Entertainment not Advertisement
Today I attended the VIO business seminar in Second Life. The seminars are scheduled every Sunday at 11am SLT (US Pacific) and each has a speaker talking about a specific virtual-world business topic. Today’s speech was on machinima and AWM Mars and Ariella Languish gave very good presentations. One of the issues that was raised by an audience member was whether it was worthwhile for a purely in-world business to run a machinima advertisement. I’d like to discuss that amid a broader aspect of social media marketing.
Of course the short answer to the question is: probably not. The longer answer is much more meaningful to the broader business community in that it depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
The reason it is probably not worth it for many purely inworld businesses to run video advertising is that the costs involved in producing and streaming are quite high (possibly in the thousands of $US), whereas the exposure for your target market is likely to be quite minimal. In strictly monetary terms the apparent ROI would appear to be inadequately low. That said and done, I do know business owners that swear by it and who regularly run ads on SLCN. You ask them why and they will tell you that the times when they don’t run the commercials their sims and their web sites suffered a noticeable decrease in traffic. Obviously, for them, machinima advertising is having a positive effect. But I have to say that they are probably the exception to the rule.
One of the problems is methodology. Mimicking television without having the benefits that the broadcast medium brings is ill-conceived. There just simply aren’t the numbers watching and, more importantly, buying. My figures for SLCN are old, but even the ratings for our local community TV station exceeded SLCN’s viewing figures by an order of magnitude. I’m not trying to take anything away from SLCN, I’m just simply pointing out that using the same techniques that television uses will more than likely not work. And this applies not only just to in-world businesses but also to real-world entities that are using the web for promotion. It needs to be done differently.
Television, radio and print advertising as well as the majority of business web sites are push media. That means they push the information out to all and sundry in the hope that a large enough percentage will view, notice and act upon it. They tell us how great they are, that our lives are incomplete without their widget, and why it is better than all the other (similar) widgets on the market. It works – for some – but there is also a different approach.
Most commercial transactions are based on trust. We trust the local store to sell us a product, hopefully with a friendly smile and the minimum of fuss. But what happens when there is no smile or we have a bad buying experience? We usually find an alternative. Maybe travel a further kilometre down the road to another store.
If you build trust then you’re more likely to have repeat customerage. One of the excellent ways to build trust is to build communities. Consider it just another facet to delivering outstanding service. By building communities I’m not just talking about collecting a bunch of email addresses or snail mail addresses and sending out a weekly email of bargains and new products. That’s push media. What I’m talking about is creating pull media – an environment where customers are not only actively engaged in discussions with you and your staff about your products and business, but actually readily return just to engage you and the other customers. This is the essence of social media marketing.
So, how can an in-world business use social media (and in particular machinima) in their marketing? Well the first thing is create something you want to watch – preferably multiple times. If you want to watch it then chances are others will too. Don’t make it an advertisement, make it entertainment. The trick is to create content that your customers want to use. And then you need to create avenues for your customers to engage with you. For an in-world business that may be a weekly chat session disguised as a party or some similar event. Get out, have you and your staff meet the people and have them meet you. Enjoy yourself. For an online business, you can always use blogs, forums, virtual worlds or establish a twitter feed. But don’t fall into the trap of using them solely as a push media tool. What you want is to engage your customers and create something they want to come back to repeatedly.
Used well, machinima is a powerful marketing tool. There’s no better way to provide information or to emotionally influence your customers. But it can only ever be part of the solution. To make the most of it you must entertain as well as inform.Tags: Business, machinima, Second Life, vio