The many roles we play in Second Life

Last week I ran a survey asking Second Life users to tell me the roles with which they most identified. 3,073 people completed the survey. The purpose of my study was to determine the most popular use cases of Second Life. I wanted also to see which group is more likely to recommend Second Life. It turns out that most people identify as roleplayers in Second Life. Educators are most likely to recommend Second Life. Scripters are least likely to recommend it.

If you measure the most popular roles, you can look at this survey as a way to gauge what Second Life does best and worst. If you measure how likely each role is to recommend Second Life, you can gauge how satisfying this role is to those who identify with it.

People identify as roleplayers most in Second Life

First, this chart shows the different roles people chose from my list (they could choose up to 3 roles):

Sample Size v GroupThe above chart is self-explanatory. The roles people most identified with were “roleplayers”, “socialisers” and “creators (builder/designer)”. The roles people least identified with were “scripters”, “blogger/Journalists”, and “newbie”.

Educators are most likely to recommend Second Life

I want to see which of these groups are most likely to recommend Second Life to those not yet familiar with it. As I mentioned in my last post, 72% of the respondents said they were more likely to recommend Second Life. We can see that people who identify as “educators” are most likely to recommend Second Life, at 81%. People who identify as “scripters” are least likely to recommend Second Life, at 56%.

More v Less likely to recommend

In my earlier post discussing these findings, I introduced the Net Promoter Score (NPS) concept that is used by hundreds of companies. The NPS is a loyalty metric that goes beyond whether people would recommend a product or not. Instead, it asks people to rate how likely they’d be to recommend

[brand] on a 0-10 scale. Then, researchers divide these scores into promoters, passives, and detractors. Subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters results in the Net Promoter Score. For Second Life, survey respondents gave Second Life an 11 NPS.

Scripters are among Second Life’s biggest detractors

I further analysed these scores on a group level and found that “educators” give Second Life a 35 NPS. That suggests that “educators” experience a high degree of satisfaction with Second Life. They are likely getting what they need from Second Life. They are likely to be Second Life’s most vocal supporters. One could argue that if Second Life was made up of educators alone, it might even be growing given an NPS score of 35. Unfortunately, only 7% of people responding to the survey identify as “educators”.

“Scripters” give Second Life a -27 NPS demonstrating considerable dissatisfaction with Second Life. They are liable to be Second Life’s biggest detractors. They’re likely not getting what they need from Second Life. Fortunately for Second Life, only 7% of people responding to the survey identified as “scripters”.

NPS v Group

Digging further into the NPS score, it’s clear to see how these scores stack as they do. Not only are “scripters” likely to be the most critical  (50%) of Second Life, they are also among the most passive (27%) about the brand. People who identify as “newbies” are an interesting subset. They show one of the lowest promoter scores (37%) and are among the highest detractors (46%). That’s not a good sign for new user retention.

Here’s a question: Why might “educators”, “entertainers”, “music lovers” and “decorators/landscapers” be among the most likely to promote? Why are “roleplayers”, “socialisers” and “traveller/explorers” among the least likely to promote? My theory is that the former group do what society considers acceptable: they use virtual worlds to augment physical world activities. For example, one can easily see educators, entertainers, music lovers and decorators/landscapers using Second Life to augment their real life professional interests. On the other hand, roleplaying, socialising, and travelling/exploring in virtual worlds begs the question: “Why can’t you do that in real life?” The latter group might find their interests less easy to explain and justify. The former group might look cool for appearing ‘cutting-edge.’

NPS Breakdown PPD

Music lovers and business people/entrepreneurs are likely to recommend Second Life

The biggest targets for any referral campaign are “roleplayers”, “socialisers” and “traveller/explorers”. Their NPS are not the highest, but there are many of them. Other suitable targets for referral campaigns are people who identify as music lovers, business people/entrepreneurs, entertainers and Decorator/landscapers. They’re not as large as the other groups, but they are very likely to refer. Less favourable targets include scripters, newbies, blogger/journalists, fashionistas and artist/photographers.

How this information is useful

Referral campaigns. I’ll be using this information to plan my marketing efforts for the Firestorm Gateway Project. But, there are several other applications for which people could use this data. These include:

  • Prioritising viewer features. The more we know about how people use Second Life, the better we can design applications for it. The primary example of this is the viewer. It makes sense to focus on the heaviest users when planning features.
  • Designing products and services for virtual world consumers. Entrepreneurs who want to sell products in Second Life can make use of these samples are markets. Based on market size, products aimed at roleplayers, socialisers and creators will likely do well. These products include roleplayer costumes, dance and adult animations/furniture, and building tools and components. People like to look good when they socialise, so fashion is an obvious winner product.
  • Blogging topics and niches. As a blogger, I’m always thinking about new things to write. Knowing what most people do in Second Life can encourage bloggers to explore other markets (besides fashion).
  • Planning future virtual worlds. One of the best learning labs for Project Sansar (and other future virtual worlds) is Second Life. Knowing what most people do in Second Life can help virtual world designers prioritise platform features. One could also argue that makers of virtual reality applications can leverage this data to plan their experiences.

Notes: Some commenters mentioned that not every role people play in Second Life is on the list. I know this. A list including every role people can identify with in Second Life would need thousands of options. To keep things simple to interpret and act on, I made a judgement call to limit the list to these roles assuming that people that identified with these roles would complete the survey. If they did not, they likely wouldn’t have responded.

Photo by Yany Oh.

About the Author:

Canary Beck has been an active Second Life resident since 2007. She is an SL blogger, artist, creator, merchant, sim owner, researcher, filmmaker and performing artist. Offline she works as a London-based internet marketing consultant and business owner.


  1. Paypabak Writer December 9, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Fascinating and spot on analysis! I worked with educators early on in my SLife and after their “betrayal” when LL decided to cut the Educational discount, there was a lot of bitterness. Apparently they’ve overcome that and still find value in SL. Best of luck in using this information to help LL improve recruiting and retaining residents!

    • Becky December 9, 2015 at 5:52 pm

      Thanks very much, Paypabak! It’s always nice to read this kind of comment, thank you. I think you’re right too, many educators stuck with SL despite losing the discount (perhaps not as professionals, but for personal interests). It’s great to see that they found value in SL beyond what they first came into it for.

  2. Dividni Shostakovich December 9, 2015 at 2:37 am

    This is *fascinating*. It would be interesting to learn more about why some groups are particularly supportive or unsupportive. It’s possible that one of the scripters’ complaints is that LSL is notoriously clunkly, limited, and unreliable; I gather Sansar will abandon it. But I have to say, I was startled by the percentage identifying themselves as roleplayers … until it occurred to me that for some respondents, “roleplaying” might refer to BDSM, Gor and other forms of sexual fantasy play. These communities are large (certainly large enough that many TPVs make a point of including RLV features, Firestorm included), but I haven’t a clue exactly how many they might be or whether they’re enough to strongly affect your stats. However, if they’re numerous enough, their significance might also explain the roleplayers’ reluctance to recommend SL to others: they might not want to “out” themselves in RL. Of course, I’m just speculating. (And maybe this matter is what you have in mind in your reference to adult animations and furniture.) Anyway, there are plenty of interpretive issues here.

    • Becky December 9, 2015 at 10:42 am

      Yes, Dividni, I’d love to know the reasons behind the motivations to promote and detract. It’ll have to wait until I can look into that further.

      I agree with you about roleplayers. I’d suspect that many who identified with that role might have been thinking about sexual roleplay. With that said, many of those identifying as “socialisers” might have been thinking about romantic/sexual encounters with others in SL. After all, sex is a form of socialising, and there wasn’t another role in the list that offered that as an option. Given our culture’s attitude towards virtual sexual activities of any kind, I would suspect that many who identified in this way would prefer not to answer certain questions about their involvement in SL. I know too that some people want to keep their activities private and might have confounded recommending SL as a concept to others, with sharing who they were in SL (e.g. privacy concerns).

      With regards to the adult furniture, that is what I meant, yes. 🙂

      • Dividni Shostakovich December 9, 2015 at 8:23 pm

        That’s true, many of the socializers may have romance and sex in mind. If there’s high overlap between socializers and roleplayers, that might be a clue — or it also might be reading in too much. No way to tell without a different sort of survey. Other kinds of overlap might be more telling; for example, if a lot of newbies are roleplayers, that could signal a reason for the newbies’ net promoter score, e.g., that they’re expecting the kind of tools and experiences they get in MMOs like World of Warcraft. But overlap analysis is probably beyond the scope of your project, and explaining overlaps is undoubtedly even further. (I’m looking at your survey more from the perspective of sociology than marketing, about which I know bupkis. Which I’m sure you noticed :-D)

  3. Cybele Moon December 9, 2015 at 2:19 am

    It looks like you are putting a lot of work into this and I wish you all the best in it. You try to keep your finger on what is currently happening. I am not sure if surveys show the true picture or not. Only people who don’t mind doing surveys are calculated in them. However, I find it interesting that the consensus is that educators would promote second life and role players not, and also that people not out actively promoting SL are detractors! As for satisfaction in Second Life- just because some may not want to spend many hours a day there doesn’t mean they don’t derive satisfaction and enjoyment from the time they do spend. As I said in response to a previous post I am cautious about who I would recommend SL as I still see a downside in some cases, but at the same time I have shown many artistic people what is available in virtual worlds. SL is art and entertainment to me. I am happy with that. Like a few others I think promotion must come from the creators and promoters who must keep up with the changing needs of a sometimes fickle public!!

    • Becky December 9, 2015 at 10:31 am

      The “detractor” label is part of the NPS framework, which assumes that if you say you’re not likely to recommend a product, then you will likely detract it. They’ve got heaps of experience with this measurement that validates their assumptions.

      I don’t believe the survey results have anything to do with the amount of time spent in SL. Although, I would guess that someone’s who isn’t that interested in SL would choose to spend less time in it. It’s important to not read too much into survey results. What the survey results answer is what roles people in SL identify with, and how likely they are to recommend people to SL. That’s it.

      • Cybele Moon December 9, 2015 at 8:37 pm

        thanks Becky and I do understand what you are saying. It’s true, if I think on it- for me I enjoy making SL a part of my experience.( I was more enthused when I first came in years back before my hiatus) Virtual worlds are still a relatively new phenomenon and who knows yet where it will lead us, right or wrong ( a tool for world peace?) There are many aspects to SL and to me unfortunately not all are positive but I do feel that virtual worlds in general would be a marvelous educational tool and is a great platform for the arts. This of course would be my promotion and is where my interest lies- not in living a virtual life but using virtual worlds as a tool to enhance my real life! Sometimes for many that line is pretty thin.

  4. Victoria Lenoirre December 9, 2015 at 12:38 am

    Interesting post, Becky.

    What really surprises me is your findings about scriptors. I know a few scriptors and they run their own businesses. They see SL as their playground. They like to manipulate objects. I wish I could script, maybe someday. There are even a few big groups where scriptors can advertise their services for custom work. I spoke to one once and he said that he earns a living from commission work so he charged a bit more than the average scriptor. Scripting is a major part of SL. Maybe those who answered feel like they are not appreciated enough or they feel a bit burned out from all the script commissions they’ve been doing lately?

    To answer one question about why roleplayers and socializers are least likely to promote SL, it could be because they are just tired of the SL “drama”. And perhaps they are having a tough week as well. I believe that if people get into content creation in SL, they develop a higher level of value for virtual living. They do not have to rely on social experiences to have fun. Creating is fun and challenging.

    Having tried the socializing route and the roleplay route, I found that those areas never really satisfied me. Once I really got into blogging and creating, SL just got more appealing and addicting. I really think it’s about levels of immersion and how much we dedicate our time and energy into SL. The deeper we are into it, the more we like it.



    • Becky December 9, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Thanks, Victoria.

      I found that surprising as well. Not because I assumed scripters would be like anyone else, but because they were such outliers. I wish some of the scripters who answered the question would comment and identify themselves as such. I was trying to maximise response, so I limited my survey to only two questions. Why might scripters be disgruntled? Maybe, as a commenter suggested below:

      It’s possible that one of the scripters’ complaints is that LSL is notoriously clunkly, limited, and unreliable; I gather Sansar will abandon it.

      I recall similar comments suggested by my scripting partner for Paradise Lost.

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