If you build it…they will what?

Anyone who runs a private virtual estate has likely ran across their share of infamous questions inquired by potential customers, but what would be the most prominently remembered ones from all experiences? I’d like to think that these are: “How much traffic goes through here?” and “Would x sort of business have a good success?Roundabout Caution Sign

The short answers and a scenario.

You can have about as much traffic circulating as you are willing to put in effort to build it up. The success of a business depends on one’s competence in their field of interest and so does their chance to increase exposure.

In a typical pre-sales situation, these are the foremost common questions received (regardless to the view of the surroundings; read more about that below). The answer is rather apodictic — which means to be incontestable or, of the nature of necessary truth or absolute certainty. Why? It’s really simple to explain, but first let’s take a look at what the ‘people’ of Second Life define traffic as.

Traffic is not commonly calculated on a per-simulator basis, unless the simulator has not been divided into parcels. At Lionheart, all of our regions, with the exception of our ‘Commercial Land’ openspace, are parceled off. Therefore, when someone asks ‘how much traffic does this sim receive?’, there isn’t much of a definitive answer to provide, other than to state that the traffic value resets nightly and solely depends on the individual parcel’s stand-in visits.

What defines traffic?

According to the Second Life Wiki, ‘Linden Lab initially introduced “traffic” or “dwell” as a way to reward Residents who create popular locations.’ Now one might read that and think, “A reward? What kind of reward?” Up until to 2006, ‘Linden Lab offered a $US reward to the 2% of landowners who receive the most dwell – in proportion to the dwell their properties received. In mid-2006, stipends based on dwell were removed as population growth provided an audience sufficient enough to support a more conventional economy in Second Life.’

The mechanics of calculating traffic and its weight value underwent many changes following the year of 2006, from the factor of how much time must pass for traffic points to be added, to a maximum accrual of traffic for certain regions (Mainland in particular), and which locations are selected to be featured in the ‘Popular Places’ list each night (which is longer included in the search system as of viewer version 1.20).

As of current, traffic is considered to be a minute that an avatar spends on a parcel; each parcel requires a rudimentary visit of five minutes in length from an avatar to be counted for. If the avatar crosses the property line then it’s goodbye to that traffic tick. This unfortunately means that really smaller parcels have less chances to receive good traffic count if visitors happen to frequently move outside of the parcel.

Traffic gained wrongly.

One conspicuous approach to generating traffic has been to use bots (or scripted agents with an intended purpose of existence). Up until today people use bots to support or enhance their business services as well as to automate repetitive group management tasks. Linden Lab has confirmed that bots do not count for fair traffic gain and the intent to use them for such purposes is a violation of the Second Life TOS. To sum up the reasoning, traffic has always had value as a land metric, which is my very purpose for having written this article. However, there are rules and factors behind everything — well almost. Bots are allowed for use, they just have to legitimately be stated as a scripted agent. If you want to do it right, then you have to take time to research or ask sensible questions, not like the ones at the opening of this post.

We do forgive our misinformed customers and thank them anyway for their regarded interests. Our care is on educating the customer about what they’re bargaining for, so that such questions concerning traffic won’t create a hindrance for explaining during the pre-sales process.

Cannot compute unfair traffic gain.

Some time ago, Second Life residents learned of taboo methods to game the grid traffic system. They reigned in the era for quite some time, then someone at Linden Lab decided to break the circuit…. It was a wise decision made. For allowing folks to further continue with the illegal use of bots, traffic cones (not banned but it probably should be?), camping chairs and other tools, the meta value of traffic count could ultimately diminish. I know that some feel like it already has. Linden Lab has gathered user-input for the dwell algorithm throughout the past several years, while the Second Life JIRA issue tracking system still floods with refuted ideas and complaints for what has been implemented and reversed over time.

Successful traffic gain.

I vaguely recall someone sharing with me that their best method for gaining traffic was through camping their own land. Now I don’t mean to actually ‘camp’ as in the old ways mentioned above that have been barred, but if you own a business then it seems silly to not expect to spot you on the scene regularly. It’s your business, you run it and your customers imagine to find you there every now and then. Believe it! I know we all have this repressed belief that when we’re present at our establishments that we generally scare off customers. The truth is, a customer that has arrived with a purpose, whether that be to browse, shop, or ask questions, will hang around only for as long as that purpose is lived. Unless it’s a club, then they may hang around for longer because they have nothing else to do, but even that is not guaranteed….

Club establishments come and go. Surprised? Don’t be. If you want success and expect some sort of profit gain from your investment (of purchasing land and venue equipment) then you almost have to possess some sort of business background or expertise. Setting up a business, whether to exchange products or services, for entertainment purposes or otherwise, requires careful planning — and executed plans. Failing to do so could be your demise. Of course, if you’re not looking for ‘rush numbers’ and are trying to take it easy with the traffic flow (unlikely), then this argument is digressed.

You saw at the top of this article, the header reads: If you build it, they will what? Building or in our case ‘rezzing’ structures is only a pinch of the process. You must market and advertise. Also, be sure to see our Basic Tips for Business Owners page for a guide on how to optimally configure your About Land options. It also mentions a couple of other ways that you can increase exposure for your business. Your customers and / or fans have to be given insight that you do indeed exist. When you pursue this, they will thank you for it, either in the form of purchases made or casual visits.

What was suggested above may sound simple enough, but many residents often fail by the assumption that you can just purchase land and everything else should follow suit automatically. Placing out a club building with a few gas lights and dance poles, on top of  having a preconfigured audio stream will not guarantee residual traffic, not the slightest bit. In the real world, what you find at an entertainment venue is a constant flow of ongoing events and activities. You will almost never find the venue void of its personnel during operating hours. It’s also quite usual to discover venues which offer amenities, with the most traditional being a VIP status. Consider offering some sort of special perk or bonus that is available exclusively to guests who show up at distinguished times. When they do arrive, greet them and thank them for stopping by. Providing them with a reason to feel appreciated is a great way to build repute and favor. They’ll want to come to back again and again!

Another misconception I’ve witnessed by others is the belief that traffic conducts to adjacent parcels. No, no and no. Okay, maybe that is argumentative, I suppose. If you own all of the parcels within a certain area then your customers might head off to nearby establishments out of mere curiosity or interest to see what else you have to offer. However, don’t expect your neighbor’s land traffic to contribute to your own. A crowd that enters a region to attend a live music gig mainly comes to – well, enjoy the music. The slight chance that someone will depart from the event to roam around in nearby shops is slim and might not be worth your betting. Therefore, have a good plan — a separate one to generate traffic at each of your establishments. One location’s crowd following doesn’t necessary feed another.

So, what’s the secret formula to ensuring successful traffic gain? There is none, but you simply need to take good care of your land and business establishment. Think of it as a planted seed. Water it, allow some sunlight to shine over. It will grow!

How we respond to the questions.

I’m going to quote an actual response given by one of our sales reps who recently handled a case which involved the aforementioned questions regarding traffic being asked.

Paraphrasing their words, the sales rep replied with,

“Traffic can’t be figured as easily as reading and providing numbers. However, the sims are designed with a good infrastructure in place with the aim to increase walk-in-traffic throughout the simulator overall.”

Notice that the person did not single out a specific simulator, neither was it mentioned that the established infrastructure would benefit any particular parcel. I want to commend them for their response (they’ll know I am referring to them when they read this).  Lionheart does not purchase regions to simply divide up the terrain into squared parcels with a sale price set, and to leave the rest regarding traffic exposure completely up to the purchasers.

Let me clarify on this: We do not directly advertise or market for our landowners, but we do make certain mediums available, such as with our in world display boards located around our estate and Mainland info centers, in addition to the business listings section on our website. It is important to understand that your business requires attention from you. It’s your baby and will only grow under your nurturing. We could hold up a green flag all day and evening in support of your business, but at the finish of the job done you support your business best; it’s your name and brand that people should be searching for.

Concluding thoughts and remarks.

As mentioned earlier, when done in the correct manner, traffic gain is no-brainer. Obviously, there are many ways to gain traffic to a parcel and I’ve only mentioned a sleuth of those above. Likewise, what works for you may result differently for someone else. You have to find your working solution and it doesn’t begin with surveying ‘high trafficked’ simulators. Also, the reason I chose to elaborate on the subject of club venues, as opposed to one of the countless other business types, is due to the shadowed light that exists over the concept for pursuing business through a club establishment and the fact that it’s particularly seen as being disreputable by a good mass of people.

We private estate operators are inevitably pressed to remain cooperative with answering the ‘traffic questions’ as they arise. After all, it’s not fundamental for completely new land seekers to know these things. However, if you’ve been around the block or two and still continue to follow wrong paths then your incorrect views and intentions may lead to misfortune. It doesn’t have to amount to that, just do a bit of research or ask someone who already has.

The above statements were written in reflection of both my analytical views as well as some factual ones. As advisors, we sometimes find ourselves having to deliver helpful but critical words. I hope that this article has benefited someone other to learn relevant information about traffic generation in Second Life.

– Xavion

4 comments to If you build it…they will what?

  • iynque.loire

    Very good information. I learned a few very important things, even though it’s presented like you’re scolding children rather than informing adults… :3

    • Thank you Iynque! That wasn’t intention behind the writing, however, I do feel that sometimes we adults need to keep a child-like mind to come up with innovative solutions to old problems. Business owners should be open-minded, adaptable, asking questions and utilizing many approaches.

  • Great article Xavion. Thank you for making this information available to those who do not fully understand Second Life™ traffic and their responsibility to grow and nurture their own business / parcel.

    – David Venter

    • I’m pleased to know that you found it rewarding to read, David. The land traffic system is not one to easily comprehend at first. I think if things continue to change with the dwell algorithm, like with anything else (ex. SL search), such information might require updating. If I am in the loop I’ll post it here. 🙂

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