“This is what 2021 will look like!” That’s what anyone who walked out of the cinema thought after watching “Back to the Future” for the first time. But while we are still a long way from flying cars and hoverboards today, a whole other facet is developing with increasing speed and is becoming a defining feature of the modern world: the digital space.
As no one could imagine in 1985, digitization changed everything. Social media is now the place where everyone hangs out and conducts much of their social life. With several billion users, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and others are not only gigantic platforms, but also precursors in the development of the next quantum leaps.
The Facebook company, renamed “Meta” since October 28, 2021, may now have the next one in store. At the Connect 2021 internal conference , CEO Mark Zuckerberg presented, along with the new company name, the so-called “Metaverse”. Above all, augmented reality and virtual reality play a decisive role here.
In this article, I explain in detail what it is, why it is such a disruptive innovation and what applications it could offer for online marketing .
The Metaverse is definitely coming and changing a lot of things. If you are active in online marketing, I therefore recommend that you stay up to date here. It is therefore worth reading to the end! 🙂
What is Metaverse and Web 3.0?
To understand what the metaverse is and why Facebook decided to make this choice, it is necessary to understand the concepts of Web 2.0 and Web 3.0.
Web 2.0 designates a stage in the evolution of the World Wide Web. The focus is no longer on the provision of content by website operators and others. Instead, the users are responsible for generating the content.
According to software pioneer Tim O’Reilly, the characteristics of Web 2.0 are “the Web as a platform”, “the richness of the user experience” and “the use of collective intelligence”.
Intensive user participation was already a fundamental feature. The Internet was therefore no longer a simple information portal. Platform character and user participation have become essential.
While social platforms such as Instagram and Facebook can be categorized as Web 2.0, the Metaverse will take the social experience to yet another level, the famous Web 3.0.
It is quite difficult to define the metaverse, because many Internet personalities, entrepreneurs and companies have their own ideas and projects.
Meta himself describes the concept as follows on his website :
“Metaverse’s 3D spaces will let you connect, learn, collaborate, and play in ways beyond our imaginations.”
The metaverse is simply an expansive digital space in which users can interact in real time and have experiences similar to those in the real world. In most projects from companies like Meta, the possibilities should even be more numerous and more intense. This definition of the metaverse highlights a crucial point: the fact that it is a vast digital space that serves as an extension of the real physical world.
The metaverse therefore comprises a shared virtual space. Users are represented by virtual avatars. These virtual worlds evolve and develop according to the choices of the users and the interactions within the space. In this sense, it mirrors the real world since it has no end. It is simply a new universe that continues to expand as more and more users connect to it.
However, it is important to know that this is not a virtual theme park whose layout is centrally planned. Nor is it an ordinary game that only appeals to children. It is also not a simple application that can be downloaded from the App-Store and played at will. The Metaverse is a virtual universe where reality and the virtual world merge.
How does the metaverse work?
At first glance, this all seems very abstract and – let’s face it – crazy. How will such a meta-universe prevail, what technique will be needed and, above all, why is it likely to prevail?
Facebook is planning something very similar to what these gaming products offer. It’s about placing users in a virtual world where meetings with friends, business meetings and other meetings can be organized using virtual reality (VR) headsets in a chosen avatar and in a particular context.
However, the virtual world planned by Facebook will not be limited to games, but will be more complete and will offer facilities ranging from office to entertainment. The concept aims to create an online world where people can interact, collaborate and communicate without being physically present in the same room.
In the recent past, Facebook has made metaverse development one of its top priorities. To that end, the company has invested heavily in VR with its Oculus headsets .
Facebook went even further and created a VR world with the launch of Facebook Horizon in 2019. It is currently an immersive environment that users can only access by invitation and if they have a headset. Oculus.
Additionally, the company launched Horizon Workrooms in August this year. This feature allows employees wearing virtual reality headsets to hold meetings in a virtual space where they all appear as 3D versions of themselves, like a cartoon.
As we can see, Mark Zuckerberg’s company has already made great strides in representing essential areas of life in the virtual world.
Hence the relevance of the metaverse to you
To many people, the metaverse sounds like a concept that’s normally only seen in sci-fi movies like The Matrix or Ready Player One. Since this is such a drastic change, it is only natural that people react with skepticism.
The Metaverse should, however, offer many advantages over conventional social media platforms, which should make life more enjoyable and diverse. Here you will find an overview of the most important points:
- be more productive
Although most people worry about the addictive potential of the Metaverse, it does offer some great apps for work. Users will be able to create their own individual environment. This means you can create the workspace of your dreams.
You could take a virtual vacation to Rome or Bali and work while enjoying the exotic view of blue water and white beaches. Or you could create a totally virtual, fictional world where fish fly and snails jump, or where there are no animals at all. You could even recreate your office space from the real thing and add your favorite things from your real workspace to it, if you want.
The possibilities are nearly endless. Depending on what boosts your productivity, working in nature, working with a view of the sea or working in the office of your dreams, you can achieve it in the Metaverse.
- A new level of entertainment
Meta promises “an Internet incarnate, where we are at the heart of the action and not just next to it”. It looks like a gaming paradise. Players will be able to enjoy a more interactive and intense experience and play games that feel real.
Streaming video content will also become an even more realistic experience thanks to the fusion of augmented reality and virtual reality.
Meta also wants to integrate the possibility of sharing activities with people who are away from home. It would thus be possible to attend concerts on the other side of the world with friends. Again, the technical details of this concept remain a mystery. In Meta’s announcement video, the “virtual concert attendee” appears as a hologram of her real self, while the physically present friend can see and talk to her.
Similarly, Meta hints at possibilities where, for example, physical and virtual users meet to play basketball. These hints of a mixed reality are pretty vague so far, but still fascinating ideas.
- New learning opportunities
Meta will allow users to receive information and gain knowledge on topics in a more visual and interactive way than before. For example, if you are interested in history and geography, you will be able to go to any place and any time period, whether it is industrial evolution, the era classic Weimar, ancient Rome or whatever.
These different situations could be generated on the basis of a gigantic amount of data. VR technology allows users to immerse themselves in it.
Those wishing to see how America built the White House could do so from scratch. And those interested in astrology could uncover the intricate details that make up each celestial body through 3D rendered images of constellations and planets.
If Meta manages to implement its plans according to its own planning, it could be a great leap forward for educational technology and visual learning.
- Higher data protection standards
Many pundits have interpreted this meta move as Zuckerberg’s attempt to restore his image after the Facebook data protection scandals.
Although most big-tech companies like Amazon and Google collect user data, Meta stands out for the nature of that data. After the WhatsApp and Instagram takeovers, the company now has one of the largest personal databases in the world.
According to Mark Zuckerberg, Meta is above all a question of responsibility. For all the new possibilities and functions promised by Meta, the focus is on interoperability, open standards, data protection and security. Since Meta is still a rebranding of the Facebook business and has access to tons of user data, it’s unclear how the improved data protection will ultimately actually be implemented and guarantee.
Marketing in the Metaverse
The Metaverse is not only exciting for consumers, it also offers brand new possibilities for marketers. Using VR and AR technology, products and brands will be able to be presented to consumers in ways never before seen in the Metaverse.
What are the concrete applications of Metaverse for digital marketing?
- Positioning in the metaverse
The new marketing ecosystem that will emerge in the Metaverse is a big step forward from the current world of social media. It’s about moving from storytelling to allowing users to develop their own stories. It’s also about moving from simple experiences to massive interactive live events, from traditional fashion to virtual fashion, and from loyalty programs to blockchain-based perks.
For brands, it is important to rethink their role as a virtual brand. Building a brand in the virtual world is very different from building a brand in the physical world.
Brands can fulfill other new roles in the metaverse. A brand can be a facilitator, who offers unique virtual experiences, a participant, who creates new experiences as a cultural curator, or even a rewarder, who offers customers gamified rewards and virtual goods.
- Metaverse Gaming et branding
Marketers have several opportunities to market in the metaverse. This includes advertising in games and events. Big names like Gucci or Nike are already working with virtual fashion avatars that consumers can purchase. Real estate in games is another possibility for brands to get involved in the gaming experience. It is thus possible to buy virtual objects for the interior of virtual houses or the interior of a car.
Many international brands have already found their place in the meta-space. They are inserted into games such as Fortnite or League of Legends in the form of avatars or virtual properties and are thus part of a complete user experience. American mobile operator Verizon, for example, introduced the Super Bowl stadium in Fortnite and allowed players to meet avatars of NFL players. The company has thus promoted the benefits of 5G technology.
Fashion giant Louis Vuitton and game developer Riot Games have also collaborated on several fronts for the 2019 League of Legends World Championships . League of Legends-style collections have been created, as well as exclusive skins for players to use in-game.
- Non-fungible tokens (NFT)
The Metaverse is a universe in which users can collect, invest, buy, sell and own as they please, just like “in real life”. This is why brands jumped on the bandwagon and took advantage of it to create non-fungible tokens (NFTs). They make the concept of collectibles a marketing constant in the metaverse.
NFTs are non-replaceable digital assets that exist on the blockchain and are made up of blocks of information (code). An NFT can be an image, video, sound recording, SMS, or anything else. Art, in particular, has recently seen huge popularity in the NFT space.
As a result, brands are creating limited edition assets and tokens worth millions of dollars that can be purchased. In July 2021, Coca-Cola for example sold a collection of NFTs for the price of 575,000 dollars.
Another example is the Gucci Garden , where the latest collection of clothing and merchandise was showcased. It is also possible to collect limited edition Gucci products. The brand earned 286,000,000 Robux (Roblox gaming platform cryptocurrency) with the first collectibles sale. The key has been interacting with existing communities to create new products and intense experiences for audiences.
But digital art isn’t the only thing loved by NFT fans: in December 2021, the hugely popular French art house Aguttes announced that it would auction the world’s first SMS as NFT. . The price range for this barely 30-year-old text message whose content is “Merry Christmas” fluctuates between 100,000 and 200,000 euros. The craze for prestige objects in the virtual world is therefore very real.
Marketers have the opportunity to gain a foothold in the metaverse through NFTs. These unique virtual goods are a perfect way to do community building and redefine yourself as a brand.
When is the metaverse?
The general Metaverse, on which many manufacturers are working in their own way, will emerge from the world of technology as soon as it is ready. There is no concrete date for this yet.
Regarding Facebook Metaverse, it is possible to make somewhat more specific statements. Although still in its infancy, CEO Mark Zuckerberg is confident that the Facebook Metaverse will be “mainstream” in 5-10 years. This is what he predicted at the Meta Connect 2021 conference.
Conclusion: Metaverse – The Next Digital Revolution?
There is no doubt that the concepts of metaverse and Web 3.0 represent radical changes in the (online) world. The way we interact, work and conduct our social lives will change dramatically.
The good news is that we can already foresee that there will be many positive aspects to look forward to, such as new entertainment and new opportunities to work and learn.
All online marketers should watch this development with a keen eye, as the metaverse will disrupt digital marketing as well. From positioning and branding to products such as NFTs, the world of VR offers a wide range of marketing applications.
What do you think of the Metaverse concept – do you think it will really have the impact predicted by many experts? I welcome your comment!