I got the cool news a few days ago that SL marketing firm Infinite Vision Media will be offering their services
pro bono for non-profits as part of their "Social Responsibility Initiative"!
I am very excited about anything that makes it easier for non-profits to get started in using virtual worlds more effectively to achieve their missions. At the same time, I have a concern about non-profit groups flocking to SL, investing staff and volunteer time, buying up sims, and then abandoning SL in four months when avatars stop visiting and their virtual HQ drops off the radar of the press. Really it’s about taking some lessons from the private sector on smart marketing.
More on non-profit marketing in SL after the jump…
CORRECTION 5/2/07, 12PM: Hiro Pendragon corrects me that IVM is
offering assistance to non-profits looking to secure other funding
sources to support their work.
From the IVM press release:
Infinite Vision Media (IVM), an interactive and emerging media studio
specializing in developing social media in the 3D web space, today announced
the creation of its social responsibility initiative… IVM, well-regarded
for its development of three-dimensional presences for corporate, non-profit
and academic clients is launching the social responsibility initiative as a way
of giving back to the community that afforded the firm’s creation and
success. Drew Stein, chief executive officer of IVM, explains: “We think
it’s important for the non-profit community to have at its disposal the
level of Second Life marketing and networking expertise that corporate brands
enjoy. The 3D web space offers marvelous opportunities for non-profit organizations
to build community that expands their mission to a global
…One of the
challenges for any non-profit looking to develop a present in a virtual world
is the ability to demonstrate the effectiveness of that approach to potential
funders in government and in corporate philanthropy. IVM will work with
non-profit clients to envision the best possible use of the 3D web space, then
help develop a proposal that can be floated to existing and likely funding
I caught up with IVM expert builder Hiro Pendragon to get some details of this initiative. He noted that IVM would have to be judicious about how many non-profits they could help at a time,
but that they were planning on offering their services for free:
Part of the SL Social Responsibility Initiative is to assist these
non-profits and good causes to secure funding from other sources to
fund development of projects. i.e. Helping to come up with proposals
with them for the potential funding sources.
So in other words, the goal is really for the non-profit to find the means to be self-sustaining and strategic in their SL activities. This can be a tall order since the hard work of developing an in-world presence and marketing your group only begins once your initial build is complete. From there, you have to continue to encourage community involvement, expand and develop your build, and give newcomers a reason to visit and to keep coming back. Hopefully, IVM is providing realistic advice to groups looking to build up their in-world presence.
Really the same marketing principles that the for-profit world use apply to non-profits as well. Many companies have learned the hard way that building a cool sim is not enough to create any kind of marketing splash. Like the web, you have to keep your content fresh and provide incentives for avatars to keep coming back. Like any marketing campaign, you have to figure out who you are marketing to, how you are going to reach them and what you want them to do. These are not always obvious questions for non-profits to answer.
Here’s some reading on marketing in SL that I think any non-profit thinking of moving into this space should digest:
- "The Brand Owners Guide to Joining the Metaverse" by Gary Hayes
- "The Seven Point Plan for Companies Entering Second Life" by Nic Mitham
- "Marketing in SL doesn’t work! … Here is why!" by Hamlet Au
I hope this does not come off as too discouraging. Really I just want to avoid more builds like this:
And more that are like this: