I got an email invite from Chris Sherman (one of the guys behind SES - Search Engine Strategies) to a new conference called - Virtual Worlds Fall - Conference and Expo, which is taking place October 10th -11th , 2007 at the San Jose Convention Center. It made me laugh because I did not realize that I had already missed their inaugural event, Virtual Worlds 2007, which is taking place as we speak in New York.
"MTV is forging ahead with a major push to pipe its content into virtual environments, CNET's News.com reports. The network has rolled out virtual versions of Laguna Beach and The Hills. Next up: a virtual Pimp My Ride. By the end of the year, it expects to have a total of 3 million registrants for Virtual Laguna Beach and Virtual Hills."
It's been a couple of week since my last visit to Second Life (I wonder what Mitch Till does when Mitch Joel is engaged in the universe as opposed to the metaverse?), but I did hear on For Immediate Release - The Hobson and Holtz Report Podcast that Second Life sign-ups have crashed the four million mark and edging quickly towards five million (which has already come to pass).
When more people than even are proclaiming, "get a first life," now more than ever Marketers and communications professionals need to perk their ears up and take their Avatars for a serious fly-by in Second Life - we have to learn this new territory... fast.
If conferences are convening and old-school TV media corporations are priming their virtual world experiences, Marketers will need to understand this new communications channel and, as far as I can tell, Avatar-based marketing may well become one of the more complex opportunities to successfully navigate.
Why would Avatar-based marketing be any different from marketing to consumers in an online social network or via other self-publishing environments? Avatars tend to really replicate who an individual "is," or more appropriately, would like to "be." I think Joseph Jaffe used to say that Second Life allows individuals to lead the lives they were "meant" to lead (i.e. by their own rules). Having an Avatar in a virtual world enables a person to live out their fantasy... and get away with it. If someone is slightly cynical in Real Life, we're going to see multiples of it in Second Life.
Five million people (and that's just Second Life) is a significant number. When web browsers first came online they faced the same kind of cynicism.
Here's the billion dollar marketing question: what makes you think that virtual worlds (places like Second Life) will not become the next generation of web browsing?
I'm real serious about virtual worlds.
You should be too.