Building A Virtual Community on the Cheap

Interesting article about marketing on Second Life in the WSJ.  Haven’t heard about Second Life?  It’s a virtual world where you can set up a Sim (a simulation of you) and create your own world. It’s the ultimate in living out your dreams.  You can pick the way you want to look, live where you want, have a cooler job.  There is a whole economy to Second Life in which users pay real dollars to buy things from other users.  Of course you’re paying with Second Life dollars, but if someone wants to set up a clothing shop in Second Life, they can design there own clothes, stock the shop and I, in my Second Life personae can buy the clothes.  Apparently one woman is a millionaire from Second Life sales.

Pretty nifty. Huh?  Before you get any ideas I would venture to say that the millions have already been made, and that marketers who flocked to Second Life to set up virtual stores mimicking their real life goods are now retreating.  They’re investigating other virtual worlds that are more targeted to their audience or in some cases creating their own virtual worlds tied to their brand for fans.

What does this mean for you the small business owner?  Not to go setting up a virtual world, since that is cost prohibitive.  But it is thinking along those lines by looking at your current marketing efforts and seeing what you can do.  Start with your website – how can you create a virtual world for fans (customers) of your business?  Can you add more content about something relevant?  Think out of the box – if you’re a restaurant maybe you want to start a  recipe corner.  Feature a recipe from customer.  If you sell tile, maybe you want a page for all the different tile types – this doesn’t need to be hard – you should know the information or be able to get it from your manufacturer. 

Maybe you’re a local business and you would rather start a community page of news and listings about town…

More pages increases your sites “bulk” for search engines.  Fresh content will keep coming back.  Look for ways to reuse contact in an email or regular newsletter.  Even if it doesn’t get read in it’s entirety, simply seeing the From name in an inbox can be enough of a refresher. 

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