Surfing the virtual world hype

Riding the hype wave of a new technology with a “world-first” isn’t exactly unusual. We’ve seen this a lot with Second Life, right?

But there’s actually other, more interesting lessons to be learned.

Firstly, the newspapers and magazines don’t really check if you’re first, so if you want you can just copy what someone else is doing. This happened a whole heck of a lot. If anyone actually does ask, you just slice it more finely. “First by a Fortune 500 company”, “First by a West-coast marketing firm run by octogenarian teachers”. Slice it finely enough and you can pretty much always claim a world first – and by golly, they do.

There were, from memory, four national embassies that opened in Second Life. Each claimed to be the first one (presumably using the slicing technique above, or just not doing the research). That brings us to the second technique, the one that gives you the most PR bang for the least buck:

Don’t actually do it. Seriously, this is a proven strategy.

Write and issue your press-release, outlining what amazing world-first you’ll be performing – then don’t follow through. By the time that peak of the hype cycle wore off, nobody noticed that you actually didn’t. Instead it became a fait accompli. Everyone more or less assumes that you did do it.

Assorted media pieces still refer to pizza-deliveries, programmes and concerts by famed celebrities that never actually happened, but the writers just assume that they did.

There’s your return-on-investment right there. All the hype, and none of the work. All you have to do is hit the timing right on the cyclical hype.

There’s a whole lot of businesses and organizations using Second Life in various ways. Many of the ones that you can name from media-coverage though, never actually did. However it didn’t apparently actually harm their PR efforts at all.

Anyone want to bet that this won’t happen with future virtual environments?

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