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Second life, third age

By davebirch posted Jun 14 2007 at 9:49 AM
[Dave Birch] An evening out at the Financial Services Club in London, organised by the always interesting Chris Skinner. This time, the speaker was Tim Collins, SVP Experience Marketing, Wells Fargo (*). He was talking about participating in emerging online environments. He began by explaining what experiential marketing was: broadly speaking, it was something to do with interactive and authentic communications between the brand and the consumer. He covered social networking at a high level, ranging from MySpace and YouTube to CraigsList and LinkedIn but then moved on to explain what Wells Fargo had done, focusing on blogs and virtual worlds. I'm currently fascinated by the emergence of new kinds of communities so Wells' experience with the different kinds of blogs were rather valuable and Tim had some very clear insights, I felt, into the use of what we might broadly call social networking to support business goals, but I can't tell you what they were because we were told at the beginning of the seminar that we have to get permission from Wells Fargo to quote Tim and I can't be bothered to. But I will say that last year Tim was quoted in the Harvard Business Review saying that “An educated consumer is our best customer”.

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Wells have migrated away from Second Life to their own virtual world Stagecoach Island created using ActiveWorld. I tried to install this but nothing happened, presumably because they don't like Macintosh users, so I can't say what the experience is like. They have also created a complimentary MySpace page for "Cassie Hill" (apparently their first woman stagecoach driver), which I think is an idea worth developing. I've spoken before about moving away from the client/server Metcalfe's Law paradigm to the community Reed's Law paradigm and is was illuminating to see that kind of idea applied in banking.

Personally, I thought that the more thought-provoking part of his talk was less about virtual worlds than about blogging and the way in which the organisation noticed how the blogosphere was connecting the traditional media and the brand, which must be a common experience for large organisations. This had demanded, and received, some pretty clear thinking about the role of blogs in the modern marketing mix. There is a new dynamic here, because social networks are, to some extent, trust networks. As organisations become connected, they must themselves add trust to the network.

The idea of having digital identities that can transact real business is a little way off yet and must still seem a little far fetched to corporate management, but given the number of grey hairs and business suits in the room, it's getting closer all the time. Chris, incidentally, told the best story about the disconnection between the cutting edge and the boardroom: he said the the CEO of one of the world's largest management consultancies read in the paper about Google buying YouTube for gazillions of dollars and wanted to see what the fuss was about so fired up his browser and put in "www.youtube.com" and got back the message "this site is blocked by the company firewall".

(*) I owe much of my fading guruhood in virtual worlds to Tim, because I wrote a report some time ago concerning opportunities for financial services that mentioned virtual worlds a couple of years ago. About a week after the report had been presented to a sceptical audience, Wells Fargo put out a press release about setting up in Second Life, quoting Tim. This made me look like a virtual worlds guru to a banker who had never heard of virtual worlds before!

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


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Glad I could help with the guru thing. And thanks for the comment on MAC access...or lack thereof...to Stagecoach Island. We received similar feedback from our members on our community site. In the short term, you can access Stagecoach Island on Macs with PC functionality via bootcamp or parallels. It not ideal, and we are working on a easier long term solution.

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