SL Blogger Support

“Maybe we should talk? “- by Cain Maven

Maven - Eco III - I

This weeks guest-blogger, in our new series, is house-builder and Second Life architect Cain Maven.  You will get to know him better in this article he wrote for us. Food for thought, thank you Cain for taking the time in your busy schedule to give us your insights!


aperturas 14

I have a confession to make: I haven’t been particularly good at using blogs to promote my Second Life business. In fact, I have sucked at it. Mostly, this is because I have been lazy or inept, but to a certain extent it’s also due to the nature of the beast. Let me explain. I design, build, and sell houses for a living. For historical and business reasons, I maintain two brands: Maven Homes and Quantum Luxury Homes. Most of the Maven Homes models are small to mid-sized, whereas the latter range from medium to Insanely Big. Now, it doesn’t matter how much time and effort you spend making stuff if you can’t convince anyone to buy it, and that obviously requires marketing. Anyone who’s tried to run a business in Second Life has likely soon discovered that marketing isn’t easy, and it’s certainly different from marketing in the physical world.

Dining area and kitchen

Picture by Ricco Saenz on Flickr


Commute-time radio ads? Nope. TV commercials? Not really. Magazine ads? Yes, but it’s very hard to track readership numbers and effectiveness. Billboards may work for some, but they never did anything for me, and the same is true of classifieds. All of which pretty much leaves group notices as the one in-world channel that may have reasonable reach, immediacy and appeal. But how many of us actually read all 99+ notices that await us when we return to our screens? I know I don’t, although maybe I should.

If Second Life itself doesn’t provide effective, built-in marketing channels, the logical answer is to look to the web, and (with a couple of exceptions) that means blogs. Bloggers are not a monolithic entity, though—some focus on fashion, some on furniture and décor, and others again will be all about the finer points of technology. Finding that subset of blogs that cater to and care about your type of products isn’t necessarily as easy as it may sound, especially if some of the items in question are Insanely Big houses that require half a region and a thousand prims.

‘However, while I’m sure everyone who’s reading this has heard the complaint that “bloggers are just in it for the freebies,” that’s not my experience.’

Then there’s the obvious question of quality. Not all blogs are born alike, and while there is some truly stunning work out there, the blogosphere also includes its share of less impressive offerings—just like everything else in life. However, while I’m sure everyone who’s reading this has heard the complaint that “bloggers are just in it for the freebies,” that’s not my experience. It only happened to me once, and that person no longer blogs. I believe unethical bloggers fall by the wayside sooner or later.
#70 [Patterns, forms and shapes] My new house

Let me not forget events. I suppose they’ve always been there, but over time they have become increasingly popular—to the point where the event schedule is busier than Donald Trump’s twitter feed. I realize that they are great opportunities for many creators, and I know that they provide a steady stream of product news for bloggers, but they’re not for everyone. Events typically require exclusivity and a monthly turnaround, and neither of those criteria works well for me. Being limited to a single outlet for the first weeks or months of a product’s lifetime is a gamble I’m not generally comfortable with, and I’m way too much of a slowpoke to be able to churn out something newish every month. (Even if I could, I would quickly run out of space to display stuff, and products like houses need longer life cycles in order to be profitable.) I have participated in one monthly event, and while that went well, I simply won’t be able to keep up with the rapidly beating pulse of most events. I’m of course well aware that the issues that I face are not typical of most creators in Second Life. Photographing houses takes a lot more time and space than, say, shoes or sofas, and the lower release frequency that inevitably comes with time-consuming products like houses doesn’t help, either. Add to that the fact that bloggers who have a passion for architecture solely on its own merits are understandably few and far between, and the field narrows quite a bit.

‘I’m sure there are many builders out there who would like to find new ways of increasing brand exposure and promoting products.

Despite the challenges, I’ve had some really good experiences. Every now and then, someone will take incredible pictures and write truly clever copy—as a creator, that is tremendously rewarding, and not just because it has the potential of boosting sales; it’s an incentive to pull out the grid paper and get to work on the next one.

The Maven - Eco III
Back to my original confession: I have not made full use of the marketing opportunities that blogs offer. I’m probably not alone in this; I’m sure there are many builders out there who would like to find new ways of increasing brand exposure and promoting products.

I’m equally convinced that there are scores of bloggers who would be interested in early and consistent access to new releases, and who are truly focused on architecture in all its diverse forms.

Maybe we should talk?


Additional links:
Maven Homes on Flickr
Maven Homes on MP

“The View From the Blogger Manager’s Window” – by Kess Crystal

slbs_003

I was approached some weeks ago now to write an article for SL Blogger Support  about the other side of the fence…the life of a blogger manager. As well as being a blogger myself I was also responsible for the blogging team for both MadPea and SwagBag as part of my past role as Marketing  & PR Director for MadPea. I’ve recently decided to move on from there but as blogging is such a love of mine I am sure it will feature in whatever I do next. 

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Blogging in Second Life has changed a great deal over the last 14 years and there are probably more bloggers in SL now than there was at the peak of SL’s popularity in 2006/2007. I’m told that back then it was much more about reviewing an item and that bloggers felt more of a partnership with the creators they blogged for than is sometimes the case now. I didn’t blog then so I don’t know if that’s hindsight through rose-tinted glasses or factually correct. I suspect it’s a little of both but I can see, from both sides, why that may have changed over the last few years.

I’ll suggest some of them here:

Collectives producing content in a post mesh Second Life requires a range of skill sets from 3D meshing, rigging, texturing etc. I know great meshers who can’t rig. Awesome texture artists who can’t mesh etc etc. Groups of designers/creators have come together to pool their resources and work on their strength areas. There is often not just one creator/designer for bloggers to have a working relationship with. I don’t believe that these collectives are the norm but they are far more prevalent than they were.

 

Events – The rise of the Second Life event and it’s impact on blogging and the designers and creators is a huge subject and not one that I have enough time to go into in detail in this post. The number of items a designer is producing per month has grown exponentially in parallel with the rise of the number of events. Designers are spending the vast majority of their time creating and that does of course impact their time to be doing the ‘softer’ niceties of the brand owner job…i.e. Getting to know their bloggers

 

Fragmentation of channels. Through those history glass lenses you see a blog, with a beautiful picture or pictures, gloriously detailed text reviewing the product, hints and helpful information and credits. You might have seen the picture on Flickr too but no biggie if you just had the blog. Zoom forward to 2016: as a blogger or creator you now have many more channels to promote your work on, which on the upside means you could potentially gain a wider audience for your work but on the downside all take a large amount of time for both sides.

 

All of the above have contributed to the rise of the ‘Blogger Manager’ role that there has been so much talk about lately. I often hear the term referred to in such negative way which I find quite disappointing. I imagine the person behind the screen screwing up their nose like something smelling rather horrid has just been dropped in their lap while they gasp “ewwww…I hear they use one of those horrid things….a….*lowers voice to not be overheard while looking around to make sure no one is watching* a…blogger manager!!!!’

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I’ve given quite a lot of thought to why I think there is so much disdain toward this role and also taken on board the feedback I’ve listened to and read at the SL Blogger Support Chats. It seems that out there, across all the hundreds of stores, the thousands of creators and events…and I know this bit is going to shock you all…..there are some not very good ones!

 

Shock Horror!

 

Guess what! There are some not very good bloggers out there too but how would you like to be tarred with the same brush?

..many Blogger Managers who are hired with a job definition akin to an ‘enforcer’

When I was looking after bloggers it was a very small part of my remit and fortunately, as a brand MadPea was a big enough name to attract a large number of applications and be very choosy about who we asked to blog for us. In addition at the time we didn’t have ‘hard’ rules and I took the view that if we continued to send out quality products then the bloggers would continue to blog them without the need for rigid minimum requirements. On the whole that seemed to work in all but a very few cases.

I was in the fortunate position of being the person who made the decisions about what the requirements were for our bloggers and how we wanted to manage them but this isn’t the case for many Blogger Managers who are hired with a job definition akin to an ‘enforcer’. I asked a Blogger Manager recently what she considered her job to be in one sentence and her answer was ‘to make sure the bloggers stick to the rules’. I found this more than a little disheartening but I understand where its come from. It comes, in a lot of cases, from the creators and designers who have hired them and told them that that is now their sole purpose. Add into the mix language barriers or communication issues both in terms of style and the fact that people imply tone in written communications, and you have a recipe for stressed bloggers churning out rushed, poor quality posts to meet a deadline or tick off a box.

You shouldn’t need a manager with a stick lurking over you ready to rap you on the knuckles if you don’t do something.

Now, I see both sides of this issue and it’s a situation that continues to spiral. When you offer your service as a blogger to an organisation you are entering a professional agreement. You are a grown up. You agreed to a set of rules that you were able to read and digest before you applied. You shouldn’t need a manager with a stick lurking over you ready to rap you on the knuckles if you don’t do something. That said, creators and designers with onerous layer upon layer of rules and regulations that need policing so stringently should also rethink if this is really what they want from this valuable marketing channel in my opinion.

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What did I consider my role as when I looked after bloggers? I saw it as an opportunity to mutually promote each other within the blogging community and further afield. I wanted to be a resource and a support for the bloggers within the team – the person they could come to with questions or ideas. Yes, I wanted to ensure quality (over quantity) of posts and I wanted to encourage consistency.

conversations not confrontations

Even with minimal rules there have been in the past people that have been unable to meet the requirements, or seemingly haven’t, and those are difficult conversations but they are just that…conversations and not confrontations. No one likes to have to approach someone about a misgiving or concern but that’s just life and adulting. The key is in making it as painless for both sides as you can and usually the tone for the communication will be set at the start by how the initiator opens the conversation. This goes both ways. I had reason to contact a blogger manager this week for one of the brands I blog for because I was worried that I wasn’t keeping up with a sudden increase in the number of releases. We chatted, resolved the issue, she settled my nerves and concerns and reassured me that there was a peak but it would slow off again and I had nothing to worry about. 

There was a lot more I could have done if it was my sole responsibility and role and that’s why I encourage bloggers to consider it as a positive if one of the stores they blog for hires a Blogger Manager. It should mean that the creator believes in the channel enough to show it special attention and to hire someone responsible for overseeing it. It should mean that they realise how important their bloggers are to them and that they need someone to be a point of contact when they are busy with their heads in other programmes making and designing for the next release or event. It should be the window to a mutually beneficial relationship for both and if it isn’t I’d move on to somewhere where it is.

 

Stuff from the SL Blogger Support Team

Bear with us

Every month, well quarter actually and sometimes weekly or bi-weekly…well anyway, regularly or when needed the SL Blogger Support Team has meetings. To catch up, talk about what we can do to enchance the group ánd this website for our members and we drink wine brainstorm a lot.

Last meeting we celebrated, modestly, that we are about to reach the 1300th member and we pondered on how to avoid getting the group killed by its own success.
We love all our members and even though at times things happen – like an overheated groupchat or a flood of applications because a big event is coming up, we still try to focus on being a group that offers SUPPORT for bloggers.

And this is an important topic. SL Blogger Support was founded, by Katya, with the intention to offer support. To bloggers. And build bridges between creators and bloggers. And we think we managed to do that very well, thanks to the awesome blogger community!

Oceania Pananas Home

Picture by Nannja Panana – on Flickr

The past months though we have seen things shifting, in group-chat mainly and in the applications for new members. It all seems to focus on ‘early access’ and ‘preview access’ to events. And to be honest, this saddens us a bit. Surely, getting early access to events is a perk we appreciate and we do understand it is wonderful to shop in relative peace, when you have blog deadlines or limited time in Second Life.
But the early shopping- or preview accesses is not what SL Blogger Support is all about. It is part of it, but not the main theme. We want to bring bloggers and creators and event organisers together for better communication and help each-other out. Be it for help with a blog, photography, how to get more followers, where to find awesome locations for photo shoots etc. etc.

When the focus, and in some cases..the only reason to join us is to get early access to events, we are losing the initial ideal and losing support.

Again: we love and appreciate the early accesses and are grateful for it.

However, we felt we needed to address some of the side-effects (the amount of applications as soon as a major event is in sight and in a few cases some people actually complaining about some events not giving us access before the crowds come in).

<3

Picture by Bird Luik – on Flickr

We have – and yeah we hate the word ‘rule’ as much as you do – sent out some rules to event organisers and creators. We also close applications (as in, we will not handle them) the week before a large event opens and open them again as soon as the event is open to the public (example: Hair Fair).

So what are them rules for event organisers, well here they are:

➸ Notices are only used for Blogger Early Access – This is a hard fast rule. This means no notices for looking for bloggers, etc. We have an application process for this on the website.
➸ Please specify dates and times when posting, and landmarks should be included in the notecards.
➸ Please specify if bloggers are allowed to ask for review copies or if the event is ONLY for early shopping.
➸ Do not send out notices for sales, hunts, or upcoming events. There are groups for that in Second Life.
➸ Please keep it to a minimum of two notices a round. We do not want to overload our members with notices.

Not too bad eh?

Paid Positions/Vacancies
Also, since the past weeks we noticed we got questions on how to make our members aware of paid positions (like Blogger Managers or PR Managers). We now have this covered in the form on the website here, so creators/event organisers can now also post that they have a vacancy for a paid position. If you are unsure, or have question on how to get your vacancy known, feel free to ask Ember Adored or Caitlin Tobias on how to proceed!

We don’t want to smack everyone with rules and policies, but we do hope you understand that with a (lovely!) community as we have, we need to have some stuffs organised – to keep us sane and keep you all happy!

Happy blogging!

Credits:
Photos in this post are from members who added them in our own Flickr Group and who have set the publishing rights to sharing🙂.

 

New Post #263

Picture by Ian Dark – on Flickr


 

 

 

 

 

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