Second Life is not a “broad marketing channel,” and a number of big-brand marketing people are correctly pointing that out. If it’s not a broad marketing channel, then what is it? It’s a three-dimensional micro-community of like-minded people, where you can bring folks in for a variety of intimate, semi-private niche gatherings. Take gambling, for instance, as the New Scientist reports:
FBI investigators have visited Second Life’s internet casinos at the invitation of the virtual world’s creator Linden Lab, but the US government has not yet decided on the legality of virtual gambling.
Second Life is a popular online virtual world with millions of registered users and its own economy and currency, known as the Linden dollar, which can be exchanged for real US dollars. Yoon said the company was seeking guidance on virtual gambling activity in Second Life but had not yet received clear rules from US authorities.
For marketers, Second Life today represents a experiential context in which to invite stakeholders in, not an aggregated mass to push-market to. From a marketing standpoint, it shouldn’t matter how many active users Second Life has, but how many you can lure in and interact with on an intimate basis.
Now that we’ve established the marketing point of Second Life, we can move on to other questions, which the FBI alluded to: How do physical-word laws extend to virtual worlds? The case above examines gambling, but what about virtual extortion, prostitution, rape or murder? These examples may sound extreme, but I’m sure virtual worlds will surface a great deal of ambiguity.