Within the past few years we’ve seen exponential growth in the number of companies dedicated to or experimenting with AR, VR & the hybrid world of Mixed Reality. Gaming, medicine, education & marketing are just a few of the industries that have made use of these technologies.
From a joint project by Oculus and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles which uses immersive VR tech to train med students for pediatric emergencies, to language-learning software company Mondly creating the virtual pen-pal experience, to even the surprisingly viral applications of the ARkit to the food industry, these technologies have paved a brave new frontier where solutions to old problems are accessible to anyone with an imagination.
Yet despite progress made in other areas, and with the exception of Snapchat (Which is technically an augmented reality-based platform), social media networks have largely yet to incorporate AR, VR or MR outside of marketing ads and photo-taking features.
However, the potential for Extended Reality (The collective term for AR/VR/MR) to shape social media networks is huge. So here are my 3 predictions for how these technologies will influence the future of social media:
1. Social media networks will evolve from their static place on the net into, as an optional choice for users, an arena with Second Life capabilities.
What if Twitter was a place you went to in VR, rather than a website you visited?
Your next Twitter chat would take place in a room, perhaps on the University of Twitter campus where each room is a hashtag; Or even in a city where different neighborhoods represent certain interests. You could swing by the #Bandersnatch cafe on Film Row to discuss the implications of time in the latest Black Mirror film, or go to CBGB’s to see a VR performance from one of your favorite new indie artists.
Much like the future of gaming and filmmaking is the hybrid worlds of immersive storytelling, the future of social media is socializing in Extended Reality. In this way VR social networks will add a new and unexplored level of engagement for users and brands alike.
Side note: My original thought was that everyone would have customizable full body avatars and given the choice to shop for 3 outfits to start. After which there would be a paid upgrade (Nudge Forever 21, Express, et al for the VR shopping experience).
2. Extended Reality will force brands to find new ways to interact with current and prospective customers.
Much like how AI has powered the automation of customer service, Extended Reality would make it necessary for brands to develop new tactics to reach consumers. For example, paid advertising might take the form of a travelling VR salesman or woman (or if you’re an adventurous brand, an animal or mythical creature); where the ad is actually an animated demonstration of the product, an embedded Youtube video ad, etc.
Depending on the budget, this could be automated via AI . But like fake followers, brands would have to take steps to ensure their AI salesperson does not come across spammy and inauthentic.
3. The creation of new jobs, like VR Brand Ambassador or VR Marketing Manager.
As with any product, the realms of Extended Reality would require people well-versed in their technologies, as well as the brand's own products and services. Would this initiative be taken on by the current tech department, who would allot a budget towards educating their workforce? Or, would it would be a job outsourced to a contractor?
Gamers, preferably with experience in social media and marketing, would be a prime target for this role. Years of experience have taught them how to game. Now they’ll level up to using their gaming skills to engage VR users - current & prospect customers alike.
If not strategizing a brand’s marketing plan in the real world, their work week would consist of logging their hours in all of the locations (buildings, billboards, etc) their brand owns. Working on marketing campaigns, SEO, interacting with users, answering questions, tracking user acquisition and data analytics (VR foot traffic, mentions, etc), conducting market research, etc etc. Testing as many variables as they can to optimize the brand’s performance.
If the gamer has no experience in marketing, they would work closely with the CMO, Marketing Manager, or whoever else designs or oversees the actionable campaigns they would use in the VR world.
Likewise, the need to design new environments and characters, or update old ones would call for partnerships with game developers, big or small. Both would work with influencers and micro-influencers on creative campaigns.
The technology already exists...VR study abroad, language learning and similar platforms have already given us a taste of what this simulated experience would look like and the way it would enhance the dynamics of human interaction. But there are many applications of Extended Reality to social media networking sites that have not yet made an appearance. Perhaps some of these changes will come in 2019, with established social networks or new players coming onto the market.
How do you think Extended Reality will change the social media platform?
Originally published on LinkedIn, December 19th 2018