The fairyland of Second Life: Virtual social worlds and how to use them
Virtual social worlds, such as the Internet site Second Life, have acquired a high degree of popularity in the popular and business press. In this article we address the increasing importance of virtual social worlds, and discuss how companies can make use of their potential. We first present how virtual social worlds evolved historically, how they fit into the postmodern paradigm of our time, and how they differ from other social media, such as content communities (e.g., YouTube), social networking sites and blogs (e.g., Facebook), collaborative projects (e.g., Wikipedia), and virtual game worlds (e.g., World of Warcraft). We subsequently present how firms can make use of virtual social worlds in the areas of advertising/communication, virtual product sales (v-Commerce), marketing research, human resources, and internal process management. We also highlight the points companies should pay particular attention to in their activities, the 5Cs of success in virtual social worlds, and the future evolutions that we expect to shape this sector over the next 5-10 years: a trend toward standardization and interoperability, improvements in software usability, increasing interconnection between reality and virtual worlds, establishment of law and order, and the transformation of virtual social worlds to business hubs of the future.
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