Facebook Looms Large, But Crickets Chirp in Second Life

Hi y’all, I’ve been off in a print- and web-production frenzy the past few days, but the world of online politics never sleeps, so let’s dive right in with some revealing information about two much-hyped channels for online outreach.

First, according to MarketingVOX, Facebook is already the sixth-most-visited destination on the web, with users spending over 20 minutes on the site per day. They’re not all young: more than half of site users are out of school, and the site’s fastest-growing demographic is the over-25 crowd (which is what you’d expect, since it only opened to old people like me a few months ago). Users are also receptive to widget-like applications like those used for advocacy and fundraising, with over 75% installing at least one app. For those of you trying to go where your audience is, a good chunk of it may be hanging out on Facebook (particularly if they’re preps rather than nerds).

Unfortunately, Second Life doesn’t seem to be faring as well as a marketing tool: according to this month’s Wired, the site hasn’t lived up to its promoters’ buzz, with most commercial spaces unstaffed and rarely-visited. Those high traffic members (7 million!) are grossly exaggerated, since most accounts are quickly abandoned — over 85% of all avatars ever created are now ghosts in the immaterial machine. Though some visitors do become regular users, “the big draws for those who do return are free money and kinky sex” (god bless ’em). The main benefit companies seem to have gained is press attention for the outreach effort itself. Who knows what they’re paying their PR agencies, but I’d love to see some ROI numbers for THAT little project.


Written by
Colin Delany
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  • Before you go writing off SL, I would recommend that you check out Wagner James Au’s critques of the WIRED article you linked to above. He has an interesting example of ROI numbers there, btw.

    While SL has probably been over-hyped to some degree, I think the failings of marketing efforts there are due more to over-eager marketers trying to shoehorn real-world techniques into SL rather than any inherent shortcomings of the platform itself.

  • Hi, thanks for the comment. I checked out that article, the author’s original critique of the Wired piece and Frank Rose’s fairly devastating reply. I don’t see any reason to change my analysis. Virtual worlds may take off one day, but they’re still a playground/workspace for a relative handful of enthusiasts, not an effective environment for mass marketing. I know IDI has invested heavily in Second Life, and I frankly question the wisdom of hitching your company’s wagon to that star. Though, of course, free advice from somone like me is worth exactly what you pay for it.

    It’s interesting that the most critical comments this site gets come in when I have something unflattering to say about either Second Life or Ron Paul, i.e., generally that I don’t see much chance for either of them to build a mass audience.

    — cpd

  • Thanks for the feedback, Colin.

    Farther down that comment thread, Wagner Au replied to Rose’s reply with some questions that I’d be interested to hear Rose answer.

    Re: IDI’s take on virtual worlds (SL included) — We view them as a complement to, not a replacement for, traditional advocacy tools. While we certainly see a value in being active in the space, we also understand the limitations of virtual worlds.