PR trends continue to evolve in 2022. As we see e-commerce sales climb and social platforms such as TikTok hit an all-time high, it’s no surprise that PR has become a completely digital affair in the last few years.
However, on the back of Facebook’s 2021 Meta rebrand, it’s possible that 2022 could bring something new to the PR table. Enter the metaverse, the new future of immersive marketing, digital social spheres and a completely new rule book for PR promotion.
Read on to find out more about the future of the metaverse and what PR professionals should expect as they navigate an immersive future.
What is the metaverse?
(Image Source: Forbes)
Experts at Influencer Marketing Hub define the metaverse as “something that is always active, exists in real-time, players have individual agency, it’s a self-contained and fully functioning universe and contains user-generated content.”
The term was first mentioned in Snow Crash, a 1992 science fiction novel by Neal Stephenson. Describing his version of a 3D world, he told a tale about the future of an interactive virtual environment in which he could interact with and change, mimicking our role in reality.
Today’s metaverse is not much different. As new forms of augmented reality continue to enhance our ability to world build and create interactive user-generated content, it’s not impossible that we could one day be represented by virtual avatars in a realistic ‘second life’.
(Image Source: Influencer Marketing Hub)
As you can see here, some of the key characteristics associated with the metaverse is the fact that it is always active, and has the ability to exist in real-time, therefore providing users with individual agency. Players can interact with one another and enjoy investing, buying and selling opportunities in the same way as they would in the real world.
This is where it gets interesting for PR professionals and smart marketers. As the metaverse becomes a multifunctional platform that can influence user actions and investments, smart marketers have the chance to target a new virtual audience using new immersive tools.
PR in the metaverse
So what does this mean for PR professionals?
In order to keep new target audiences engaged, PR teams need to step up their digital game. Soon to be gone are the days of social media promotion and influencer partnerships. It’s time to get immersive with your strategy.
As new AR/VR technologies hit the market, such as Meta’s AR Glasses reveal, it’s clear that users are now expecting both interaction and immersion when consuming new forms of media. The modern-day consumer is much more active, so their gratifications are becoming more active too.
From virtual product placement to metaverse based branding partnerships, here are 3 tips for navigating the metaverse as a PR professional.
Virtual product placement
While the metaverse may seem like a fairly new concept for many, virtual product placement, however, has already begun.
Product placement was once defined as gifting a publication, journalist or influencer a product in the hope that they would write either an article or social post about the product’s success, in turn increasing brand awareness and sale conversions.
However, as brands begin to create digital versions of their products and services, it may be time to start gifting metaverse platforms such as Roboblox or popular games such as Fortnite. While the gaming industry may seem like a stretch for a number of brands, you’d be surprised at the amount of success a wide number of brands have had in the industry.
For example, the fashion brand Balenciaga dipped its toe into the metaverse during 2020, becoming the first fashion brand to release its fall collection in the form of a video game. Playing into the interactivity of the metaverse, Balenciaga’s game, Afterworld, enabled the users to try on their items virtually while existing in a completely immersive reality.
(Image Source: Balenciaga’s Afterworld/Dimension Studio)
On the back of Afterworld’s success, the fashion brand has since started product placing on Fortnite, a metaverse platform with over 4.8 million players.
Balenciaga’s creative director, Demna Gvasalia believes that a metaverse collaboration will drive the future of PR both in the real world and augmented reality, boosting brand awareness across a number of Gen Z niches.
“We have continued to be inspired by the creativity of Unreal and Fortnite communities,” Gvasalia states. “It made total sense to me that we collaborate further by creating these authentic Balenciaga looks for Fortnite and a new physical Fortnite clothing series for our stores.”
Pulling existing consumers into a virtual space
Exploring potential synergies with brands across the metaverse platform is a great way to boost client engagement in both reality and in the virtual world. As consumers continue to create their own virtual avatars, it’s time for PR professionals to encourage their clients to make digital versions of their products in partnership with other brands to create an inclusive digital native experience.
Cross-promotion here is key. It’s important to prioritise both existing customers and new virtual forms of branding for ultimate success.
A great example of cross-collaboration comes from the PR experts at Clinique. Using their platform on social media to get their existing customers excited about the metaverse, they have created a new #MetaOptimist campaign competition where customers can win a number of NFT’s based on their most popular products.
(Image Source: Clinique)
Using Non-Fungible Tokens as an incentive, the beauty brand is converging their products new virtual spaces, to bring a multi-platform audience together.
Engaging with virtual consumers
Engaging with consumers in a metaverse environment will be tricky for PR professionals. As the modern-day consumer becomes more active, they are likely to see through old PR promotional tricks. They need to feel listened to and directly targeted if you want your client to see success.
The metaverse will be a highly democratic version of Web3.0 and all social platforms will be continuously changing. In order to keep up with trend evolution, PR professionals need to focus on managing their brand reputation. Stay on top of newsjacking trends and be prepared to start pioneering.
The future of consumer engagement is all about providing them with something new. It may be a virtual reality today, but it will be something else tomorrow. Staying ahead of the trends is the key to victory, in an ever-changing online world.