limitations.

The most popular metaverse is Second Life. If you haven’t heard of it, you will soon. Second Life is a user-created 3D virtual world. It’s hard to believe that 2D websites will become a blended 3D/2D experience. However, virtual worlds have many advantages over traditional websites. The power to incorporate people viewing the same content brings tremendous advantages to marketing and business applications. As does the opportunity to add a powerful colabrotive tool for training, conferences and recruitment.

Residents make up the population of Second Life; characters that you can meet and interact with. A user moves through the world using an avatar, which is similar to a game character. You can make the avatar an extension of yourself, or a ‘new and exciting you’ that’s anonymous from the rest of the world(s).

Some residents earn their real world income through Second Life. They’re store owners, clothing designers, editors for ‘in world’ newspapers and magazines, graphic artists, web developers, programmers and others who help firms enter Second Life. They’re bright, creative and adaptive to these new environments. Some of them have become real life millionaires just from their ‘in world’ businesses.

Are there customers here for printing firms? You bet. The world is filled with creative people and many of them are marketers and graphic designers involved in real world advertising and design projects. Some of these people are registered with Semper International. We use them in the real world for graphic design, programming and work in Second Life for Semper clients that either want a new Second Life presence or want new features to the existing assets they’ve already built.

Tapping into those groups is a fantastic opportunity for printing firms. I have even seen a few printing firms that have created storefronts. If you can build a network of corporate marketers, who knows what opportunities exist?

Who’s in Second Life now? From the Corporate 500, it would be easier to list who’s not. I know that Fidelity Investments, and a host of other companies, are. Google the following: “Second Life” and IBM; “Second Life” and Xerox; “Second Life” and Coke…the list goes on and on.

What are these firms doing? Most are publicly engaged in marketing activities, trying to understand how to reach the ever-growing resident population. I’ve seen a wide range of promotions; from Coke branding activities to ‘educational’ Weather Channel programs about extreme conditions. Others use Second Life to recruit people. Semper is an active recruiting force in Second Life, as are TMP, IBM, Cisco, Verizon, Microsoft and others. There are lots of other corporate Second Life activities. Semper uses our location for internal training and development. In fact, many colleges currently offer classes within Second Life.

Should you jump right in? That depends. Many companies in Second Life are visionaries or early adopters of new technology. If you’re looking for a fast ROI, this is not a good option right now. Let the early adopters figure it out and buy the “Second Life for Dummies” book when it’s available. But, if you wait, you’re limiting your ability to make a significant impact, as the early adopters will have cornered much of the niches—but maybe some will look to be acquired.

If you’re thinking about entering Second Life, I strongly advise you to hire a consultant (like me!) who has a strong understanding of this new world to determine if you should enter it, help you understand the culture and build your presence. Often I persuade my clients not to enter Second Life. Then again, in many instances there ‘s a compelling business argument.

The metaverse is evolving and you should be paying attention. Web 2.0 firms like MySpace, Second Life and YouTube are changing how people interact and communicate. It’s wise to not only learn, but also adapt to these networks, so you can position yourselves for the future. Maybe your real print world can morph into something else.

Brian Regan is COO of Semper International, involved in recruiting operations for the company as well as consulting clients about Second Life, on behalf of Semper.
Semper Ssecond Life site

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