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What Is The Metaverse (and Why Should You Care)?

Is the metaverse just a trending topic, or is it going to shape the future of social media marketing? Here’s everything you need to know.

Tres Dean February 10, 2022
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If you have to ask what, exactly, the metaverse is — don’t feel bad.

The metaverse is hardly a brand-new concept, but the speed with which it recently began making headlines is impressive. And the meaning of “metaverse” seems to expand daily, as more and more recognizable brands and businesses begin to incorporate it into their long-term plans.

While everyone from celebrities to global brands like Nike have gotten involved, Facebook is responsible for setting the metaverse buzz in motion. The company, a pioneer in social media (in a sense the earliest version of the metaverse itself) recently went through a major rebrand. Facebook is now Meta, and the company has plans to make significant moves in the metaverse world in the years to come.

This all begs the question: what even is the metaverse? The answer is at once a little bit complicated… and something you already know without even realizing it. It’s social media, the internet, video games, and online shopping all rolled into one.

Keep reading to learn more about the metaverse and find out if you should get in on the craze.

Download the complete Digital 2022 report—which includes online behavior data from 220 countries—to learn where to focus your social marketing efforts and how to better target your audience.

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse is a virtual world in which users, businesses, and digital platforms can exist and interact. It includes everything from virtual social and gaming platforms (e.g. Roblox) to NFTs, a.k.a. non-fungible tokens (more on those later).

The metaverse is a longtime science-fiction dream made reality. Films like Tron and Ready Player One have long envisioned digital worlds that hold just as much weight as real ones. The metaverse is just that — a digital world accessible via virtual reality headsets, populated by real people (often using digital avatars) and full of endless possibilities.

It might seem like a new concept, but the idea of a multi-platform digital world has existed for years. We’ve seen it take form in everything from video games to social media. From World of Warcraft and Runescape to MySpace, the early versions of the metaverse have been a part of our world for quite a while. The 2020s metaverse simply builds on these ideas and takes them to the next level.

Why did Facebook rebrand to Meta?

In October of 2021, Mark Zuckerberg announced that social media titan Facebook would be rebranding to Meta.

To be clear, Facebook (the social platform) has remained Facebook. It’s the parent company (under which Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, among others, are operated) changed its name to Meta.

The reason? It’s simple. According to Zuckerberg, “We’re basically moving from being Facebook first as a company to being metaverse first.”

Meta has already poured billions into building out the metaverse ($10 billion alone in 2021). It plans to incorporate every corner of the metaverse into its plans. Oculus (the VR headset business which Meta already owns), NFTs, and cryptocurrency are all a part of the company’s long-term vision. It’s far too early to see the fruits of their labor, but with the time and money they’re investing already, it won’t be long before we do.

Is the metaverse the future of social media?

With all of the buzz surrounding recent metaverse developments and investments, you might be wondering if — and how — the concept will shape the future of social media (and social media marketing).

2021 saw a great deal of money and resources poured into the metaverse. With platforms like Meta and businesses like Nike (who recently partnered with sneaker-centric metaverse giant RTFKT Studios) investing massive amounts of money and resources into the metaverse, there are clearly people and businesses out there who do think it’s the future of social media.

But the answer is still a bit up in the air. This version of the metaverse is very young. While 2021 may have been a breakout year for it, it’s actually the next few years that will determine its staying power.

What can you do in the metaverse?

With the high-level definitions out of the way, let’s take a look at some specific actions you can already perform in the metaverse.

1. Network

It seems that Meta’s metaverse is going to be a social platform first and foremost. After all, it wouldn’t be much of a virtual “reality” if users didn’t get the chance to interact in some way or another.

Sure, this applies to crypto exchanges and NFT purchases too, but it also involves socializing in a more classic sense.

A great example of this is Roblox, a digital gaming platform. In 2020, over half of kids under the age of 16 in the United States played it. Roblox is a platform through which users can play through a library of video games – all of which are created by Roblox users. There are currently over 20 million games in its library, many of which can generate revenue for the designers.

Users on Roblox can socialize through gameplay as well as an avatar-based platform similar to the early social media phenomenon Habbo Hotel. What it’s ultimately provided is a network through which aspiring game designers can test their skills, meet other people looking to work in the field, and… party:

Roblox is just one example of networking in the metaverse. Social media has long served as a way for professionals to meet peers and clients alike. The metaverse is a natural extension of that, and it often provides new and exciting ways to do it.

2. Invest and do business

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you’ve probably heard the terms “NFT” and “cryptocurrency.” Both are important building blocks in the metaverse and great ways for users and businesses to invest in the platform.

Cryptocurrency is a term encompassing a number of digital currency platforms. The most famous of these are Bitcoin and Ethereum. Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency run through a blockchain system. Its value is in a state of somewhat constant flux but longtime platforms (especially the aforementioned ones) have skyrocketed in value since their inception.

One of the big draws with cryptocurrency is the fact that it is not nationalized. As such, its value is the same in America as it is in Japan, Brazil, and any other nation. The metaverse is a global platform. As such, cryptocurrency is the preferred form of currency for many of its users. Investing in it now looks like it will pay off in the long run as its value continues to increase.

Speaking of investing, NFTs have become a cornerstone of the metaverse. The term stands for non-fungible token. This basically means that an NFT is a unique digital signature used as a sort of deed of ownership on digital goods. An NFT can be a piece of art, a photo, a song, or even a piece of digital real estate.

An NFT authenticates the ownership of whatever it’s attached to and certifies its value (which is unique to the item, hence the “non-fungible” part). It basically allows you to purchase the bricks that make up the world-wide web.

Right now, NFTs are a great investment. Like cryptocurrency, the overall value of NFTs is growing significantly. Some have already sold for millions of dollars. Others, like the famous “Bored Ape” series, have been purchased and shown off by notable celebrities including Justin Bieber (who’s actually built up quite the NFT portfolio recently) and Paris Hilton.

If you’re looking to get into the metaverse for the sake of investing, NFTs are a good place to start. The value of most NFTs right now is likely to keep going up as they grow in popularity.

It’s also a great time to mint some of your own. Almost any piece of digital media can be turned into an NFT. If you or the business you work with has a catalog of music, photography, or art, your potential NFT portfolio may already be bigger than you realize.

3. Shop

These days you can use cryptocurrency to buy just about anything in real life. Heck, New York mayor Eric Adams even accepted his first paycheck in Bitcoin and Ethereum. In that sense, the shopping possibilities of that corner of the metaverse are endless.

At the same time, there’s a form of shopping that relates far more directly to the metaverse. Whether you’re building up your inventory of NFTs or building out your avatar’s world on a platform like Roblox, there’s plenty of shopping to do in this new virtual space.

Earlier we talked about “digital real estate.” It’s exactly what it sounds like – pieces of virtual land in online worlds like the one Roblox has built out. Digital real estate is just the first step in building an identity in the metaverse. Platforms like this are going to be big as the space develops. Meta’s plans currently include an endeavor called Horizon Worlds that has been described as “Minecraft meets Roblox.”

Users in spaces like these can shop for all kinds of upgrades for their avatar, from new outfits to sneakers to new ways to style their digital real estate. It’s a way to create an identity for yourself in the world of the metaverse the same way you would in a video game.

If you’re more into the metaverse for the gaming aspects platforms like Roblox provide, there’s still plenty of shopping to do. From buying games to buying upgrades on your library, it’s already a huge part of life in the metaverse.

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By Tres Dean

Author, comic creator, and journalist from Richmond, VA currently residing in New York. He's worked with GQ, Vulture, HuffPost, and many others.

Read more by Tres Dean

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