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Diffusion of innovation theory seeks to explain the spread of new ideas. First developed in the early 1950s. Rogers proposed 4 main elements that influence the spread of a new idea: the innovation, communication channels, time, and a social system. That is, diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system. If the innovation is adopted, it spreads via various communication channels. During communication, the idea is evaluated and perceptions of the innovation, influence the diffusion. The process occurs over time. Finally, social systems determine diffusion, norms on diffusion, roles of opinion leaders and change agents, types of innovation decisions, and innovation consequences. Below is a model based on Rogers theory.

MODEL: Diffusion of Innovations

It seems as though virtual worlds like Second Life may have opened the door for the Public Relations industry and possibly changed the way P.R professionals will continue to do business. Second Life has taken the traditional community buliding to another level. This virtual world attempts to connect people in a three dimensional framework, Second Life has allowed global PR agency and award winner of the 2006 Innovation of the year by PR Week, Text 100, to work with clients on how the online community may benefit their businesses by facilitating virtual press conferences or new ways of demonstrating products to employees or customers. The Second Life office also provides benefits to the Text 100 staff, such as allowing them to view training sessions within the virtual world, yet it hasn’t recieved the same mainstream attention as other social media phenomena, like blogs.
Text 100 became the first public relations consultancy to establish a presence inside Second Life, a rapidly growing virtual world in which people can interact, create, educate, play, and work in a 3-D environment. In the process, Text 100 it knew it would not only benefit its clients, but also be recognized as an innovator in the space.
Text 100 R&D team worked to research user growth, social demographic, and economy, they found that it offered the best business opportunity in a refreshing and innovative way; in 2007, the community boasted some 900,000 members, who contributed to an economy totaling the equivalent of $10 millionUS a month. Text 100 has a relative advantage of innovative communication tools for the profession.  

Using carefully targeted communication channels, they created an open and transparent design that would reflect the firm’s core values. This was done by creating a three-minute video illustrating the PR potential of virtual worlds, which was placed on its agency blog and on YouTube.

The video has been viewed more than 3,500 times on that site. Not quite reaching critical mass at this stage which was in 2007.

The complexity of this virtual world is very minimal in terms of understanding online communities and how they can improve business growth and development, especially within the communications industries. Second Life is able to provide its users with enormous interactive capablities which is what makes this concept so appealing to its audiences, therefor enhancing the trialability and observibility.

It must be noted that there is an importance placed upon compatibility; showing that connections between virtual and physical PR activities must be realised in future studies. However, trialability is the attribute most positively correlated with virtual-PR adoption. As a result more time and opportunities should be extended to practitioners in order to trial these activities in a digital environment, or opportunities should be taken as they arise. In order to foster adoption it is important for practitioners to test and try out new technological advances to build comfort.

 “We view virtual worlds as the next stage in the evolution of social media like blogs, wikis, social networks and other online forums,” said Georg Kolb, EVP, and leader of the social media practice at Text 100.  “Having a presence in Second Life will enable us to explore, innovate, educate and collaborate on a next generation communications platform.”

 “The evolution of Second Life – and its community of ‘digital natives’ – provides an intriguing insight into how public relations will change in the next few years. I don’t think any of us can be sure where this revolution is going to take communications but I do know that I want Text 100 to participate in that change.”

In a time when the PR industry is struggling with all of the new ways to reach audiences, many firms will boast of their experience with new and social media. By being the first PR agency to open a virtual office in Second Life, Text 100 successfully positioned itself as an innovator.

References:

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: Free Press.

Kitchen. J. P.(2010).Online Public Relations: The adoption process and innovation challenge, a Greek example. Sep 2010. http://www.prconversations.com/index.php/2010/11/online-public-relations-the-adoption-process-and-innovation-challenge-a-greek-example/

PRWeek.(2011). Retrieved MarchPRWeek Awards innovation of the year. (March2010).http://www.prweekus.com/prweek-awards–pr-innovation-of-the-year/article/152940/

Youtube.Text 100: Branding building in Second Life. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCHoXnUOqsU

Text100. (2008). http://www.text100.com/

Secondlife.(1999). http://secondlife.com/