Virtual Reality and Social Media: Are We Ready for Dynamic Social?

by Cory Edwards

posted on 09-19-2016

Research conducted by Goldman Sachs forecasts that, by 2025, virtual and augmented realities will become an $80-billion market. That’s just eight years from now! Is it time for your company to invest? Brands across a wide range of industries — from entertainment to education to online shopping — are using virtual technologies to create deeper, more meaningful interactions with customers and enhancing their experiences. What do virtual and augmented realities bring to the table, and what should brands be thinking about when considering these new technologies?

What Is the Difference Between Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)?
Both virtual reality and augmented reality create immersive experiences, but the main difference is how immersive. With VR, the experience is total, meaning the goggles or the viewer that you’re using completely shuts out the real world, and everything within the viewing parameter is entirely virtual. With AR, on the other hand, the experience is not wholly immersive. Instead, images, videos, and other visual stimuli are layered over reality, allowing the user to supplement the real world with virtual content.

How Are Brands and Industries Benefitting From VR and AR Technologies?
There’s tremendous opportunity for businesses who choose to utilize VR or AR technologies as mediums for improved customer experiences. From support and service to basic entertainment, virtual realities enable brands to provide experiences that were previously impossible.

The Super Bowl is a perfect example of the potential here. The NFL has a limited number of stadium seats available for fans who want to watch the game — everyone else (without tickets) must tune in to watch it on television. In a virtual world, stadium seating is infinite, and unlimited numbers of fans enter into an immersive football experience on game day — one that is both visual and auditory. Similarly, VR and AR could also be used in the movie and entertainment industries, as movie-production companies are not only investing in virtual and augmented realities, but also have major players in these technologies supporting them.

Gaming is yet another industry that may be changed forever by AR and VR with the recent release of Pokémon Go. The popular mobile app overlays a map of your unique physical world — your house, office, and everyplace you eat, for instance — with the world of Pokémon. Everywhere the user goes, images of an augmented world appear through a camera viewfinder.

More traditional retail marketers, as well as online retailers, also have unique opportunities to capitalize on virtual technologies by creating more immersive shopping experiences. Whether it’s trying on a pair of hiking boots in your living room or having the same experience in the middle of the rainforest, savvy marketers are taking advantage of VR and AR technologies, offering consumers chances to experience products and services in novel, exciting ways.

Where Does Social Media Meet Virtual Technology?
To date, social engagement exists primarily in a two-dimensional, screen-based world where text is heavy, and imagery and video are occasional. While engagement occurs in real time, true interaction is limited because it’s so often based on text. Now, imagine not only experiencing products as you never have before, but also journeying into corporations to meet the humans behind your favorite products.

AR and VR will change how consumers communicate with brands, creating truly social interactions with companies and their employees. As a result, traditional social-media departments will likely transform from groups of writers who string together interesting tweets and posts — hoping for text-based interactions — to groups that facilitate virtual interactions with customers for more dynamic experiences.

As we approach the second wave of hype surrounding VR and AR, there are high expectations for these emerging technologies. Facebook created a social VR team, Google has invested over $500 million in AR, and many technology vendors have released AR and VR headsets. Yet, many brands remain hesitant because these virtual technologies both require tremendous resources and costs. Deciding whether to invest is challenging. Be realistic, take a step back, and ask whether these technologies will, ultimately, help you achieve your business objectives.

Topics: Social, Digital Transformation