Really virtually real

I'm digging further and deeper into Second Life these days. As this virtual world continues to expand and mature, it's fascinating to watch the number of cross-overs happening between the real and the virtual business worlds.

I'm very far from being the first to comment on this, of course.

Millions of pixels, gallons of ink have already been dedicated to the stories about real world businesses setting up shop within Second Life's virtual economy - big companies such as American Apparel, Telus, Starwood Hotels, 20th Century Fox, even an accounting firm - Baltimore's KAWG&F.

For a PR guy's perspective, what KAWG&F are doing is particularly intriguing. It's remarkable to read comments from the COO of an almost 40-year old accounting firm, jumping enthusiastically into an online virtual world dismissed by many as "just a game". From the CNet story:

"The idea is that as I began to learn more about 'Second Life' and saw how the business community had established itself, it will undoubtedly just continue to grow, and the community is unserved," (Arlene) Ciroula said. "No one is serving this community with accounting, business consulting, strategic planning or budget forecasting services."

Where the real world retail businesses go, the consultants and service providers naturally follow. The companies already building a presence within Second Life are clearly innovative marketers, willing to experiment and take some risks with their exploration of this world - so it makes perfectly good sense for marketing and PR consulting firms to be right in their alongside them.

Text 100 are the best known example here, having set up virtual shop in-world about a month ago. A good-sized handful of PR blogosphere (flackosphere?) luminaries have also been chewing on the topic for a while - notably Shel Holtz and Steve Rubel (that last link goes to a Beet.tv video interview with Rubel, talking about media relations within SL, btw).

Meanwhile, as I've been kicking around in there, it seems the lines between my own virtual and real interests have been blurring somewhat. I've started providing some Second Life promotional and publicity assistance to an in-world company with deep roots in the first life.

There's a new radio broadcaster - Crystal Clear Communications - getting set to launch in SL within the next weeks - with ten high-quality streaming radio stations coming online before the end of the year; featuring real world production values, professional DJs, actual news at the top of the hour (SL world news, of course), and access to all the new releases at the same time as the FM stations in the meatspace.

I'm now their Head of Promotions - working to get the word out, both in-world and out. Stay tuned for more on this in the weeks ahead.