Republican presidential candidate and apparent internet god Ron Paul will likely be remembered more for his power over Digg than his policy. The Republican underdog has achieved a rare following of online fanatics who help the candidate raise money and promote him like no other, pushing articles about the candidate to the top of Digg and social bookmarking sites. For another first, Paul supporters are holding a rally for the candidate in the uncontested land of Azeroth. Supporters will march through the Whisperwind server on New Year’s Day at 8:30pm EST.
It is unknown if the candidate himself will or can appear (does he have a character and is it a high enough level?). Regardless, this rally marks another crossover between the real and virtual worlds that Second Life so pretended existed. People might actually attend this one.
Second Life has been a focus for politicians, with Barak Obama and John Edwards both building campaign centers even with no proof advertising in the social world works (it most likely doesn’t work).
But World of Warcraft offers a different environment for social promotion. The game encourages constant involvement through monthly subscriptions whereas Second Life is free. Nine million World of Warcraft subscribers means a good portion actually play the game. Further, the game offers rewards not only for addictive level play, but for teamwork and socializing – the best way to win battles and gain loot. Second Life is simply a trip to the mall – more fun with friends but just as easy to do alone.
I doubt World of Warcraft can be manipulated by Madison Avenue advertisers in the same way as Second Life – it is a fantasy world and its citizens will not want Coke advertising there. But World of Warcraft has on paper the potential to be a valuable social networking tool. But what advertisers will probably forget is Azeroth citizens will network themselves. Ron Paul didn’t initialize this rally. His supporters did – true evangelicals for the cause. And that’s the best kind of promoter anyone can ask for.