February 20, 2023

What is the Metaverse?

What is the Metaverse?

When you hear about “the Metaverse,” it’s easy for your first thought to be of the “Marvelverse,” with every superhero under the sun joining the Avengers to fight off the next big baddie.

The Metaverse, however, has nothing to do with an alternate universe with superheroes, and it’s all about the future of technology as we know it. 

So what exactly is the Metaverse, what’s included within it, and why do social media marketers and businesses need to know about it? How exactly does Facebook (aka now Meta) tie into it all?

In this post, we're going to answer all of these questions so that you'll know what social media marketers can potentially expect moving forward.

What is Meta? 

Before we dive into the Metaverse, we first need to look at Meta itself. 

“Meta” is a single corporation that includes all of Facebook and its associated platforms.

Previously, “Meta” was just really known as “Facebook.” You had Facebook the social media networking site, and Facebook the overall corporation and the parent company that had sister companies like Instagram under its larger umbrella. 

They rebranded last year, however, rolling out the new name “Meta.” Facebook as a platform is still Facebook, but the overall corporation is now Meta.

Which Platforms Are Included in Meta? 

Meta includes all of the companies and online platforms that were previously tied to the Facebook corporation. This currently includes 94 different companies that Facebook has owned/acquired or currently owns, some of which you’ve likely heard of and some of which you likely haven’t. 

Some of the most important-to-us companies Meta owns include (but definitely are not limited) to the following:

Why Did Meta Rebrand? 

In October 2021, the company we then knew as Facebook announced that they were rebranding themselves as Meta. In the initial announcement, they shared that Meta’s focus was going to be bringing “the Metaverse to life and help people connect, find communities, and grow businesses.” 

At the time, they said that “The Metaverse will feel like a hybrid of today’s online social experiences, sometimes expanded into three dimensions or projected into the physical world.”

The big emphasis was on “immersive” experiences— and we’ve since learned more that this is ultimately Zuckerberg’s (and Meta’s) long-term central focus.

When Meta was first announced, there were rumours that the rebrand happened because of the onslaught of criticism for the Facebook enterprise, thanks to long-time security concerns and leaked documents that stirred up even more controversy. 

In an interview with The Verge, Zuckerberg insisted that the rebranding had nothing to do about the criticism the company had received. Instead, he said that he thought it was confusing for some people to have the company brand also be a primary social media site. Calling the parent company “Meta” would help people not confuse Facebook the company with Facebook the individual social media marketing site. 

(Worth pointing out that this way if Facebook took a hit in reputation, some people may not associate that hit with Meta with the disassociation.) 

Zuckerberg has since poured $10 billion USD this year alone into the Metaverse, focusing on integrating a unified account system across all of Facebook’s major properties. 

Here’s what he had to say:

“So we wanted to have a new brand identity that, as you reported, is directionally aligned with the future vision that we’re working towards. There’s sort of a higher-level brand identity goal and then there’s a more technical and functional goal. The higher-level piece is that Facebook is the iconic social media brand. And increasingly we’re doing more than that. People think of us as a social media company, but the way we think about ourselves is that we’re a technology company that builds technology to help people connect with each other. We think that makes us different from the other companies because everyone else is trying to work on how people interact with technology, where as we build technologies so that people can interact with each other.”

So What is the “Metaverse”

There’s some confusion online, where some people think that the “Metaverse” refers exclusively to any of Meta’s online properties. This is what some people mean when they use the term, but it’s not entirely accurate. 

It’s actually a bit more complicated than that, and it’s not all centred around Facebook. 

The term was originally coined by Neal Stephenson, who was the author of the 1992 Sci-Fi novel Snow Crash. He talked about the metaverse being an all-encompassing online or digital world that lived alongside (or parallel to) our reality. 

It’s been popping up more and more in recent years, often referring to the new immersive life-in-digital experiences, even beyond Facebook.

The idea is that we’ll create a digital world where people spend time, almost as of it’s a physical location. 

Right now, “the metaverse” by this description doesn’t really exist. Virtual reality and augmented reality is becoming more popular and accessible, but a lot of tools operate as individual-use or standalone tools without a lot of integration surrounding it. This currently makes it less of an appealing “desitination” and more like a solo activity.

Facebook does want to change that. Their rebrand really hints at this, as does the fact that they’re investing insane funds into their virtual reality platform. You’ve probably seen their Workspaces Oculus Horizon promotions by now, which is like a digital zoom conference with an almost bitmoji-like version of yourself. It’s like VR for work. 

It seems that Facebook wants to make their version of the Metaverse the starting point to this much-talked-about-but-not-necessarily-Facebook-exclusive Metaverse. 

A core point behind any potential Metaverse is that it feels real— and that it definitely uses real money. This includes the ability to spend real-world money in the digital world, whether it’s a clear exchange of “our” currency or it uses in-game currency (fueled by real-world money) to do so. 

The goal is for brands— including filmmakers, video game creators, and, of course, social media sites— to create “real” digital experiences that can be all-encompassing and powerful drivers of spending.

Why This Matters

By all basic definitions, the Metaverse is already here, though it’s fairly limited compared to its full ideation or potential. 

We’ve got video games like Fortnite, which had a live concert in-game that generated a ton of live virtual attendance, creating “real” experiences through a digital platform.

Even Blockchain existing allowed for an entirely digital currency (Bitcoin)  to have real monetary value.

We’re seeing a world that’s open to digital experiences and even possessions (see: NFTs) as opposed to tangible or in-person ones. There’s still value there.

And now Meta is going all-in on digital experiences. They’ve already got the ability for brands to set up shops on their site and for users to pay in-app or even send money to each other. You can order a pizza through a chatbot already. The foundation is there to take these abilities to a more immersive and potentially virtual reality stage. 

You can invite people into your Horizon home through Meta. Your Apple Watch can track your VR fitness stats.  

In-game Oculus ads have been tested, and we may go on to see things like virtual billboards, storefronts, and more— all of which may all for spending real money for real products over time. 

While Oculus hasn’t exactly taken off the way Meta seems to have wanted to, we’re not sure exactly how that will trend over time and what new features (and more users picking up Oculus) might change that. 

So How Does This Impact Social Media Marketers? What We Could Expect to See in The Future  

For most of our readers, this is the point you’ve desperately been wanting to get to: Why the heck does this matter for social media marketers right now and in the future? 

Right now, there’s not much most social media marketers will have to do with Meta, and that’s because it isn’t impacting most brands right now. The majority of our social media marketing graduates will likely just need to answer questions about what Facebook’s version of “the metaverse” is, how it fits into the big picture, and maybe talk about marketing or branding opportunities that could be a fit inside and outside of  Facebook’s version of the Metaverse.

Long term, though, that may change. At the very least, we do know that Facebook very much wants that to change, since the Metaverse is a huge focus for their own future.

Social media marketers may need to help brands launch in-game stores. They might need to help conceive or create in-game branded experiences. The first thing we’re likely to see is in-game advertisements, potentially with various levels of interactivity; as those roll out, anyone specializing in Facebook marketing or Facebook Ads may need to learn how these new campaigns work along with best practices to help their clients succeed.

So while it’s hard to tell exactly what will happen and how widely adopted the tech will be, we do know that it’s important for our students to keep an eye on what’s happening with the Metaverse. As the technology becomes more commonly-used, more accessible, and more developed, we’re likely to see more adoption from users at some level.

The best thing that our students can do is keep an eye on social media marketing education sites, like our blog here at Social Media College. We also update our courses regularly, so if these new all-digital platforms become significant, you can learn best practices and technical how-tos there.
In the meantime, you can get immediate updates from Meta directly. Keep an eye on their Business blog and their Oculus blog; any new updates will likely be posted in either or both places. 

Final Thoughts 

Right now, the Metaverse is technically here, but it’s also more of an interesting concept than something that’s totally and completely integrated into most users’ lives. 

Facebook’s rebranding comes at a time when the idea of a Metaverse is more prevalent and achievable than ever, and with their huge push towards VR, that’s no coincidence. 

As enthusiastic social media marketers ourselves, we’re excited to see what the future of Meta and the future of the Metaverse both hold, as it will surely be a groundbreaking and revolutionary period for marketers everywhere.  

In the meantime— don’t forget to stay up to date on your standard social media marketing skills, because that’s still where your skill set will be most needed. You can get up to date with our Social Media Marketing Intensive Course, or learn more about Facebook specifically with our Facebook Marketing Course. And, as always, don’t forget to keep an eye on our blog— as soon as we have major updates relating to anything social media marketing (the Metaverse included!), you’ll be the first to know. 

Want to excel as a social media marketer? Sign up for our Social Media Marketing Intensive Course here.

Sam King

Sam King

Digital Marketing Manager

The Facebook Ads expert at SMC and brings 5 years of experience specialising in Social Media Marketing and Strategy. He's orchestrated major campaigns in education, sports, events, and eCommerce, seamlessly aligning digital marketing strategies across sectors for maximum impact.

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