Social media such as social networking, blogs, and podcasts can be a great way to reach a very specific target group with a message that people are very receptive to. For example Amazon places audio ads at the beginning of the Mugglecast Podcast, an extremely popular Harry Potter podcast, in which it encourages listeners to pre-order Harry Potter 7. This is a terrific example of how podcasts enable marketers to place a highly relevant ad in a highly relevant place.
But what if you took an even bigger leap into the web 2.0 world. Second Life is a incredibly vast virtual world in which your avatar, or virtual you, can fly, interact with others, gamble, buy virtual cars, buy virtual land, and even build a virtual business where you can make linden dollars which can be exchanged for real dollars. Many brands have built a presence in this virtual land such as Adidas, BMW, Cisco, Dell, Mercedes, Nissan, and even John Edwards. You can purchase well known products like a BMW car with real money, which you can then use in the virtual world.
So why would a company do such a thing? Well first off it gives the advertiser valuable time to communicate a brand message to a highly receptive individual. If someone is willing to test drive your virtual Nissan, that gives you their undivided attention in a highly interactive environment. Often these experiences are for extended periods of time. If an individual enters your virtual Mercedes dealership they may spend up to an hour experiencing your brand by interacting with virtual salespeople, watching a video on a virtual tv in the lounge, or customizing their virual car. This level of interactivity and brand involvement can not be matched by tradional television, radio, or print. The drawback is that although Second Life is growing rapidly, only a small minority of the population are users (roughly 1-2 million). With several large companies having launched campaigns, it will be interesting to see if Second Life marketing will be added to more brand manager's strategies.