I was reading Mitch Joel's post on Twitter as "The Social Pulse of Life" and I started to comment but it kept getting longer and longer. I decided that continuing my thoughts over here would be a good idea. I'm not surprised that Second Life or other virtual communities weren't mentioned on his "comments based" podcast #83. Businesses are leaving SL, that news is spreading to other companies and the question is, what can they do in world that would make their customers want to interact not with a real store, but a virtual one and then talk to others about it? This is the case that folks over at crayon successfully demonstrated with Coke. They gave each user a chance to participate and create something remarkable in a virtual world *and* they extended it beyond Second Life, accepting entries via email and other media.
A great example of a dud is American Apparel. They had a great idea but maybe it's implementation isn't just right. In a real store, those people get real clothes for real life, something of value to take home and "improves" their lives.
In a SL store, fashion and needs are different. We dress glamorously because we can, we want more than just ordinary clothing. We want to stand out, find the next best thing, and the worst that could happen is we show up at a party and someone bought the exact same outfit as we did. (It does happen!) American Appeal needed to accept that reality and provide customers with a more "surreal" experience. One that appeals to the Second Life shopper, not a first life one.
Joining forces as Aveda and Second Life fabulous hair store, ETD, did to create special designs with their brand. It went beyond a store and into a product that was on the shelves in one of the most shopped in hair stores in SL. Now that is a creative entrance.
To be honest, typical marketing in Second Life is difficult. There is no unified way to spread your message, no ad placements, no messaging system, notecards are it, unless you have a group with hundreds of people who are willing to spread the message. Sure you could attempt to brand products in SL that are already there, but I think that's a difficult choice.
As we watch some companies leave Second Life, those losses of experimentation aren't going to inspire another company to open it's doors unless they have a really inventive way to enter the virtual worlds. Even then, they can't be looking to make money necessarily but bonds with the brand and garner RL customers as a result.
As for Twitter, there are marketers that are effectively spreading their message through Twitter and not being unfollowed or talked about or resented. It can be done, but it is a difficult lesson to learn. One thing I'd advise is for companies to find someone who understands Twitter and let that person be their guide until they get it down.
I agree that it's not something marketers want to ignore anymore. It's growing everyday and an instant connection to possibly 700,000 people with one message, if the message is just right in 140 characters, then Twitterati is likely to spread the word. If marketers are still doubtful, well, just think about frozen peas.