The Real Value of Second Life
by Mike Connery, Wed Dec 20, 2006 at 04:56:53 AM EST
Cross posted at Future Majority
I've been skeptical of the value of Second Life - as both a type of social network and more particularly as a campaign resource - for quite a while. It's never struck me as a place that is highly populated by a desirable audience that isn't reachable as part of another, larger (or niche) audience. And I've never seen the real value in it as anything other than a novelty.
Social Web guru Clay Shirky is putting stats to that claim. Any campaign interested in pursuing a Second Life strategy should read his recent article dissecting the hype that surrounds Second Life.
If we think of a user as someone who has returned to a site after trying it once, I doubt that the number of simultaneous Second Life users breaks 10,000 regularly. If we raise the bar to people who come back for a second month, I wonder if the site breaks 10,000 simultaneous return visitors outside highly promoted events.
Second Life may be wrought by its more active users into something good, but right now the deck is stacked against it, because the perceptions of great user growth and great value from scarcity are mutually reinforcing but built on sand. Were the press to shift to reporting Recently Logged In as their best approximation of the population, the number of reported users would shrink by an order of magnitude; were they to adopt industry-standard unique users reporting (assuming they could get those numbers), the reported population would probably drop by two orders. If the growth isn't as currently advertised (and it isn't), then the value from scarcity is overstated, and if the value of scarcity is overstated, at least one of the engines of growth will cool down.
If campaigns really want to get into this game, I'd suggest they figure out a way to into the other MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. The number of real users is astronomically higher, the bonds between users are knit into tighter communities, and there's probably a lot more fertile ground to be tilled.