Has Your InWorldz Peaked?

I am loving every moment of my IWz time. ¬†I’ve slowly added to my tier obligations, slowly growing my group, slowly adding inventory…well, it’s not always slow – it lurches up and down ūüôā ¬†…but, it’s very ..calculated.

Since I joined in November 2010, there’s been a tremendous excitement in IWz! ¬† The members are patient with the beta aspects…feeling like we’re getting in on the ground floor of a great thing..and that when the physics are added – look out, it’s going to GROW! ¬†But…just how big do we expect it to become? ¬†Average attendance in SL is 40-50,000. ¬† Is that what we expect? ¬†Or something more reasonable, like 1/4 of that? ¬†10,000 users IWz at once? ¬†ūüôā

It’s grown since I’ve been there. ¬†There were 650 regions when I joined…Now, mid-May 2011, there are 882. ¬†(Edited: ¬†January 21, 2012 there are 884)When I joined, the highest attendance I saw was around 150…that grew to exceed 200 – at peak times. ¬†Yet… I rarely see attendance over 200 any more…and those last 20-30 new regions took forever to appear.

Please know that I am not trying to report negatively about IWz!!! ¬†I adore it there and my little biz continues to exceed my expectations in so many ways! ¬†It’s just that in the past month, I’ve noticed a few changes – and I know I’m not alone. ¬†I think I’m writing now because I want to encourage people to be realistic about what IWz can do for you….and what we can do for IWz. ¬†I don’t think IWz has peaked…but I do think our expectations may have been steered off course.

One of the groups I belong to is Where Can I Find It.¬† It’s HUGE by IWz standards – over 1000 members – it’s not unusual for there to be 100 avis online at the same time there. ¬†In spite of the fact that I am not an enthusiast of group banter – I find this group to be a single resource for so many things. ¬†In addition to finding things and sharing my own creations…Viewing the activity in this sizeable group makes me feel like I’ve got my finger on the pulse of IWz! ¬†I can see ¬†what others are creating, prices, new businesses and clubs,what is being sought, trends, etc.

Until about a month ago, the Group Notices there were primarily promotions for new creations and upcoming events. ¬† Surely I’m not the only one to notice the shift of Notices going towards land rental and region sales. ¬†Recently, I read a Notice stating that unless a particular shop made enough sales that day, they were going to have to close their doors! ¬†ūüė¶

Land is SO much more affordable in IWz, and the abundant prims are¬†irresistible! ¬†If you ever had visions of being a landlord or even land mogul in Second Life… how could you not buy a sim (or 3 or 5 or 10) IWz? ¬†How easy to imagine it would be simple to make ends meet!

Yet I ask, is it wise to buy more land than you need? ¬†Why not add a sim when the others get full? ¬†It may be cheaper in IWz, but the supply and demand may not be the same. ¬†So much similarity between the worlds…but on a smaller scale.

It’s not just IWz that hopes to see growth…the other open sims, AviNation, OSgrid, 3rdRock, etc… they are hoping to lure users from SL too. ¬†I’ve read a ton of mud-slinging between the supporters/users of these groups – each claiming to be the best! ¬†From what I’ve been able to read, IWz is leading the way there…I’ve tried some of them too – obviously I’m enjoying IWz the most.

Amongst all the alternative grids, there’s a rampant bashing of Second Life. ¬†ūüôā It’s easy to hear horror tales, issues with Lindens, land, account issues, stalkers… my SL has had issues too. ¬† Many people have “sworn off” SL – claiming they will never return. ¬†Yet, I don’t think bashing the other grids is healthy for any of the grids.

I can understand having a preference, even giving up your old grid for a new one. ¬† But, there will always be many grids for people to consider. ¬†We’re still on the edge of virtual gaming…won’t there always be variations and offshoots?

I’ve begun to think of them as all related. ¬†I have friends in one world.. I have friends in the other. ¬†I have shops in one…shops in the other. ¬†I buy clothes in one – and the other. ¬†The goals are the same for me. ¬† It was MY attitude that was different in each world…but now – they’ve really melded together.

Has anyone else heard/read about a future with grids that are connected? ¬†One avi that can TP between grids, taking their Inventory with them…? ¬†As a merchant, I shudder at the thought of my items being whisked somewhere without my consent…yet, maybe the real answer isn’t about ME knowing about ALL the grids…but rather, a bigger picture. ¬†Making content that is universal, for all grids.

I use two texture websites that sell their textures via email Рand you pay according to the level of permission you want.  Just SL РSL & all other virtual grids РSL, all grids AND full creative use, anywhere.  This makes perfect sense to me, and works beautifully for my dual virtual lives!

I could imagine an online shop, like SLMarketplace, that supported all the grids. ¬†Items would be exchanged in the same manner we export/import linksets now…via XML files.

LOL…is that too far fetched? ¬†I don’t really think so….imagine…we could all experience all the grids – with such ease!

Meanwhile, I’m feeling bad for the folks that overextended themselves IWz. ¬†Having money worries is obviously bad…and a different type of bad feeling comes when you have to pull your tenderly created prims or say goodbye to that wonderful landscape you labored over.

Just like SL, the alternate grids have risks. ¬†Protect yourself! ¬†Be prepared for change! ¬†Don’t risk more than you can really afford. ¬†Personally, I acquire land or shop rental space only if I know I can have fun maintaining it all by myself. ¬†Yes, I aspire to earn enough to pay my rent – but, in my heart and mind….the whole virtual package is about having fun. ¬†It’s a hobby!! ¬† I’d like to think that if my renters left and I never sold another object…I’d still be having fun and my expenses would still be worthwhile.

My IWz is still more beautiful than anything in my SL.

Members of InWorldz… I caution us to not sound desperate! ¬†I’m a big advocate of advertising and promoting our works… but, really… excessive¬†and repetitive advertising isn’t going to fix anything. ¬†If there’s currently a lull with InWorldz growth – hammering the existing members with repetitive ads is frankly …annoying..and sad. ¬†I make a bi-weekly group Notice in the Where Can I Find It group. ¬†My Notice provides the url link to my blog – and via this WordPress blog, I can track how many readers I attract. ¬†The results are ALWAYS worthwhile. ¬†(My Transaction page also proves it!) ¬†However, of those thousand members, only a small portion of them are NEW members – the majority are the same core group. ¬†To keep the repeat reader interested, the information needs to be fresh!! ¬†Even your old items can be spotlighted in a new way, fresh description, new photos, suggestions for new uses, etc. ¬†(what a great way to improve & optimize our advertising marketing skills!) ¬†For Pete’s sake, double check your spelling and grammar while you’re at it!!

If we want IWz to grow – we must continue to make a great impression on the new users. ¬†This is something IWz already has a great reputation for!! ¬†EVERY article and interview I’ve seen has praised IWz for the warm welcome and helpful attitude. ¬†The Mentors are fabulous at helping people get started! ¬†The Founders are awesome at helping with account and land issues. ¬†There is a great sense of community there.

I’m a little worried that IWz members could lose some of this. ¬†Now, more than ever, we need to stay upbeat and positive! ¬†By no means am I suggesting you should stay longer than you want…just that, if we are there – and if we want it to keep growing – we’ve got to continue to show that warm and positive feeling. ¬† ¬†The attitude of IWz is one of its strongest selling points!

Are we staying true to the feelings and motivations that inspired us originally?

Just like in RL – during this tough economy, NOW MORE THAN EVER it is wise to invest in your product and continue (even expand) your advertising & promotional efforts. ¬†I know it’s hard to justify spending more when you’re earning less…but, it’s a proven advertising strategy in RL. (assuming you plan to stick with it for awhile!) ¬† Also, land barons beware… There’s a trap when you lower your rental prices too much…when the economy revives, it’s very difficult to raise your rents to your original price point.

2 readers of my blog roll have expressed confusion that some of my posts are about SL – others IWz. ¬†But..they’re not confused anymore! ¬†It’s been a great way to let my SL readers see how cool IWz is. ¬†Expose the various grids to each other! ¬†Do you have any way to share your IWz with folks in other worlds? ¬† ¬† My virtual time is rather¬†diligently¬†divided between SL and IWz – and while that’s not the best approach for everyone – I ask you to consider keeping your virtual doors open to all the worlds! ….open in both directions!

Honestly…I like the smallness of IWz. ¬†If it never grows another region, I’ll enjoy the creative opportunity it provides for me. ¬†It sparked a flame of creativity that has changed so many things for me in RL, SL, IWz!!

My wish is that all the InWorldz members enjoy their time there as much as I do! ¬†I encourage you to think about the things that brought you there originally. ¬†To recall the amazing things that Second Life has inspired and taught us, regarding virtual worlds. ¬†To think long and hard about your virtual goals and if the worlds you’re in can make them come true. ¬†Lastly, in the words of John F. Simmedy, to “Ask not what your grid can do for you, but what you can do for your grid.”

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A Grid Business for You??

I’m sure everyone has had a glimmer (no pun intended) of a dream that includes making money in Second Life, InWorldz, etc.¬† Perhaps earn just enough money to cover your shoe purchases…or enough to quit your RL job and spend all day goofing around online!

Both are nice goals, though I strongly recommend you not quit your day job yet!

I’m no virtual tycoon, but I do have quite a bit of successful RL experience with advertising, marketing and PR…and during the past year, have also seen my virtual sales blossom.

I think we should all have fun experimenting, trying-failing-trying again, deciding to move in another direction, etc with whatever amuses us here.¬† But if you really intend to sell some things – and to more than your dear friends who just want show you support…here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. Of all the people who hope to make $$ here, what percentage actually will sell more than a few of their items?¬† What percentage will make enough to recoup their investment in supplies (textures, uploads, scripts, etc)?¬† What portion will earn enough to cover their shop rent or tier…their tier AND their shoe habit?¬† And then who will actually cash in virtual money for RL cash?¬† So….how will you and your items be different?
  2. I’ve no statistic to share, but I’m convinced that the more you hope/expect to make $$, the less you’ll earn.¬† A good product is created by somebody who wants to CREATE, not sell.¬† If you’re just creating for the earning potential, you may not end up with a unique item.
  3. Don’t let #1 and #2 deter you!¬† You won’t know what you can do till you try!
  4. It wasn’t always this way in SL/IWz, but you have to have something unique …or at least fresh.¬† A little black dress or a pair of perfect black shoes is definitely something people buy, but there are already 8 gazillion of them for sale.¬† The competition alone, will diminish your sales capacity.¬† Give the little black dress or shoes some special little details that make them stand out from the rest!
  5. Who’s your market?¬† Is your item for a specialty niche?¬† In your efforts to create unique items, be careful to not get so obscure that your audience contains only a handful of people.¬† Knowing who your buyers might be is also handy when it comes time to advertise.
  6. Photos for your Advertisements!¬† Virtual photography is an art of its own, and most of us aren’t Photoshop or Gimp masters – but clear images for your ads makes a HUGE difference.¬† Even a novice photographer can make sure the photographs really focus on the item your selling.¬† 50% or more of the photo space should be of the object itself.¬† Zoom in!¬† Selling a belt?¬† There’s no need to show the entire avi. Yes, I know you look really cool as a model, but zoom in close to the belt and make it fill a majority of the frame, or crop out the unrelated subjects.¬† Showing the object from multiple angles is a good idea too.¬† (added:¬† Be sure the background doesn’t distract from the object – a beautiful background sounds nice, but might take the eye away from what your selling, and virtual photography needs as much clarity as you can get!)
  7. Text for Advertisements!¬† A cool name is fun – and maybe you and your friend LOL’ed for hours when you thought of it.¬† But, if you’re planning to sell to more than your friends, your advertising text needs to be informative and descriptive.¬† I troll the SLMarketplace.com for items often – and there’s nothing more frustrating than an ad for “The Sascha” – with a photograph of a lovely avatar.¬† …Wtf is being sold?¬† The hair?¬† The shape?¬† A complete avi?¬† Be specific and make the words help you sell.¬† Leave no doubt what you’re selling.¬† (That said, too many words will confuse buyers and dilute the overall value of description) ¬†Also, be sure you’re using the best spelling and grammar possible. ¬†Get some help, ask for a proofreader! ¬†Bad typing and language barriers shouldn’t appear in your ads!¬† (added:¬† Spellcheck is your friend – and speaking of friends, have them proofread your ads.¬† Not advertising in your native language?¬† Web translators are great, but often miss a word or two – skewing your message.¬† Once again, get another set of eyes to review your work!¬† This is often the first impression buyers will have of you – be professional!)
  8. Packaging.¬† You’ve gone to all this trouble to create a great product – why not optimize it?!¬† You can texture a basic box or have a special shopping bag – think of a packaging style to use for ALL your items and create a consistent look for them.¬† Inside the packaging, be sure to add an LM and any photos of your other products or notecard describing your business in greater detail.
  9. Branding or logo.¬† Some sort of signature mark on your ads and packaging can help shoppers remember you!¬† A unique logo is great, but branding can also be created through use of specific fonts, colors, borders, backgrounds, etc.¬† A consistent visual thread throughout your packaging.¬† (while it should be noticeable, it shouldn’t be more noticeable/distracting than the object your selling)
  10. Renting space for your store?  To save money, start small.  Resist selling your object in every color available until you see if the basic/best colors are well received.  A small store with a variety of items is more appealing than a store with 2-3 items, in 16 colors each!
  11. Selling on SL’s web Marketplace?¬† Pay attention to which words you enter in each box, and compare it to what you see when shopping.¬† The first words of your description may be all the “window shopper” gets to see.¬† Do those first words define well AND sound appealing to somebody who doesn’t know a thing about your object?¬† Review your listings often!¬† Try to see it with a blind eye – remembering that the shoppers need simple and clear information.
  12. Some bragging, but not too much!¬† It can be difficult to write an honest promotion for your own work.¬† Too many adjectives take away from the object and sound phony.¬† “A beautiful, charming, unique handbag” doesn’t tell me as much as “a casual black leather handbag.”
  13. CUSTOMER SERVICE An unhappy customer is 7x more vocal than a happy one.¬† In most cases, it doesn’t cost us anything to replace something for a customer.¬† Yes, I know they’re lying, presumptuous, unappreciative, rude and a fugly noob that can’t sort their own inventory – but, thank them for shopping with you and give them a replacement to shut them up! ¬†*smiles* Remember how you’ve felt when trying to get a incomplete purchase resolved.¬† Did you have any patience for excuses?
  14. Groups, Profiles, blogs, websites,¬† and updates.¬† Web media is a great way to stay in touch with your customers.¬† Let them know what’s new.¬† Experiment with the different platforms to see which gets the best results.¬† My favorite group notices include notecards with photos of the new items – so I can decide if I want to bother TP’ing to the store.¬† A photo blog can do the same trick.¬† (added:¬† Like your advertisements, these need to have good spelling and grammar too!)
  15. Location, location, location!!¬† It’s cool if you’ve got your own sim/parcel for your shop, but, does it get traffic?¬† Consider a location in a neighborhood that matches your content.¬† Not much point putting your steampunk art shop on a sci-fi themed sim!
  16. InWorldz Specifically?¬† Well, this has been an interesting study for me.¬† I watch the growth numbers for IW daily, and it’s definitely climbing – slow, but steady!¬† As IWz is in beta, there’s a “hopeful rumor” that when physics comes – all will be more stable, and then everyone will come flooding to IWz, and business will rise….this really sounds great.¬† Yet, just how busy might that be?¬† For the meantime, I find it at an awkward stage.¬† Most the regulars here are creators themselves!¬† I’m not sure there’s much to do here (yet) if you don’t build.¬† Everyone needs fashion and avatar accessories, but I’m not sure there’s a big demand for home or shop supplies yet.¬† (since we’re mostly builders, we just build our own stuff)¬† There’s definitely a demand for building supplies!!¬† Many of the non-creators show up, stumble around frustrated with the beta/noobie feelings, leave, and wonder what the big deal is.¬† Maybe they’ll be back…?¬† I anticipate that it will continue to grow, yet it will be the rare item indeed that sells like hotcakes!¬† Currently, it’s a great time to create, set up shop, and establish your reputation.¬† As it’s currently difficult to search and tp, and pretty cheap to rent space, more than one location for a store is probably a good idea here.

Not sure how to move forward with your idea?¬† Feel free to write me, I’d be happy to talk about a strategy with you…but the first thing I’ll ask is, are you doing it for the passion?¬† If it’s just for the money, not sure I’ll be able to help you much ūüôā¬† Good luck!

C'est moi, this week...