For all the talk of Generation Y, you don’t really have to be young to “get” social media.
As an employer I follow with interest reports about the imminent flood of hungry young workers about to transform the jobs market with all their net savvy ways.
It’ll be great for business to welcome in a workforce who grew up with social networks and see the obvious benefits without the need for a seismic shift in thinking.
However, there are already plenty 30 and 40-somethings who are changing mindsets and working practices to embrace new and social media.
Social media PR expert
Still though, there is one aspect of the newfangled communications I have real trouble with: virtual worlds.
In the US one of the world’s biggest PR firms – Edelman – set up a system it calls reverse mentoring, where young employees teach grizzled old veterans the new ways of business online.
Maybe I need a Gen Y reverse mentor to teach me all about the benefits of Second Life and virtual worlds.
The thought of coughing up real cash to create a 3D alter-ego who will then go to work (yes, virtual work) in Second Life to earn “Linden Dollars” isn’t terribly appealing.
Virtual worlds for business
Even if I could set up a Second Life avatar who was a billionaire oligarch spending all his time on a sun-kissed yacht with a bevy of Miss World contestants, I’d struggle to see the appeal.
Here’s the rub. Virtual reality games I understand, even if I choose not to immerse. But virtual reality role playing in a business setting? Hmmm.
Yet Linden Labs, the firm behind Second Life, is currently rolling out its SL Enterprise version for “visionary corporations and government agencies”. They set up software to hold virtual meetings, events and training sessions.
During virtual meetings, those not paying attention will see their avatar fall forward onto the table. I kid you not, it’s supposed to be as embarrassing as falling asleep in a real meeting. Er, right.
Linden Labs claims these virtual shenanigans are a catalyst for innovation, while reducing the cost and environmental impact of travel. Despite the $55,000 price tag, SL Enterprise is flying off the shelves.
Part of me would like to write off the whole virtual world thing as a passing fad. But it’s a bit more serious than that. Respected commentators on PR and media in the digital age have quietly and consistently maintained it will grow in importance and popularity.
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Now crystal ball gazers at Gartner, which specialises in researching technology and predicting future trends, have also had their say.
They forecast that by the end of 2013, 70 percent of businesses will have behaviour and dress code policies for employees whose online avatars represent their organisation.
Earlier this year IBM introduced a code of conduct for 5000 staff with virtual lives – banning smoking, insisting on a dress code and threatening action against virtual harassment or discrimination.
Has the (real) world gone mad? Or do I just need a bit of re-education in a reverse mentor kind of way?
Answers on a postcard … on second thoughts make it a tweet … to 3D Me and my new best friend, Miss Venezuela.
I’m sure I’ll be able pick up the messages when my 100 footer is anchored just off the coast of St Lucia.