Brands creating a presence in Second Life will shortly be offered measurement tools to monitor the effectiveness of their in-world investments.

The Electric Sheep Company, a US-based agency which has developed Second Life properties for firms such as Reuters and Starwood Hotels, has started to distribute software that allows marketers to track footfall at their virtual sites.

Other Second Life consultancies are also understood to be developing similar tools so that companies can judge the returns they are getting from the heavily hyped platform.

“We are building out metrics reporting software that we can sell, which will report back to help judge return on investment,” the Electric Sheep Company’s Sam Landman told E-consultancy. “We have distributed the product in beta to a client this week.”

Although there’s no apparent consensus on the best way to measure the popularity of Second Life sites, Landman said the software would focus on the time users spend in properties and at in-world events.

He also pointed to the distribution of ‘virtual products’, like Reuters’ mobile news reader, as another way to monitor Second Life campaigns.

On the reporting software, he added: “You’ll have the ability to measure the kind of metrics that you would expect to be important – how many people came to your presence in your Second Life, how much time did they spend there and what did they do?”

“As we build more entertainment properties in virtual communities, people will be looking to build a share of audience time.”

Speaking at a Second Life workshop in London last month, Rivers Run Red CEO Justin Bovington said the UK agency would also be launching reporting tools for its clients.

“We’re working on measurability systems so you can see who is coming in and who is doing what, and actually reporting stuff. That’s so we can get better at what we are doing and make the services more relevant to people.”

He also warned that this year would see firms starting to focus more heavily on the value of Second Life projects (rather than going for press coverage).

“We’ve seen a lot more brands coming in recently, and not getting the attention they would have got previously. There is so much conversation about it, there is a danger of it becoming over-hyped. What we are trying to do is bring that back to the reality of what the service is all about. 2007 will be about making it real.”

Meanwhile Gartner has been telling Reuters that the Second Life backlash could be starting. Like Gartner we also feel that scalability may pose problems for the fast-growing platform, and that Google is “top of the tree” as a potential acquirer. We’re not so sure that there will be a backlash just yet though…