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Marketing for Mid-sized Businesses: Is It Too Early To Think About Facebook’s Metaverse?

Social media marketing is inseparable from Facebook – the company that not only created the template for social media but demonstrated what a powerful data collection tool it can be.

Of all the platforms that have come around, none offer the same level of penetrating insight into their end-users. That creates opportunities for advertisers large and small, who spend billions of dollars each year on the original social network.

Facebook’s revenue has soared 48% thanks largely to more expensive ads.

So, when the company announced its name change and officially became Meta, analysts sat up and took notice. So did businesses in Central Florida and around the world. Could the “metaverse” be the next big opportunity that will make fortunes for companies that adopt early?

Although there’s a lot of hype, the complete picture is a lot more nuanced.

Let’s dive deeper and see what’s really going on.

What the Heck is “the Metaverse” Anyway?

Part of the confusion about “the metaverse” is this: The term itself remains a bit, well, vague.

Facebook has not provided a single, comprehensive definition of what the metaverse is intended to be. Much of the recent information about the metaverse has come from a wide variety of press events and interviews with Facebook founder (and “Meta” CEO) Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg has called it both “a big topic” and “the successor to the mobile internet.”

Perhaps more helpfully, he defined it as “an embodied internet” – in other words, “instead of viewing content, you are in it.” That involves, among other things, “feeling present with other people.” It may involve different digital environments and activities.

Who Will Be Making Money from the Metaverse?

If it comes to fruition, many businesses stand to have significant opportunities in the metaverse.

Let’s look at some of the monetization options that have already become clear:

1. Designing and Building the Metaverse

For all the scope of this ambition, Zuckerberg and other social media executives do not see themselves as the sole architects of the “embodied internet” future. Just as the development of the original internet called for expertise from many people all around the world, so might the proposed metaverse.

Even the transition from text-focused “Web 1.0” to multimedia-heavy “Web 2.0” was not masterminded by a single company, but required the cumulative efforts of millions of people – many of whom were not selling anything, as free “open source” software played a large role.

For the metaverse to become a reality, Zuckerberg has already specified it will not be limited to the VR technology we now know. Instead, “It’s going to be accessible across all of our different computing platforms; VR and AR, but also PC, and also mobile devices and game consoles.”

This further blurs the lines in the potential definition of the metaverse, as it might be difficult to imagine how someone could feel “embodied” through the mobile devices we now have, or what it would look like if not virtual reality. But this can be considered a design feature rather than a bug.

At present, the metaverse is not something that exists, but an evolving and still somewhat nebulous end goal. Facebook’s moves to embrace the concept have touched off a greater discussion about it in the tech world, but it is by no means clear if the metaverse is a truly organic evolution of existing technology.

For it to come about as imagined, millions of people working at tens of thousands of companies will be involved in the development of research, hardware, and software. Innovations that do not yet exist will be necessary for the basic implementation of the metaverse.

And yes, in the beginning, it may look a lot like virtual reality.

While there is a lot of buzz about the metaverse right now, it may be years before it is clear whether or not it is really “coming.” In the meantime, there is not much you can point to and experience that shows the full potential of the idea.

The next few years will be pivotal – if more technology firms coalesce around the idea, a fully realized metaverse may be only 20 years away. In the meantime, the gradual development of a proof of concept could continue to create opportunities for ordinary business owners outside of the Big Tech sphere.

2. Existing Events (of All Kinds) in the “Real World”

The revelation that the metaverse can be either 2D or 3D may seem to muddle the picture. But there is clearly an intent to blend digital aspects into daily reality. Events and interactions that did not require technology before – but did require physical presence and the logistics behind it – stand to change.

“That can be 3D, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Zuckerberg. “You might be able to jump into an experience, like a 3D concert or something, from your phone, so you can get elements that are 2D or elements that are 3D.”

As a general idea, this predates the metaverse. It has been called “augmented reality,” and is already making inroads in several industries. Google’s “Google Glass” was a high-profile failure when it tried bringing augmented reality to the general public, but it has had success in industrial applications.

Augmented reality has the potential to substantially extend the breadth and depth of many events that already take place every day, such as concerts and sporting events. Venues may need to make changes to ensure that both physically and digitally present ticket-holders can enjoy the experience.

For example, metaverse technology may someday make it possible for a person to be digitally projected into a live concert and experience many of the same things in-person concertgoers do. The telepresence boom during the pandemic has highlighted the potential.

However, blurring of in-person and digital participation does raise some significant questions, including whether the average fan will be willing to pay for a full-price ticket to be a “digital ghost.” It is also hard to know how real-time interactions between the two categories of attendees would play out or how they might add to the experience – there truly is no precedent.

As the metaverse continues to march forward, businesses focused around creating what we might think of as “real world” experiences will need to think ahead further than nearly anyone else. They may need to completely re-imagine the basic features of a venue to make it more metaverse-friendly.

No doubt there will also be a rising industry offering new expertise in these areas.

Areas of specialization that have never had much crossover with real-time experiences, such as user experience engineering, may soon need to consult with traditional event planners and managers to create new interfaces between a physical and digital reality.

This is certain to come with some growing pains, especially at the start.

3. Advertisers

All in all, it’s pragmatic to imagine that the endpoint of the metaverse will be similar to what we now see in social media marketing. In exchange for an organized, fast-moving, technology-mediated experience, advertising will grow exponentially. Companies that involve themselves in the fundamental logistics of the metaverse stand to capture a global windfall of trillions in advertising revenue.

Precisely how this advertising will look is up for debate, though Futurama might not have been too far off the mark when it imagined internet ads chasing users through a virtual environment. In the earliest days of the metaverse, there will be no widely accepted standards. We might expect to see a Wild West like the one in the 1990s that produced ad formats with names like “eye-blaster” and “skyscraper.”

Sooner or later – but some years after the basic concept is live – standards will likely arise that prioritize the user experience. Some issues are sure to be debated well into the future, such as user privacy. With its embodied nature, the metaverse has the potential to capture even more granular and personal data. A small but not insignificant minority will likely opt out of the metaverse for that very reason.

Whatever it ultimately looks like, the metaverse will ultimately have a mature, stable, well-understood mechanism for advertising anything and everything. Today’s digital ad managers will need to leap into the future – and if you thought understanding Facebook ads was tough, wait until you see that future.

Ads may have dozens or even hundreds of new opportunities for optimization.

Metaverse ads may take into account factors like:

  • Where the end-user is physically located
  • Where the user’s virtual event is located
  • Biometrics captured during the event
  • Who the user “came with”
  • Where the user’s attention goes
  • Interpersonal interactions during the event

This is really only the beginning. There are many more possibilities even the most informed expert can’t predict. As with today’s online advertising, only brands that are fully prepared will see a strong return on their ads. Small businesses that try to “dabble” will most likely see no value from their ad spend.

With What We Know Today, Should Central Florida Businesses Think About the Metaverse?

There are billions of dollars to be made in the metaverse. But at its inception, most of that will be made by very specific companies. It’s not yet time for Central Florida businesses to focus too much attention on the metaverse, and there are some clear reasons for that fact:

1. Too Much Is Still Unknown – Including Whether the Metaverse Will Actually Exist

Zuckerberg fired the starting pistol and shouted “GO!” Will the rest of the industry listen?

Something akin to the metaverse could easily arise over the next several years as an offshoot of the growing adoption of virtual reality. But there are many technical and social hurdles to clear first. There’s no way of knowing when this will happen since big technology initiatives can face unexpected challenges.

For instance, there’s been plenty of discussion since 2000 about the potential for robots to displace millions of workers. Artificial intelligence is certainly impressive and growing more so every day. But during the pandemic, the mass replacement of humans by machines failed to materialize.

It certainly wasn’t because businesses love payroll taxes. So, what gives?

Look deeper and you’ll discover that one of the biggest reasons has to do with machine vision. Simply, there is no technology out there today that allows robots to respond autonomously to a fast-changing, dynamic environment. Their workplace has to be carefully controlled and planned out in advance.

So much for the rise of the robots – at least for now.

This is just one example of one issue in one industry. What Facebook proposes with the metaverse could call for dozens of major innovations, each of which might have hundreds or thousands of salient details to conceive, develop, and test. It won’t happen overnight. It might not even happen over-decade.

The metaverse wouldn’t even be a possibility without the emergence of 5G wireless technology, to name just one, and will likely be closely intertwined with the arrival of quantum computing. On the other side of the technology gauntlet lies a huge question no one has the answer to:

“Do people want the metaverse?”

It’s impossible to even speculate today – in many ways, no one knows yet what the metaverse will be.

Even some of the people best positioned to make it a reality aren’t clamoring to do so: According to Elon Musk, his Neuralink technology will provide users with an all-around better experience than anything the metaverse has to offer, presuming it focuses on virtual reality-style experiences.

The metaverse might be the future. But it may be supplanted by something completely different.

The picture will be a lot clearer in five years. But what should you be doing now?

2. There Are Huge Digital Opportunities Available to Central Florida Businesses Right Now

No matter what industry you’re in, you can be attracting more business and making more money using the digital technologies we have today. Technology doesn’t replace the human element of relationships. Instead, it helps you reach more people in a helpful, convenient, consistent way.

Except in very rare cases, even mid-sized businesses that might have a use or case for the metaverse would do better focusing on these digital foundations. That includes making sure you’re publishing helpful and informative content that moves prospects, leads, and customers toward their goals.

While it might take millions of dollars to position your company for an impact in these formative days of the metaverse, it only costs a few thousand dollars a month to expand your online visibility with a proven digital marketing strategy. At New York Ave, we’ve made hiring a marketing agency simple.

Our goal is to help you:

  • Get 5x the work
  • At 10x the quality
  • For half the cost

Wherever you stand today, New York Ave can help you strengthen your bottom line with inbound digital marketing that draws people to you at the moment they are most interested in what you have to say.

Marketing is about communicating. Specific tactics and technologies are only important as long as they meet your customers’ needs. The most popular platform is useless if your customers aren’t active and engaged on that platform.

Many business owners are stunned when we tell them they don’t have to be on every social media website. Then we show them the numbers, they see the ROI, and they get it.

Make no mistake – the metaverse could be The Next Big Thing in a way that would dwarf social media marketing or even online video. Mid-sized companies are wise to keep an eye on it. And, of course, your digital strategy should incorporate new technologies as they prove their worth.

But, for now, all your creativity and your ambitions to do great work can be fully expressed in the digital world that exists. Video storytelling, social media marketing, and the rest of the toolkit have years ahead of them before they’re replaced by something new, whether that’s metaverse, Neuralink, or something else.

With a sound digital marketing strategy in place, the future of your business is now.

You don’t have to wait another day. Contact us at New York Ave to learn more or get started.

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