For all of you wondering ‘what ever happened to Second Life’, please be assured that it is still around and still very relevant.
Erik Sass over at MediaPost has a great article about a virtual environment that continues to grow, albeit slower than its heady heydays.
Some key points made by Erik:
Zooming in on active users, defined as those who log in several times a month to spend at least one hour on the site, the numbers increased from about 25,000 in 2005 to roughly 700,000 in 2009-2010. In 2010 there have been peaks and valleys (with the number of active users ranging from 680,000 in February to 820,000 in April) but that still puts it in the 700,000-750,000 range — stable, maybe even growing a little bit.
Active users spend an average of 100 minutes on the site during each visit, and some of these people are crazy, with reports of hardcore users spending 12 hours a day or more in-world. According to the company, users create about 600 million words in text messages and other content every day.
Then there’s the money: Sales of virtual goods continue to increase at a remarkable pace, making Second Life one of the largest markets for virtual goods next to Zynga games like Farmville and Mafia Wars. Total dollars spent on virtual goods in Second Life increased steadily from $30 million in 2005 to $344 million in 2008, then jumped again to $567 million in 2009, and so far they are up about 30% year-over-year in 2010, putting the site on course for over $700 million.
I think this is an important fact for marketers to bear in mind as they deal with the continuing — indeed, accelerating — proliferation of social media. Because reach and scale aren’t everything, especially online, where the audience is highly fragmented and likely to fragment further. In this arena a small, highly-engaged niche audience may be more valuable than a large, apparently indifferent one (Facebook, I’m looking in your direction).
Erik’s point about engaged micro niches and attention is something that all marketers should consider. The days of the broad sweep advertising campaign are approaching their end as the most profitable way to reach, engage with and influence audiences.