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BizReport : Social Marketing : April 27, 2007

By 2011 80 percent of internet users will have a virtual life

It has been predicted that in five years time 80 percent of active internet users will have a “second life” in a virtual world, and marketers should be investigating this channel.

by Helen Leggatt

gartner%20logo.gifHowever, while marketers are encouraged to keep an eye on the development of virtual worlds, Gartner advises that they should "limit substantial financial investments until the environments stabilize and mature".

"The collaborative and community-related aspects of these environments will dominate in the future, and significant transaction-based commercial opportunities will be limited to niche areas which have yet to be clearly identified," said Steve Prentice, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

The report also lists five “laws” for those businesses considering venturing in to virtual environments.

- Virtual worlds are not games, neither are they a parallel universe (yet).
- Behind every avatar is a real person.
- Be relevant and add value.
- Understand and contain the downside.
- This is a long haul.

Gartner also acknowledges that spending time in virtual worlds is an activity that is still in its infancy. While many may have downloaded and had a look around virtual worlds, such as Second Life, "active user" counts which reflect the number of regular users, often tell a different story.

"Growth in virtual worlds is significant but lower than it appears. The overall population of non-game virtual worlds is still small compared to massively multi-user online games and the totality of community-oriented and niche-targeted environments," said Prentice.

Tags: Gartner, MMOGs, Second Life, virtual world

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  • Virtual worlds are now under scrutiny, however, Internet chat and discussion forums have been around pretty much since the beginning of the Internet.

    I have seen a steady increase in users to both web based and IRC chat in the 9 years that Chatmag has been in existence. Regular chat users treat their chat channels as an extended "family", as a public platform for their own views, and as a source of news and information.

    'Blogs are coming onto the radar of marketers, and are beginning to be used to evangelize a product or service, but marketers should not overlook the other means of creating "buzz" already in place, chat and forums.



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