Earlier this week I asked Second Life residents how likely they are to recommend Second Life to RL friends and colleagues. Over 3,000 people responded to the survey showing passionate engagement for Second Life.The poll shows 72% of Second Life users are more likely to promote it. With that said, more people need to promote Second Life if to maintain user engagement levels.

The first question of my survey aimed to gauge Second Life’s Net Promoter Score® (NPS®). Research shows that a company’s NPS acts as a leading indicator of growth (or decline). Businesses or products with higher NPS scores outperform competitors. Managing your business to improve NPS also improves its performance (growth and profits).

This is how researchers calculate the Net Promoter Score:

Image courtesy of Netigate Community

Image courtesy of Netigate Community

These were the results when I asked the question which 3,073 residents answered:

Second Life Likelihood of Recommending

In summary, those giving scores between 6 to 10 (N= 2,216) equaled 72% of the sample. Those saying they were less likely to recommend Second Life – scoring between 0 and 5 (N = 857) – equaled 28%.

Surprised? So am I. That chart looks like positive news. But, the story goes deeper than that: Second Life’s promoters are unlikely to overcome the number of detractors to sustain user engagement.

To arrive at a company’s NPS, researchers ask its customers: “How likely are you to recommend [brand] to a friend or colleague?” on a 0-10 scale.

They call loyal enthusiasts Promoters. These users tend to answer the question with a 9-10. They will keep using the product and refer others. These are the growth fuelers.

Out of 3,073 respondents, 1,123 answered 9 or 10, or about 45%.

They call satisfied but unenthusiastic customers Passives. These users tend to respond to the question with a 7-8. These customers are vulnerable to competitive offerings.

668 answered 7 or 8, or about 22%.

They call unhappy customers Detractors. These users tend to respond to the question with a 0 to 6. These customers can damage a brand and impede growth by negative word-of-mouth.

1,033 answered between 0 and 6, or about 34%.

You might say that you’re an enthusiastic supporter of Second Life. If you don’t recommend it to anyone, you might have given it a 0-6. You might not be a vocal Detractor, but at best you’re Passive and not a Promoter. NPS researchers don’t consider Passives in the equation because they’re neither helpful nor harmful. But, Passives are often the group that marketers most want to convert into Promoters.

To yield the Net Promoter Score, they subtract the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters. The NPS score can range from -100 (if every customer is a Detractor) to 100 (if every customer is a Promoter.

They express the simple formula this way: NPS = Promoters (%) – Detractors (%)

The data from this survey tells us Second Life’s Net Promoter Score is 11 (we omit the % when we share NPS scores), or the difference between 45 and 34.

How does this compare with other industries? Not very well. You’ll notice that Second Life’s NPS score sits at about the same level as Health plans:


Here is a chart that shows Net Promoter Scores among well-known brands. With an NPS of 11, Second Life underperforms against most of these well-known brands:


As is clear to see, Second Life has a lower NPS than most brands on this list. That relatively small score is due to both a lack of promoters and an abundance of detractors.

Potential objections to the results

People sometimes reject survey data because they do not reflect their previously held views. Anticipating these, I’ll address potential objections to this data below:

“The poll isn’t predictive.” Are people indicating something they’d “like” to do instead of something they “would” do? It’s possible that some respondents misread the question despite my careful wording. It isn’t likely that this represents a significant group. The poll may not predict what people “will” do, but that is not the job of a poll. Only observation can show what people “do”.

“The sample isn’t representative.” A sample of 3,073 users represents 0.3% of the accepted population of Second Life (900,000). At a 99% confidence interval, this makes the margin for error ±2.3%. In other words, the group that is more likely to recommend might be between 69% to 74%.

If you are only looking at one large group of people as a whole, the process of determining a random sample is pretty straightforward. You need to know how many people are in the entire group (e.g. the total number of Second Life residents) and how “accurate” you want your results to be (see “Statistical Confidence” above) – in this case 99%. When you survey a portion of a population, there will be some margin of error in the results, but when pollsters can reduce the margin of error to just a few percentage points, it often becomes of little concern.

“The sample isn’t representative because the poll is on the Firestorm blog and they are Firestorm users.” Most of the respondents answered the survey after seeing it on the Firestorm blog. Is it possible that this is a biased sample?

What’s more important than the site where the poll sits, is how respondents heard about the poll. I notified Firestorm blog subscribers, but the Firestorm Viewer’s Message of the Day linked to the poll for about 3 days, and many respondents saw the poll on social media. I also shared the poll on my personal network (not affiliated with Firestorm) that reaches over 8000 people. That helps to broaden further the sample.

It’s possible that those who read the Firestorm blog are more enthusiastic about Second Life than those who don’t, but it’s also possible they are more critical. Given the overall negativity of the comments on the survey’s blog post, one might (mistakenly) assume that most Firestorm users are negative about Second Life too. The Firestorm Viewer is the most used viewer in Second Life and, therefore, attracts a wide breadth of use cases, making these users a representative sample of Second Life users.

It is also possible that people might be passionate about Second Life yet not recommend it for many reasons. Reasons people may not recommend Second Life to their RL friends might include:

  • Privacy concerns
  • anxiety related to explaining the concept
  • perceived negative associations with the product
  • and a lack of opportunity

On the flip side, people who are not enthusiastic about Second Life are unlikely to recommend it. With that said, the results might understate the proportion of ardent Second Life supporters.

“People who take the time to answer surveys might be unusually motivated to support Second Life.” That may be true, but it takes a lot more effort to write a lengthy negative comment than it does to check two to three boxes on a survey. Therefore, I suggest that detractors of Second Life are also highly motivated to share their detractions. That is consistent with customer service studies that show unsatisfied customers are more likely to share their perspectives than satisfied customers.

“The question wording or design misled respondents.” Here is the question as it appeared in the survey:

SL Net Promoter Score Question

It’s unlikely this question misled respondents.

“The NPS score is not predictive of what users will do.” Many say the NPS is predictive, but the methodology is not without criticism. Proponents of the NPS answer these critics with counter arguments. I’ll leave it to you to do your research (the Wiki page is a good start). One thing is sure: we cannot predict what Second Life users will do when we give them the opportunity to recommend their friends to Second Life.

“You’re making all of this up.” Here’s the PDF of the Polldaddy Results Report: ‘Second Life Referral Survey’ Survey Results _ Polldaddy. I’ll share my analysis of Question 2 in a later post.

Conclusion: 72% are likely to promote Second Life, but we need more promoters to sustain Second Life user engagement

Second Life residents are enthusiastic about Second Life enough to say they’ll recommend it to others by a significant margin. With that said, the number of Detractors is sufficient in number to dampen word-of-mouth efforts.

That is not to suggest people do not have legitimate complaints, or shouldn’t voice them. It’s important to acknowledge that no successful product is without weaknesses. Despite its weaknesses, the majority of users still report wanting to support Second Life. I’d further argue that Second Life has some of the most loyal users of any similar product, especially when you consider the many downsides of the product.

As a brand, Second Life has a lower NPS score than many successful brands. In light of this data, I can understand why we’re seeing a gradual decline in users over the years. Perhaps we just haven’t given users the right opportunities to share their support of Second Life yet? Time will tell.

Many people say that it’s up to Linden Lab to market Second Life, not users. Yes, if Linden Lab wants to sustain (let alone grow) Second Life, they have to promote it. They do promote it. Whether they do it correctly or incorrectly is beyond the scope of this particular discussion.

A single company is never wholly responsible for how the market perceives its products. Users can make a substantial contribution to that perception, either positively or negatively. What you’ll do is up to you. If you want to help sustain Second Life for your reasons, it will have a better chance of doing so if you do your part too.

If you like Second Life and want it to persist, what you do depends on how proactive you are and where you see your locus of control. Proactive people with an internal locus of control may recommend their friends to try Second Life. Those who like it but don’t, will let others do it for them.

On a personal note, I’m not discouraged by this data. There are enough promoters to support word of mouth efforts, but it won’t be easy.

Further reading: