Facebook is no stranger to trending headlines. Most recently, they were trending after changing their company name to Meta. Not to be confused with Facebook, the social network, Meta is the new name for the parent company that owns social platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp. The rebrand is a way to bring all their apps and technologies under one company to ultimately bring the metaverse to life.
But wait, the metaverse seems complex. Do businesses really need to stay informed? Any change in the platforms is worth understanding for anyone who relies on social media to run their business. So what does this change mean for you? The key to understanding the metaverse isn't so much about being a part of the metaverse just yet. Right now, it's about participating in the growing technologies to potentially reach new audiences and grow your business on social media and beyond.
If you're having trouble grasping the metaverse, you aren't alone. The metaverse is a centralized virtual world. The concept is pretty new, but the best way to think about it at this point is a cross between the future of the internet and a video game (sort of). Unlike those you find in video games, this virtual world is grounded in reality. It's made up of technology like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), as well as a digital economy that blends our digital and physical lives in work, socialization, entertainment, shopping, and more. All the episodes of Black Mirror did not prepare us for this foray into augmented and virtual reality.
Just remember this: the metaverse is an extension of the internet that will open up a whole new realm of opportunity for business owners and digital brands.
Virtual reality worlds in the metaverse continue to exist even when users aren't actively interacting with them. Augmented reality is similar, but it combines aspects of both the digital and physical world. You can access these worlds through personal computers, smartphones, game consoles, and of course, VR and AR devices.
A digital economy is a place for users to create, buy, and sell goods online. Future developments might even include interoperable goods –e.g., virtual items that can transfer from one platform to another. Essentially, this means you could have one online avatar that lives a whole digital life on multiple platforms – taking purchases from one virtual reality to another.
This isn't different from what games like World of Warcraft or Fortnite have been doing, but the metaverse does promise new technological advancements. The best example of this is the ability to host hundreds of people in a single instance of a server, with room to grow.
Another element of the metaverse that's gaining lots of popularity are non-fungible tokens (NFTs). NFTs are one-of-a-kind (hence, non-fungible) tokens that serve as certificates of ownership within the digital space. We've all seen the memes and have skimmed articles trying to understand them, but the future of NFTs continues to be elusive for most.
You can purchase NFTs for anything digital, including drawings, music, graphics, GIFs, video clips, photographs, etc. Purchasing digital real estate within the metaverse is even compared to owning a piece of Manhattan when New York City was primarily farmland.
Yes, this all sounds strange and hard to grasp, but so was the concept of FaceTime when most of us were only using Facebook to play FarmVille. And remember when Instagram was just a photo editing app? Or when AOL chat rooms reigned? Technology moves quickly and comes with its fair share of growing pains, but rest assured that someday, you'll be just as comfy in the metaverse as you are iMessaging your granny.
The metaverse has its fair share of supporters and skeptics. While we don't know exactly what this new outlook on the internet has in store for small businesses, here are our best guesses.
The future of shopping is virtual. By the end of 2022, the AR and VR market is forecasted to grow up to $209 billion. Augmented reality and virtual reality technologies are eventually going to be seamless enough that the average consumer will have no problem going to virtual showrooms or virtual try-on solutions. For example, a beauty brand might offer a filter that applies makeup to your face or changes your hair color. Other brands might find sponsorship opportunities within virtual storefronts or showrooms.
The metaverse is also going to attract emerging generations. What sets Gen Z and its younger counterparts apart is that they often blend their online and real-life communities together already. The future of experiential marketing efforts – like pop-ups, showrooms, or demos – could all likely be in the metaverse.
Related: PLANOLY’s 2022 Digital Trends Report
We know this is a lot to take in. Meta (Facebook) offers free training through their online learning platform, Facebook Blueprint if you want to get serious sooner rather than later. Take advantage of this to prepare for your place in what's to come. Additionally, you can start investing in AR and training your employees in mixed reality for the transition. We'll see you around in the metaverse!