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Establishing Priorities in a Virtual Environment

July 30, 2008 - 0 Comments

I was asked a question recently that made me pause-the question was”does content matter in a virtual world?” Honestly, I paused because I couldn’t believe it was being asked. However, after asking a clarifying question I got to the heart of the matter, which was really about where should one dedicate the bulk of budget to: content creation or tool development. Basically the person asking was trying to determine if they should spend some of their precious dollars on enabling a virtual tools/heads up display (like a chat relay from virtual to web) within the virtual environment they are programming in or if they should hold that money for creating future content offerings. They basically felt they wouldn’t get money for both. Now this is an unfortunate situation but for most folks this is fairly standard dilemma when it comes to programming for a virtual environment.Of course the above is if you have gotten over the hurdle of demonstrating the value of programming in a virtual space. If you need some proof on why one should even go down the route of considering a virtual environment I think the below excerpts from a in-world note I got from a customer recently tells it all-

Dear Dannette:I and my staff at iFiber Communications would like to thank you, John Chambers, and the rest of the folks at Cisco Systems for bringing Cisco Live! to Second Life. We really enjoyed the presentations, tour, and the customer appreciation party. If it had not been for your bringing these events to Second Life, we would not have been able to attend Cisco Live. We are in a very rural area of Washington state, four hours away from SeaTac Airport, making both travel time and budget a limitation–We hope to attend more Cisco Second Life events in the future, and we look forward to Cisco’s expansion of its Second Life presence. It is a great way for us to keep up with technological changes, and it is also an excellent educational medium. And, we would love the opportunity to increase our Cisco training through Second Life events, if/when that becomes available.Lastly, I would just like to mention that although we attended through only one or two avatars, there were, at times, five of us watching the presentations at our NOC. So, there were actually more folks attending virtually than just the avatar counts!Sincerely,Cassandra HeideDirector of Information Technology

OK so what to do about that dilemma-? I recommend one take the following steps when thinking through this process:

  1. Figure out who your audience is and what they are looking for.
    1. For example in Corporate Event Marketing our primary audience is Cisco customers or potential customers. Therefore I developed our Second Life TechChat series rather than a program to address employee training.
  2. Identify your key virtual environment program objectives. This shouldn’t be a list of many items, rather a list of a few targetted items.
    1. For example with our TechChats our primary objective is to raise awareness about a variety of technical area that Cisco is working to address and a secondary objective it to grow our audience base inside of Second Life.
  3. Determine how you will measure item 2
    1. Will it be click-throughs to follow-up URLS?
    2. Will it be surveying of attendees?
    3. Will it be eyeballs that viewed the event live and/or archived?
    4. A combination of elements?
    5. Something entirely different?
  4. Determine the longevity of the virtual environment you are programming for.
    1. Is this a one-off communication need?
    2. Are you looking to create a pernicious community?
    3. Will you utilize the environment for ongoing outreach, events or training?
  5. Allocate budget based on 1-4
  6. If you are still stuck in the ‘dialing for dollars’ budget dance, it might be time to scale back your program objectives identified in step 2

What has been your biggest challenge when programming for a virtual environment? I welcome your thoughts regarding how one should go about establishing program priorities in a virtual environment.

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