Seven Virtual World Marketing Tactics and Metrics to Follow

Last time, I outlined seven ways to tap into the growing virtual offering to enhance your marketing mix and extend your brand. This installment focuses on the best practices in terms of marketing tactics for your virtual world implementation. You want to make sure your execution meets both your corporate goals and your target market’s real-world needs.

Seven Virtual World Marketing Tactics

Like other forms of interactive marketing, virtual worlds aren’t always a field of dreams. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean the public will come. Optimal execution requires additional work beyond the creation of your destination:

  • Be part of the community. For many marketing implementations, think in terms of participating in an existing community.
  • Apply lessons from the real world. Adapt what works in the real world to work in a virtual world. Virtual worlds allow marketers to think beyond the physical and cost constraints of a real-world presentation. For example, you could easily have an elephant show up for the opening of your new virtual store.
  • Keep your content fresh. As with any other online implementation, you must have lots of content and keep it continually updated. In particular, games require a lot of content to keep visitors coming back.
  • Have ongoing marketing support for virtual and real worlds. Like other marketing programs, provide related merchandising and promotion to get users involved. Since your best prospects may not naturally stumble across you, leverage your real world presence and marketing to drive virtual world traffic. Further, assess your real and virtual staffing needs to ensure that you can manage user demand. Just as you wouldn’t think of having a retail sale without cashiers to help customers, you can’t handle big volumes in the virtual world without the appropriate resources!
  • Commit to your project. Maintain a presence until your program achieves its goals. Once a community starts to grow, it may take on a life of its own. Be prepared to adapt to how your community evolves in response to participants’ desires.
  • Consider the search implications. Make sure your virtual presence is visible to people who are looking for your product. Amanda Watlington of Searching for Profit counsels, “Virtual worlds present marketers with another form of searchable content that needs to be efficiently optimized.” Robin Harper of Linden Labs notes that Second Life is working to index its content so it’s searchable to the outside world.
  • Create means to extend impact. Consider how to get your virtual-world community to help spread the word and create relevant content. This encompasses a wide variety of platforms, such as blogs, Fickr, and YouTube.

Seven Metrics to Measure Virtual World Success

While the techniques for measuring your virtual world’s value continue to evolve, having a means to show the real-world impact of your marketing investment is important. Starwood Hotels used Second Life to gather brand insights from tech-savvy, early adopters for its new aloft brand. Starwood’s Robin Korman advises that it’s critical to consider your goals and target audience and to assess whether a virtual world implementation can deliver the audience you’re looking for.

Among the factors that organizations use to assess the impact of a virtual world campaign are:

  • Traffic. Consider how many unique visitors your installation attracts (in contrast to total visitors) and how big the community is. Bear in mind that these figures should be examined in the context of what your firm is trying to achieve and how these relate to alternative forms of marketing.
  • Time spent. Assess how long visitors spend in your virtual installation. This is important for measuring brand impact and converting buyers.
  • Interactions. Analyze the type and number of interactions visitors have. Think about how this relates to time spent in other interactive executions that your firm may have.
  • Ripple effects from other media. This includes the number of people who interact with your marketing in a secondary environment, such as blogs, Flickr, and YouTube. The New World Notes blog estimates that there are roughly 1,000 Second Life-related Flickr groups.
  • Input. For those with a market-research-related goal, the volume and quality of participant feedback can be critical to gaining insight on target users.
  • Relative expense. Monitor the cost of each virtual implementation, and compare it to more conventional interactive or real-world marketing choices.
  • Revenues. Assess sales from product placements and other forms of advertising, as well as sales of virtual goods that translate to real-world revenues.

Plunging into a virtual world can be scary. But it’s a way to find teenagers and tech-savvy early adopters who may be difficult to reach through more conventional channels. Remember: to create a lot of action in your corner of the virtual world, you have to provide visitors with compelling content or entertainment value. In return, you can reap the benefit of their focused attention.

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