Building community

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"If you rez it, they will come."

Or something that like — sure, you may have made a community building, but are you building community?

This page is all about how to optimize your Second Life locations with compelling content so they attract, sustain, and grow visitors. This is important whether you're running a business (like a club or store) or non-commercial venue. As Soft Linden aptly put it: "... building places, not spaces."

Note: Mentions of products & services are not necessarily endorsement, simply real examples of what's been accomplished.

Key things to remember

  • DON'T SPAM! - What's true on the rest of the Internet is true in SL too. Don't hammer visitors with pop-up messages and ads when they arrive — it's utterly disgusting and violates the Community Standards.
  • Use Second Life's unique strengths - This is an interactive, 3D world. Don't sell a T-shirt with your logo and expect that to be the end. At best, you won't stand out. At worst, you'll be derided by existing Residents. You then may feel like blaming SL for your lack of success when in fact, you haven't used the tools at your disposal. This page is about making those tools more obvious. For instance, if you're a watch company looking to promote, don't just put a flat texture on a wall: partner with a skilled content creator who can make an impressive -looking and -working watch. Or do something physically impractical, like an island made of a giant watch. If you look at the most successful Second Life marketing campaigns, they consistently use our unique strengths.
  • Don't give away embarrassing freebies - Reinforces the above. Yes, schwag can be fun, but you also want it to represent your pride. Ask yourself if your freebie is something you'd really enjoy, and avoid 2 of the worst freebie clichés:
    1. A box full of jumbled stuff with no apparent purpose (useless because it's confusing and time-consuming) and
    2. A T-shirt w/logo. These are hardly ever suitable. Again, go beyond physical constraints. Be creative.
  • Learn from real-life "third places" - Ever notice how Starbucks and Chapters have cozy seating? They facilitate conversation and hanging out sans sales pressure. If you want in-depth wisdom on the matter, read The Great Good Place.
  • Identify specific needs you have, then search for tools to fulfill them - If you're already familiar with shopping on the web, SL Marketplace is a quick way to get started. You can browse for goods, then have them delivered to your avatar inworld.

Tools

Search for most of these on Xstreet.

  • Group inviters & mass mailers - At its most basic, a link clicked in chat history can send a group invite. Second Life groups can be used to broadcast Notices and chat, keeping interested members up-to-date. Due to limitations with the group system (e.g., you can only belong to 42 groups at once), mass mailers like Subscribe-O-Matic were invented to workaround those issues and facilitate staying in touch and distributing merchandise. Some overlap with the groups system (since Notices can have object attachments), but mass mailers are more flexible, since you can send to people not in a group. Make sure they've consented to receive such items.
  • RSS boards - If you already run a blog or other site with a feed, this makes sense: an RSS board displays headlines, usually via floating text or XyText, and can automatically deliver your news into SL. A fine example of amplifying the broadcast of existing info.

Your human touch

Advice on social interaction and how to be well-liked. As such, it's mostly subjective: use what works for you.

  • Learn about SLetiquette - MUST-read. Be acquainted with Second Life's manners & customs before doing business or otherwise reaching out inworld. Like any country, treating the locals with respect — before expat'ing then feeling like a full-fledged Resident — will get you best results.
  • Make it clear how to contact you - Do you prefer IMs? Email? A webform? Make your expectations absolutely clear in your profile so you don't miss out on key correspondence. Expect that some people won't take the time to read and will contact you in undesired ways.
    • Edit menu > Profile and fill out all the details. Filled-out profiles are more "professional" and intriguing.
    • A popular message for busy shopkeepers/celebrity-types is, "My IMs get capped. Send me a notecard instead." Or alternatively with hired help, "IM so-and-so for support."

Events

Whether it's a splashy launch party or a casual poetry reading, you can host many types of events in Second Life — or if you'd prefer not to, you can hire someone you trust to run the show. For much more info, see:

SL has a Search > Events tab, which is unfortunately crowded and not very practical. Thus, the most successful event promoters use one or more of these techniques:

  • Build an ample social network - Make friends (of both the system and actual kind) in SL, so you have lots of nice people who wouldn't mind receiving event invites from you, and might even welcome it. They've given you their trust, so don't abuse it. Another upside: socializing in SL will also increase your understanding of inworld culture.
  • Design an effective invite - Many well-attended events like art shows and even weddings have lavish-looking invites. Don't settle for a sign with bad lettering slapped on it — at least strive for quality typography. Be creative to really stand out, and use 3D objects when suitable. For instance, if you're starting a virtual bakery, your grand opening invite could look like a donut with a scroll hanging from it. Interactive invites are also more likely to be read. Give the object a descriptive title too, so it's rezzed and not trashed, sight unseen.
  • Promote using alternative tools - Like the group inviters & mass mailers described above.
  • Promote outside of Second Life - Especially relevant if your primary business is in the real world and you're using SL to augment it. Use SLURLs on your website to get existing customers involved in your SL happenings, and attract new customers. Also important if you're appealing to Residents on various websites.
    • What you're doing must have substance, and some business by nature are more conductive than others: it's much harder (but not impossible) to communicate the benefits of perfumes vs. cars in SL.
  • Reciprocate - Companies that setup a build and don't show their avatar presence are prone to being a "ghost town" without humanity. Attend other events and learn from them, and distinguish yourself as a real person. Obvious, but oh-so-true.

Social media

If you're savvy about social media tools, there are ways to integrate them in Second Life. For instance, Flickr is intensely popular with thousands of Residents, and there are specialty groups for a variety of niche interests — fashion, photorealism, celebrations, etc. There are Twitter HUDs which let you post SLURLs from inworld to a Twitter page — Linden Lab even has an official presence. Also, hundreds of Resis use the Second Life Link app on Facebook.

Social games

Within Second Life are communal experiences with rules, or social games. Many real-life games like scavenger hunts where clues are shared have inworld equivalents.

There are "viral games" like Tiny Empires and The Thirst: Bloodlines, games which require you to interact with others in varying ways to succeed. Detractors claim they're akin to pyramid schemes, but they've been extremely popular. Friendships can be formed, and truly compelling games can attract a player's attention for months, or even years.

More elaborate, Role-Playing Games (RPGs) are one of the most popular ways to build community in SL: create a themed region (or set of them), an accompanying narrative, character classes, and other components to flesh out a "game world". RPGs spanning a range from fantasy to cyberpunk to horror are regularly packed.

Further game details are beyond the scope of this page, so have a look at:

By using "hooks" like these, you can attract visitors from outside of SL, and also create value by connecting people who already use both SL and other social media tools.

Usability tips

  • Use click actions - "Click actions" allow you to use objects with a single-left click, instead of right-clicking and selecting an item from the pie menu. That may not seem like a big deal, but there's a big difference, especially since right-clicking is relatively undiscoverable, and over the long run, gets tedious. It could mean the difference between someone buying from you and, well, not buying. Watch this video tutorial:
  • Brand your stuff - Consider using a short, identifiable text tag for your items. A good brand makes you more valuable and easier for a customer to sort your stuff in inventory. Watch this video tutorial:
  • Include a landmark/notecard in every package you sell/give away - Helps someone find you after they've made a purchase or gotten a freebie.
    • To create a landmark, move your avatar to the desired location, then World menu > Create Landmark.
    • To create a notecard for text info, in Inventory window, Create menu > New Note.
  • Share SLURLs - SLURLs are like landmarks because they point to a given location in SL. The difference is format: they're in the form of standard web addresses, which means they can be shared on any website. So if you run a blog to promote your inworld activities, prominently place SLURLs to make it easier to find you in SL.

Optimizing navigation

Everyone was new once. If you've been in SL for awhile, recall your awkward first experiences, then make your build (short for what you're building) a joy to explore for newcomers and veterans alike. A build that's hard to navigate will deter people from spending time on you. Tips:

  • Make ceilings high and "phantom" whenever appropriate - The Second Life camera can be very difficult to use: low ceilings can obstruct someone's view. Generally, build spacious rooms instead of claustrophobic, camera-unfriendly cubbyholes. Also, unless there's a good reason otherwise, make your top ceiling "phantom", which means it can be flown through. This takes some guesswork out of entering and leaving — buildings that "box you in" are frustrating.
    • Right-click an object to edit it, click Object tab, then click Phantom.
  • Also make windows phantom - It's usually pointless to make windows impassable. Remember that our avatars can fly and can't permanently die, so flying into a building through a window is far more accessible than entering through a door on the bottom floor, then having to fly up.
  • Consider whether you really need stairs and doors - Really beautiful stairs can add aesthetic value, but too many flights of stairs are inefficient for getting around. The same goes for doors which aren't obvious to open (optimally, both bumping into and clicking the door should open it, if it's not altogether phantom). This is obviously context-specific: if you're creating a Renaissance adventure and you've set the land to no-fly, your architecture should be realistic.

Related resources