Guide: Marketing a New Business in SL

(Guide last updated June 2012)

Starting Synz Creations has been an interesting exercise in marketing.  Here are some of the things we’ve done to try to get the word ‘out there’ about our new endeavour.  Its a bit of a ‘brain dump’ so you get it warts and all (as it were).  A link from this page doesn’t imply any specific endorsement – just that it was something we discovered so we’re giving it a go.

It would appear to be quite hard to get started, and ultimately word of mouth is probably your best friend.  Of course this all takes a lot of time and patience.  If you are doing this, you need to be prepared to be in it for the long haul.  You would be very lucky indeed to establish a thriving business overnight …

Note that this is a collection of thoughts, things tried and things still to do.  Synz Creations is still in the process of getting established, so we can’t say that any of these is particularly successful yet, but we needed somewhere to make a note of things we were trying, and a blog post to share the knowledge seemed like an obvious place.

Feel free to read or ignore as you will.  All information is provided ‘as is’ and believed correct at time of writing.  As they say ‘your mileage may vary’.  Consider coming back in a year’s time and we might be able to tell you which things we think worked!

Other sources of help:

I have also received some good tips and advice from Stacia Villota and Heavenly Villa.  I sincerely thank you both.

Basics

This is assuming that you already have a name, logo, business concept and some products and you now need to get word out.

Get a static website and a blog.  As you can see, we used the excellent wordpress.com, which can serve as both if you configure it to use a specific page as the home ‘landing’ page for your website.  Make sure your website includes all the supporting information you’ll need alongside your product listings – things like help, support, contacts and possibly a bit of background as to why you are doing what you are doing in the first place.  Don’t forget links to your stores in world and in the marketplace.

Set up a store on the official marketplace.  There are loads of details in the main Second Life knowledge base about how to do this.  One thing we toyed with was the product enhancements.  There are options to pay to have your product appear on the front page, the front page for a specific category or the checkout page.  In the end we decided that as there are so many things already signed up for these pages, people would only see our product infrequently and then only if they browse several pages of other products first.

Set up a classified ad in world.  Whilst reading about these, it appears that there are a number issues at present.  First, LL have greatly reduced the amount of text that new classified ads can contain.  Existing ones are still displayed as they are though, so a new business has a disadvantage right there – we can only enter a fraction of the text that some existing ads contain!  Then there was ambiguity over how the search indexing works – should you include keywords?  Most ads do, but then the search now seems to work more on reputation, traffic and things like that.  After a while, we concluded that (at present anyway) paid classifieds in SL didn’t seem to give much return for your weekly payment.

Should you have a store in world?  Well certainly for houses, people will want to see them rezzed and try them out before buying. Getting a vendor working and everything packaged up is a saga in its own right, but that is not a topic for this post. Neither is the issue of location or store design.  Suffice to say that once you have a location in world, make sure its linked from your other resources – website, blog, social media, etc.  And remember, moving the location once you got started will be a real pain once its included as lms in products and linked from everywhere!

Personal Links

Make sure you have a description, with links to your website and possibly your marketplace store, in your profile picks.  Possibly even in your main profile text, so that people can see it when they browse your profile, but consider that you might not want this to be the first thing people read about you. But then again, maybe you might!  Then of course you need to go places for people to read it :)

Also, add it to your sig for any avatar accounts in forums that you frequent (including the official secondlife.com forums).  A list of forums sites follows in a moment.

You might want to start mentioning your new business to friends and contacts too, but be careful about spamming them.  Its likely to come up in conversations anyway.

Any profiles you have on online social networks, such as Facebook, GooglePlus, Twitter, etc, can list your business website too.

In short – if you are present online somewhere, and its related to Second Life, consider including a link to your business.  Automatic promotion of your business through your personal dealings doesn’t hurt providing that you don’t over do it.  Eventually people will stop talking to you if all they get is spam about your business!

Forums and Blogs

If you a member of third party forums and post on a reasonably regular basis its worth include links to your business in your sig for posts.

Similarly if you use blogger, blogspot or wordpress yourself, make sure you include details of your business in your profile so that when you comment, follow or subscribe to another’s blog or otherwise are active on the site, your details are available to others.

It might be worth approaching owners of other blogs if they would consider adding you to their list of sites and you adding them back.  Of course as a new business you stand to gain much more than they if you add reciprocal links, so don’t be surprised if they are not interested.  Also, the more popular blogs must get loads of requests all the time.  However I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at how some people are very willing to help and collaborate in this way, so if you are polite and friendly in your approach, and selective and inventive in who you target, it’s worth a go (just be wary of pestering).

Here are some Second Life related forums run by third parties that it might be worth considering joining.  Remember though, its always good netiquette to lurk for a while to gauge the lay of the land before you start plastering your product announcements all over the wrong places!

Feeds

There are a number of websites whose sole purpose is to syndicate other Second Life related blogs into one.  You can submit your blog’s RSS feed to such sites and if you meet the criteria they define you might be accepted.  Unfortunately, so far, we are still waiting to be included in any of them for various reasons.  Some expect a fairly high number of posts before they will include you.  Some need you to be established a few months with regular posts.  Again these are slightly discriminatory against a new business, but once you’ve got going a bit its worth trying submission and see how you go.

For the most part, feed sites cover fashion.  There are plenty of links to fashion blogs and feeds from any of the other sites listed on this page.  At the time of writing, the following sites seem to include a feed that might be suitable for our business:

Social Media

Provide plenty of opportunities and methods for people to follow what you are doing.

Create a group in world for new product announcements, updates, issues, support information and so on.  Be sure to include the landmark for your store, the link to your group and a link to your website within each product package.  Back this up with good support information on your website.

As already mentioned, make sure you have the details of your store (inworld and website) in your SL profile itself as one of your picks.

Consider if you need a separate business email account. If you already have gmail, yahoo! and hotmail/msn/live for other things, consider an account with a free webmail provider such as mail.com.

If you have a Facebook account already associated with your avatar account (RL or SL) then consider creating a Facebook page for your virtual business and get a button for it on your website.  Don’t forget to share/like any of your posts and blog announcements.

You can create a twitter or plurk account for your business.  See if you can get your blog to automatically post to them all when you add something new.  WordPress can post to Facebook or Twitter. Don’t forget to add ‘follow me’ links from your website.

Give people the opportunity to share your products too.  For example, WordPress can automatically include ‘share’ buttons for all the major social networks on every post.

Find some reviewers

There are a lot of blogs out there by people who like to write reviews about new products or services.  Many will accept a free version of what you’ve produced and if they like it will blog about it.  Some are very picky.  Most of the popular ones include a page stating their review policy, so do take the time to read it first before getting in touch.

Of course you need to prepare yourself for some (hopefully) constructive criticism.  Follow the feeds identified above, plus browse the ‘blogroll’ links from one blog to others.  Follow or subscribe to any that look interesting to see what kind of things they like to review.  Then consider sending the blogger a review version of your product.

Another option might be to see if you can get an article about your work into one of the online or inworld magazines.  Although I suspect that most would really expect you to requesting some kind of paid advertisement rather than an article as such.

Again however, convincing someone to spend time on you, as an unknown quantity, is challenging.  Most of these people do these things for fun and will blog about things that interest them personally. It may be that what you create just doesn’t appeal to them or maybe they are just too busy to take a look at a new business.  Thats just the way things are.

Paid Ads

You can pay for adverts to your business on websites.  This could include sites that syndicate ads from Google and the like, but may be consider some paid ads on Second Life specific sites, such as the third party forums or feeds mentioned above.

I did find a site called secondlist.org which seemed to include free ads, but on closer reading it just seemed mostly filled up with spam.

There are some sites that do in-world ads too, such as:

If you are paying out money, to attempt to find out where your sales are coming from so you know if its as a result of a referral from something you are spending out on.  Otherwise, how will you know what is working?

Events, Hunts, Giveaways, Shows, Show-homes

Not something we’ve explored extensively at present, but there are special events organised where designers or store owners can put up a ‘special gift’ product for people to collect as part of a specific event.

One good source of hunts, for example, is:

Unfortunately just after we started we managed to miss an in-world home and garden show, (http://slhomeandgardenexpo.wordpress.com/), so this year we made sure we managed to take part.  There was quite a lot of exposure, although with so many exhibitors, its easy to get missed!

Another option is to offer your products to popular sim owners for free.  If they include them on their sims that is good exposure for you too.

In Summary

There are lots and lots of options to get the word out.  Use visitor counters, website stats (referrals and search terms), marketplace stats to attempt to see which are working for you.  Establishing a presence on these sites is fairly trivial.  Providing them with a stream of content takes effort.  Gaining readers for the content that turn into buyers takes a lot of luck and ‘being in the right place at the right time’.

As I said at the start, its too early for us to know which of these work and which don’t, and you have to be prepared to sit things out.

If you have any other tips you’d like to share – please do.  Good luck!

Thank you for Reading!

If you’ve found this guide useful, please consider if you’d like to purchase the notecard version from the marketplace, and leave me a review or maybe you’d like to pay with a tweet.


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