About a year ago I commented on the absurdity of Second Life as a marketing tool for consumer awareness and lift. Spending money in this virtual world was primarily driven by digital enthusiasts eager to play in a “cool” environment. Many clients took the bait and, without a strategic plan to form a knowledge base, saw no redemption.

Not so oddly, many agencies without a hint of remorse for flushing away significant marketing dollars, played up Second Life as the place to be seen and not heard (there is no audio synced with the experience).

What does Second Life look like today? The demographics are somewhat homogeneous with skews to lower income strata with an 18-44 age break. Gender is almost divided equally male/female. Typically, residents have an affinity to gaming sites, which provide an easier (and more accountable) marketing path for those advertisers looking to reach young gamers.

Here’s the kicker …. With all the hype the average number of unique visitors per day totals a "stunning" 8,500, or 255,000 uniques per month (December 2007). Hardly a maelstrom of consumer purchasing power.

Not all is lost, however. The single most compelling reason to play in this virtual reality is ROI. Not in the traditional sense, but in the Return On Intelligence. The residents of Second Life are the innovators and risk takers that should compel us to provide them with the platforms from which we can learn. They are the digital pioneers that will signal the next wave of digital standards. And marketers that ignore the benefit of intelligence gathering and its application to marketing endeavors will be the biggest losers.

The bottom line: Budget, plan strategically and above all, understand that Second Life is not about the numbers, but about the ability to learn and apply.

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