Will the metaverse shape the future of Influencer Marketing?
The metaverse: what is it exactly?
The concept of the metaverse
The metaverse is a virtual reality space in which users can interact with each other. In simple terms, the metaverse is a parallel world, a physical representation of the web, accessible through a virtual reality headset, and which has its own independent economy, made possible by the blockchain.
The metaverse concept is based on 3 fundamental elements
- Virtual Reality: this alternative world will be accessible through augmented reality tools such as virtual reality glasses or VR headsets.
- Blockchain: the economy of the metaverse is based on this decentralised data transfer technology which allows the creation of virtual currency and the exchange of NFTs.
- Web 3.0: the metaverse is seen as the next version of the web 2.0 we know today. The notion of Web 3.0 is based on the principle of being able to own “parts” of the Internet.
The metaverse will also make it possible to materialise one of the most fashionable digital products at the moment: NFTs. These Non-Fungible Tokens are cryptographic identification keys that allow the possession of any digital object, such as an image, a video or an audio file.
The beginnings of metavers
A contraction of the Greek word meta-which means change and transformation-and of universe, the term metaverse was first introduced by the writer Neal Stephenson in 1992. In his novel Snow Crash, the author used it to refer to the dystopian world he imagined where humans and virtual avatars meet and move side by side.
Apart from the world of fiction, the first industry to really implement the metaverse was video games.
In 2003, the world got a taste of the future with the release of the game Second Life. This simulation still represents the closest thing to what the metaverse could be: a virtual world at the crossroads of social networks and video games.
Three years later, another precursor of the metaverse was to be born: Roblox. This seemingly childish licence is in fact much more than a game. It is a community ecosystem in which players can create, have fun and interact with their friends.
The acceleration of the project with the health crisis
The various confinements have shown the limits of current technologies for maintaining a social link from home. Despite the advent of video conferencing software such as Zoom, Teams or Slack, we have never been so short of human contact. And that’s part of the reason why the concept has been on the rise in recent months.
To compensate for the lack of socialising, this period saw the birth of the first 100% digital events organised by world-renowned influencers. The new generations were able to attend their first show from their living room with Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert (which brought in more than 20 million dollars) or Lil Nas X’s Roblox concert (which brought in nearly 33 million fans).
But the video game industry is only the trigger for the metaverse before it gradually spreads to other industries. The major turning point came a few months later, on 28 October 2021, when Mark Zuckerberg announced the change of Facebook’s name to Meta.
How is the metaverse making its way into social networks?
Meta and Snapchat, spearheading the metaverse
After announcing the rebranding of his company, Mark Zuckerberg took the opportunity to show his plans for the future of Meta and its metaverse.
In the metaverse imagined by Meta, the user will be able to move through different virtual environments. The first, called Horizon Home, is a virtual representation of one’s home, where it will be possible to invite friends, watch videos or access other environments. Next comes Horizon Worlds, a platform for creating virtual worlds and inviting other users into them. Finally, thanks to the virtual reality of the Horizons Working Rooms, it will soon be possible to telework while retaining the advantages of the office: being able to move from department to department, interacting with colleagues, taking a break together, etc.
Despite Meta’s apparent leadership in the metaverse, it is important to remember that this parallel world will not be owned by a single entity. As a result, many other companies are working on the project, such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and Snapchat.
The latter is slowly establishing itself as one of the pioneers of the metaverse with the recent incorporation of virtual reality and augmented reality into its mobile application. Indeed, the American company-which records the sending of more than 5 billion messages every day-is planning to hit hard with its two new features: Scan and Lens.
Scan allows you to analyse the world around you through the camera of your smartphone. You can find out what’s in a food item you’re not sure about buying, the brand or price of an outfit you’re interested in, or the breed of dog you’d like to have. The Lens function allows you to incorporate virtual reality elements into your photos and videos, such as avatars or animals.
The advent of virtual reality technologies
In 2021, 85 million users are using virtual or augmented reality platforms at least once a month. Faced with this new market, many companies have invested their resources in designing the VR technology of tomorrow.
Well aware of the importance that virtual reality would occupy, Facebook had already bought the VR headset manufacturer Oculus in 2014 for the modest sum of 2 billion dollars. Since their creation more than 15 years ago, Oculus headsets have continued to improve in quality, decrease in weight and fall in price. More than 10 million models have been sold this year for less than 100 euros each, and with the announcement of the metaverse, this figure is expected to double by 2022.
Snapchat is not to be outdone either, as the company is working on the creation of smart glasses which should, in time, replace smartphones (and thus benefit fully from the potential of the application’s AR) while acting as a virtual reality headset to access the various metavers.
Influencers will have to take the metaverse turn: a new way of communicating and engaging their community
The disruption of the brand structure
The arrival of the metaverse brings with it a whole new market to conquer. Brands will have to adapt to this new world by marketing digital products. The luxury, beauty and fashion sectors have been the first to make this transformation by producing digital products in the form of NFT-NFTs, which are expected to account for 10% of these industries’ revenues by 2030.
Gucci, for example, has already begun its digital transition by using the metaverse as a marketing channel. Last year, the luxury brand collaborated with Roblox to organise an online version of its Gucci Garden event, usually held in Florence. By recreating the festival scene and its flagship products in the game, the brand reached more than 20 million users and sold thousands of digital handbags in Robux (the game’s virtual currency)-some models even selling for more than $4,000 (which is more expensive than a real Gucci handbag!).
But the real revolution comes from the major change in what a society is in the metaverse. As mentioned earlier, Web 3.0 is based on the principles of decentralisation and individual ownership. Thus, by buying a brand’s products, a user owns a share of it, and becomes a kind of shareholder.
The changing role of influencers
As the metaverse is based on the principle of individual ownership, one of the fundamental changes for influencers will be their relationship with brands. Since in the metaverse, everything that is purchased is owned in its entirety, it is likely that influencers will own a portion of the brands they promote. They will then be even more likely to promote a brand whose values and interests they share, rather than simply touting its merits for a fee.
However, with the advent of the metaverse, traditional influencers will have to face new competitors: virtual influencers-or meta-influencers. This is how Ai-Ailynn, an artificial intelligence and renowned influencer in the Asian market, reached an estimated value of almost $14 billion after becoming the face of AIS, Asia’s largest phone network.
More than 150 virtual influencers have already been identified in 2021, and this number is expected to explode in the coming years with the democratisation of the metaverse.
The emergence of new means of communication for influencers
In addition to the form that an influencer will take in the metaverse, the revolution in the world of influence marketing will be felt in the media on which he will be able to reach his community.
Thus, thanks to the metaverse and augmented reality, the craziest things become possible. A beauty influencer can invite herself into her fans’ bedrooms to give them make-up advice. A food influencer could appear in the kitchen of her followers to help them prepare delicious meals. A travel influencer can invite his fans to experience his latest adventures with him.
As you can see, the metaverse offers countless possibilities, both in terms of communication and influencer marketing.