A study that comScore released on Friday may have killed any chance of using Second Life in the short term for US direct response companies as well as serious political advertising opportunities. Simply stated, the following chart found in the study showed that just 16% of Second Life's active user base were actually located in the United States (in real life) and as the study pointed out, the active user base was made up of 15+ year olds so clearly a % of people in the study are not old enough to vote. Now these numbers are a little on the pessimistic side because as Reuters points out, Linden Labs statistics show that the active user base that was located in the US was a whopping 26.8% for March.
From a US political perspective the numbers really start to get depressing. Using the comScore chart shows that 207,000 active were in the US and giving them the benefit of the doubt, lets assume that all 207K are 18+ (I know that is generous). Using historical voting trends from the 2004 election and again being generous by including all age demos (older people are more likely to vote and less likely to be on Second Life), 72% of all 18+ Americans are registered and of the registered voters, 89% voted. That means the 207K US SL numbers now looks like 132,646 votes that are up for grabs. WOOT. Seriously, that's depressing. I'd guess it would have to increase 100 times in US active users before anyone takes it seriously.
OK, so does this mean I'm so down on it that it changes my point of view? Well, no not at all. I've been pretty consistent with the viewpoint that Second Life needs, well people for politics. If you think you are just going to drop in a SL campaign HQ you will be disappointed. Any marketer, political or private sector, that is looking for big sales and big numbers will find that if you don't view SL as a unique environment and end up using the same old marketing techniques, it will not pan out for you. You need to live in SL for a while and learn to interact with it and see what makes it tick.
You see, Second Life is more than just some gimmick. It is a 3D world where you can be anyone or anything at any time or anywhere. You are not constrained by your physical environment and the only constraints you do have are your own imagination and how much time you can devote to it.
SL was built by residents and to ignore all of the time and hard work that went into it is foolish. If you just slap up a location that doesn't add to the world it is a 3D slap in the face to those early pioneers. Sure you can meet people, stream video, make presentations, and that's a fine use of it, but to get something out of it for your marketing purposes you need to make contributions to the world. Try making a product, building a destination the people want to visit, or hiring residents to work your events. Seriously, the only reason people will visit your campaign booth is for the coolness factor or the odd chance that they meet Mr. or Ms. Presidential candidate.
Yes, I'm still bullish on Second Life especially if you add to the community by making products that residents can use or by building destinations that they want to visit. Putting up a virtual store or HQ will only end up disappointing you with the lack of sales or the lack of plain old foot traffic - at least in the near future.