The trends in online communications are rapidly evolving with content streaming to known sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as a way to grab the public’s attention and quickly connect them to a product or cause.  However, while social media tools are transforming the way organizations such as Kiva interact with the world, there’s a second world that they are also using to reach digital audiences. 

 Second Life is a new trend in the digital world, and it actually allows companies to set up a virtual world where millions of viewers (residents) can enter.  It is not a game, but instead companies can create an in-world avatar to interact with others by buying, selling and trading products with residents.  Kiva uses Second Life through Techsoup Global and Nonprofits Common Projects to stay ahead of digital trends and to provide a unique digital presence to their lenders or entrepreneurs.  The micro-finance organization purchased land, built offices and works with other non-profits in Second life to get users such as Julles Boucher, a self-described philanthropist, to invest in the services of the organization.  Boucher, who is’s Second Life Coordinator, utilizes this social media tool as a way to expand marketing and awareness to users all over the world.  

 For brands similar to Kiva, who would like to reach audiences in Russia, Second Life metrics and statistics from Linden Lab™covering to the end of March 2008, indicate that three of the most active regions by average time spent per active user were, the Russian Federation (123.63 hours), Japan (77.95 hours), and the Netherlands (72.7 hours). Overall, 544,290 users (up from February 2008) spent an average of 56.27 hours each in Second Life during the month of February, up from 53.69 in January 2008.  If companies are considering digital tools beyond the use of a standard web page they should take advantage of how Second Life can communicate with users (residents) in 3D, while promoting their product or cause through multiple languages with real-time text chat translators. 

 The Second Life economy is built on the Linden dollar in which millions of U.S. dollars (at the current exchange rate) change hands each month[i].  As a result, Kiva donations are steadily increasing, and companies can use this virtual tactic to boost production sales as well as raise awareness with 35 to 49 year old online audiences.  According to Linden Lab™, 83.79% of the population is 25 years and older, and the 45+ year old users continue to be the heaviest users on average in Second Life.  

 Kiva continues to motivate users of Second Life, particularly Russian users to participate in their micro-financing services by having the first Life Aid Booth and promoting the organization through Second Life events and virtual guerrilla marketing.  It is always important to know that the most successful companies are likely to be those that can add new innovative tactics to their digital audiences.


[i] The New Rules of Marketing & PR, David Meerman Scott



  1. Nice insights into how Kiva is using Second Life as well as the numbers of Second Life users from Russia – something that is easily a new piece of information people unfamiliar with SL would likely not know. You raise good points about the interesting successes that Kiva and likely other brands have had on SL. The one point that works against you is the fast moving pace of the web and how sites that could be considered highly popular at one moment can begin to fade. January of 2008 and even later in 2008 is quite some time ago in the world of social media. In that time, sites like Twitter have exploded and some could argue that brand marketers enthusiasm for SL and virtual worlds has tapered somewhat. Do you agree with this, or is the potential as good or better as it ever was? How do you think the success that they exhibited a mere 18 months ago may be different today? (3)

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