subQuark on Linden Lab and Social Networking

posted in: social media, virtual world | 1

Reading Ener’s recent post prompted me to chime in on Linden Lab, SEO, and social networking.

Virtual Worlds are a tough go and rather niche-based. Look at Habbo Hotel; it started in 2000 and is squarely aimed at teenagers from 13 to 18. It has done very well in the last ten years with Wikipedia stating that 75,000 avatars are created daily. That is something Linden Lab would dearly love.

Why does Habbo do so well?

Their graphics are far cry from what Second Life offers. It’s an isometric world and many people see that as inferior. If eight million monthly visitors is inferior, then I hope to have an inferior endeavor soon! Clearly it is not the graphics that attract people (although, I am a fan of isometric graphics). They have their niche and serve that niche very well. They do one thing very well – cater to teenagers who want to socialize.

Linden Lab seems to still be trying to define their niche. Clearly they are not interested in the teenage demographic – the teen grid is much smaller than the main grid with about 200 sims (half educational, less than ten private sims, and the rest as mainland).

2009 was the “educational” year for Second Life and this year is focused on corporations (their Enterprise solution). Mark Kingdon, CEO of Linden Lab and known as M Linden, stated that his 2010 goals included being tied into more social networks and the purchase of Avatars United indicates that this is indeed a focus. I have not used Avatar United and can’t speculate on its effectiveness. It does not seem to add much value to Linden Lab at the moment because it does not tie into other social networks.

Effective SEO is incredibly simple. It does not take any self-appointed “social guru” or, my favourite, “social ninja” to do well online. A few simple guidelines go a very long way.

The first is to be consistent in as many places as possible. In this case, using the name “Ener Hax” was easy. First, it is a name (albeit an odd one) so it lends itself to being a domain, email address, gravatar, and being used to setup the numerous social networking accounts. Consistency in the words used as tags is also critical – from blog posts to Flickr pics.

The second guideline is to be persistent. Ener is far more OCD and manic than I am and easily blogs daily, adds Flickr pictures steadily, and tweets like a real bird.

Study after study show that two blog posts daily creates the most “online authority”. That does not mean that the author is an authority, it simply means that they have enough passion to cause them to take the time to blog twice daily and to establish a certain “online reach”. There are some exceptions to this, of course, with Guy Kawasaki coming to mind. One daily blog post is sufficient because of his topics and the caliber of his writing. Dooce.com is another who pulls in about $40,000 per month on one post daily, however, she does incredible photography which adds richness to her blog.

The third guideline is to experiment. Initially, iliveisl was the focus of the “strategy” for online awareness. This was setup to help iliveisl be found in Second Life as a desirable private estate.

Online presence, SEO, social networking, or whatever bs name we want to use, boils down to real people sitting at their computers, using mobile devices in the train or bus, wanting to connect with other people. Different groups gravitate to different social networks. Through some experimentation, you will find a mix that is easy for you to use and beneficial for the people you are reaching out to.

Even when researching a new whatever to buy, we tend to seek out reviews done by real people, to help us decide if that new whatever is the one for us.

Experimenting, for iliveisl, meant throwing lots of pasta on the wall. That included a Cafepress store (still there, but on the back burner for now), Flickr, YouTube, blip.tv, Yahoo and Google profiles, a Google Group, a Ning Network, Gravatar, Threadless Tees, Snorg Tees, LinkedIn, Yahoo 360, Blogger, WordPress.com, Urban Dictionary, and other networks.

Time sorted out what worked for Ener and that turned out to be blogging, Flickr, and Twitter (for me it’s video, conferences, and webinars).

This brings me to the last part of the trilogy – social networking.

Social networking has come to mean Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, and many other “networks”. It’s just a way to connect. Even if some of those connections are superficial and even a stranger helping you get more chickens in Farmville.

Social networking is part of what Second Life is missing, or at least falling a bit short in. Certainly, once in-world, you can connect very well and closely with others. I like that aspect very much – the closeness and trust you can feel for someone else, even as just avatars. In my experience it is more profound than anything in Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

What is the ultimate secret for good social networking (thus good SEO)?

Actually caring. This is why Ener was able to boast that this blog has better SEO practices than secondlife.com (according to HubSpot). Ener answers all tweet replies, comments back on comments here, comments on other people’s blogs, and uses Google Alerts to try to acknowledge any other mentions. Ener even posted a response on a Swedish blog last week! (I have my own Google Alerts running as well!) ;)

Social networking is meant to be social. Sounds stupid to say, but many companies, like Linden Lab see it as a marketing channel. It can be both! Ener really did try to get a peep out of M Linden in Twitter. And tried in a polite and respectful way for a month, including engaging on Twitter with Wallace Linden, the Conversation Manager for Linden Lab.

But no tweet.

My take on that (and I am highly biased toward Ener) is that Mark Kingdon is an incredibly rude person. When you have a customer like Ener Hax who had a real investment in Second Life in both money and time as a Mentor, plus the added bonus of a person that is going nuts online with how great Second Life is, you could at least get your minion (conversation manager) to pretend to be you and simply say hello. Losing Ener as an estate owner and now as a premium member is a shameful example of how Linden Lab feels about its customers. Don’t get me started on their inexcusable treatment of Jokay – as a fellow educator and eLearning speaker, I have a deep felt respect for the amount of work she does on her Education Wiki and for her conferences teaching teachers about the benefits of Second Life.

Let’s make social networking social – the rest will fall into place.

I read about a new service being offered that allows you to “analyze, listen, and engage” your social networking efforts. I am all for analysis, some of us like looking at the numbers and it helps guide others (even if they are stubborn pink-haired avatars) to use those channels that reach people in a more meaningful manner.

What I object to is the use of a tool to listen and engage with consumers. We all consume, just reading this blog is consumption – but do you really need a tool to listen and engage?

That is where Ener shines with all of this – by listening and “engaging”. You don’t need a tool for that. M Linden could have tweeted a hello to Ener quite easily.

If you are a company, you have the resources to listen and engage in Facebook and Twitter very easily. You can easily address 50 Facebook wall posts and 50 Twitter replies in less than 30 minutes. You don’t need software to do that. Log in and read!

If you think you need software to listen to a real person and answer them, then you really don’t have an interest in that person as a human being, only as a consumer.

Ener has 20,000 Twitter followers because – surprise – the haxter understands that they are real people and talks to the ones that want to talk. That’s one avatar that does this just for fun.

Thanks for the prompt Ener, this was a nice break from writing curricula and science activities! See you in-world! =)

Habbo Hotel (from Ener's post on Universal Avatars)
Habbo Hotel (from Ener's post on the need of a universal avatar)

reposted from iliveisl