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General Laws of Business in Social VR
The following list are strongly recommended laws to follow when setting up
any VR aspect of a business, or an enterprise entirely centred in virtual space.
If you follow these, you cannot go far wrong, although we cannot guarantee
success. If you ignore them all, we can guarantee failure.
A virtual world is not a game. Never treat it as such.
The most common reaction of a businessperson upon encountering a social VR
space for the first time, is to dismiss it as just a game, or a fad. They
see it as nothing of potential value to the enterprise, and often ban access
to their employees, seeing it as a waste of computer time, something to be
done at home, not in the office.
Sadly, that attitude is frankly, wrong.
Many users actually treat them as an extension of their lives. A way to be
who they want to be that perhaps the physical world does not allow. Others
use it to conduct international business, increasingly so with the costs and
hassle of air travel accelerating exponentially. To deny this market computer
time, is to deny yourself access to a multi-billion dollar potential revenue
source. One that is still expanding.
Social virtual environments (as opposed to game worlds) are growing steadily,
but their overall population is still lower than massively multi-user online
games. Do not expect massive returns yet. However, if you are catering for
community-orientated projects, education, or niche areas, they will be a godsend
to your bottom line.
Regardless of what they look like within the virtual space, each is
an individual, with thoughts, feelings, and wallets.
Every avatar is the online visage to a real, individual person. Never forget
Regardless of how unusual a person appears, they are a conscious individual,
with thoughts, feelings, and cash or credit facilities. It does not matter
if they are a 20 foot tall phallic representation, a fairy, or karta before
you. Each is an individual person, and each could be a returning customer
if treated correctly.
Learn your customer base, especially if you plan on catering to niche interests.
Niche is not a niche.
What may be just a niche business of a few thousand individuals locally,
explodes into a niche business of tens of thousands or more, globally. Especially
when travel is taken out of the equation. Set up shop early, and treat your
customers well. You may very well find, your online business eclipses your
physical, as the VR environment grows.
Don't descend into fantasy to cover shoddy business practices.
You might think you can get away with being a little less swift on the uptake,
or offer a little less service if you wrap it up in whichever fantasy lifestyle
a given niche are living out.
This will not work. It cannot be strongly emphasised enough: People are not
fooled by the fantasy elements. They will see straight through to your business
practices, and they will shop elsewhere.
Maintain the same integrity you would with offline clientele, at all times.
A business park in Activeworlds stands silent and alone; long-abandoned
showrooms mute testimony to business without any added value to the
Be relevant and add value. Many commercial companies have established a virtual
world presence, but precious few have converted that into an effective, profitable
sales channel. Just because it is 'cool' does not cut it. Make sure you have
a business model in place that outlines exactly how you are going to gain
revenue, and have fall-back positions.
Many VR showrooms stand as mute testimonial to this: Cavernous empty spaces
that were designed to show off, rather than to maximise business traffic flow,
and which sit empty and abandoned, offering no added value for customers to
visit them, ever.
Be aware of the potential downsides to a virtual presence, and that for some
industries if improperly handled, it could actually hurt business. Have measures
in place to contain this before it gets out of hand.
Second Life is predominantly adult activity based, with a mix of neutral
activities - neither adult nor child specific. If you open up in business
in a virtual area filled with such establishments, you might lend your customers
the belief that you support such activity. This could be a problem if a large
part of your stock is sold to children.
The Reuters news agency has an outpost inside virtual worlds themselves,
and a steady stream of news from within, goes out to worldwide mainstream
Major mistakes in-world do not stay in-world; they have a habit of appearing
in mainstream media.
If you fail to contain a situation properly, you could wake up one morning
to find it splashed across the pages of the paper. It does happen, more often
than you might realise. An employee or employees acting on company time, becomes
is embroiled in a major in-world affair, suddenly gets your company name involved
as well. If this affair has greater significance - such as recent political
protests, or events covered routinely by major news agencies - Reuters for
example, has a permanent presence in most social VR systems - then you may
well find your whole business impacted by bad press.
The corollary to the eighth law. If you support large in-world activities
with a positive spin, then check the news services over the next few days,
you will almost invariably find that one mainstream paper or another, somewhere
in the world, has picked up on it and is running stories.
Using this, you will find yourself opening up markets you never knew existed.
This is for the long haul. If you become involved, expect to stay involved
as over time the different platforms merge or become generally compatible,
and over the same timeframe, grow to be a significant market force of their