Cisco Systems in Second Life

    December 6, 2006

Cisco Systems is the latest company to open an island-two, in fact-in Second Life.

How risky would it be to claim to be the first company to open two islands consecutively in SL? Based on experience, I wouldn’t try it

In an official company press release, the announcement was buried 18 paragraphs into a release that focuses on new technologies added to Cisco’s Integrated Services Routers (ISR). The release also touted the sale of the company’s 2 millionth ISR.

The single paragraph reads:

In conjunction with today’s announcement, Cisco is excited to begin its journey in Second Life, a 3D interactive social networking metaverse, with the opening of our Cisco campus (in Second Life look for “Cisco Systems”). The Second Life community represents a new opportunity for businesses to interact with the public in a creative and fun virtual environment.

However, there’s more detail in the News@Cisco blog. Marie Hattar writes that the launch of the new ISR product took place in Second Life, the company’s first foray into the virtual three-dimensional world. Hattar talks the talk that smart businesses are figuring out as they venture into SL:

For Cisco, it is about the Human Network. Part of that is becoming part of communities in Real Life, and now, in Second Life. We opened the Cisco campus to better explain and show who we are, what we are about, and how we are powering the Human Network. And, that means more than just showcasing products (or, giving away T-shirts and virtual Cisco phones in Second Life). It means working with the community, becoming part of the community.

Becoming part of the community means more than building an island, though; presumably-given the counsel Cisco has been receiving from the likes of Weber Shandwick-the company has plans to ingratiate itself to residents who are often inclined to be skeptical of businesses setting up in-world homesteads.

One of Cisco’s islands is a showcase for SL residents to learn about the company and its products. The second is for employees and customers to interact with each other as well as representatives of Cisco’s technical and executive teams. With the two islands, Cisco appears to want to leverage both of SL’s potential benefits: a strong relationship with existing residents and a virtual space for its real-life business. The idea of offering tech support is a good one. Given the relatively small population of SL, it’s likely a customer would spend far less time waiting for help in SL than on the phone. Still, if the company is planning to “bridge the Real Life with the Second Life,” as Hattar writes, you have to wonder how they’ll accomplish that by segregating in-world residents from everyone else.

The second island-the one for employees and customers-will also serve as a venue for executive briefings and training through the Cisco Network Academy. The company is also planning to add Cisco Field, an event amphitheater. It’s no coincidence that Cisco Field is also the name of the ballpark that will bear the company’s name and serve as the new home of the Oakland Athletics baseball team.

The News@Cisco post includes a couple screen shots and a brief introductory video. Here’s the SLURL.

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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.