Tag: coronavirus pandemic

How Facebook is Normalizing Virtual Social Interaction

This year the virtual reality market is estimated at $6.1 billion and is expected to reach a whopping $20.9 billion by 2025.

While many social platforms have taken note of the trend, Facebook has cemented itself as one of the leaders for building technology in the space including VR headsets and spearheading the trend that is virtual social reality. The company made a big splash when it launched Oculus in 2014 and have since expanded on this growth through releasing a variety of headshots including the Oculus Rift and the standalone set Oculus Quest.

During OC6 in September 2019, Facebook introduced Facebook Horizon — a “social experience where you can explore, play and create in extraordinary ways.” Users were invited to join a beta group until recently when the platform decided to expedite the process of having people on the waitlist actually test the experience.

Promoting gameplay and world building

During a time where “Zoom fatigue” is a common saying and Zoom calls and drive-by birthday parties are the norm, people crave a new type of social interaction — one that isn’t passive but active in the ability to feel immersed and collaborate with others through representation, play, and worldbuilding.

One of the many features of Horizon is being able to engage in games like mini golf, escape rooms, and paintball. Another notable emphasis is on world-building. What does this mean for brands and marketers? A new way to interact with and engage audiences. For example, they’d have the option to build a world for consumers to participate in a scavenger hunt that leads them to discount codes for free items. More generally, they could have the option to shoot ads directly within Horizon and use the avatars of fans as extras — giving them a first-hand look and direct involvement in the product they’d buy.

Capitalizing on the growing role of social VR

As the pandemic has shaped society primarily in how we socialize, the importance of social VR apps like Horizon have never been more timely or important for people looking for a single place to gather with friends and get creative. For some context — a new Statista survey found that almost 30 percent (29.7) of U.S. social media users engaged with social media apps 1 to 2 additional hours per day during quarantine. Separately, eMarketer recently found that 51 percent of U.S. adults are using social media at higher rates due to the pandemic.

“Imagine a place where a brand can invite their brand ambassadors to try out a product without hopping on an airplane? A place a brand can launch a press release without writing a press release but actually being there and sharing the news with a community of journalists in social VR. There are so many opportunities for brands and content creators. I can’t wait to see what happens next,” shared early beta Horizon content creator and social media consultant, Navah Berg in a statement to Forbes.

Prioritizing safety and privacy

Converging the virtual and physical worlds comes with its fair share of opportunities in how we connect and collaborate, but it also comes with risks Facebook has a responsibility to manage, specifically around privacy and safety.

Facebook is taking measures to get ahead of these issues by incorporating a personal “Safe Zone,” in which Horizon users can mute, block or report people and content around you. “We know it’s difficult to record a painful incident while it’s happening, which is why your Oculus headset will capture the last few minutes of your experience in Horizon on a rolling basis. When you submit a report, you can include this captured information as evidence of what happened,” Facebook explained.

No matter your stance on VR and its use cases, developments like these are worth keeping tabs on from the perspective that the future of communication are undoubtedly headed in this direction. We are approaching an inflection point in which technologies will only continue to push the boundaries of social media marketing and redefine the words “communication” and “presence.”

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The post How Facebook is Normalizing Virtual Social Interaction appeared first on Social Media Week.


Why Social Utilities are Accelerating in a COVID-19 Era

The Coronavirus pandemic has acted as an accelerant on the businesses and industries that seemed already on track for future growth. Remote work, e-commerce, at-home fitness, connected TV, gaming—each made dramatically more relevant in the era of social distancing.

Among these is an emerging category comprised of “social utilities,” or companies that provide tangible value by virtue of bringing people together.

Zoom makes it possible for anyone to mimic an IRL social experience. Citizen puts a social layer on breaking news and events at the hyper-local level. Peloton offers fitness motivation in the form of a digitally-connected community. Public.com makes investing in the stock market a social experience so you can share ideas with friends and experts while you build your portfolio. The list goes on.

Here’s why social utilities are surging in the era of social distancing.

Uncertainty drives community

In uncertain times, most people find solace in the feeling that they’re not alone. This could mean more frequent video calls (Zoom has grown by more than 50 percent since January) and messaging (Facebook recently reported a 50 percent jump in messaging and has launched a Zoom-like rival, called Messenger Rooms).

And the desire to participate in the company others can be observed in more niche areas, as well, like exercise, career development, eSports—and even financial services. During the peak of market volatility in March and April this year, Public.com tracked a 70 percent uptick in social activity in the app, according to TechCrunch.

Sub-communities create a feeling of belonging

Beyond merely connecting in times of uncertainty, people also want to feel like they belong. Within a larger network, sub-communities make it possible to be part of a global conversation while at the same time curating a more specific experience based on interests and values.

Peloton, which has seen a surge in app downloads and equipment sales since March, introduced a new feature called Tags to nurture the organic subcommunities that were already sprouting throughout the larger community. Tags allow people to select sub-groups with which they want to affiliate in the community, like one’s hometown (#NYCRiders), alma mater (#GoBlue), favorite instructor (#BensArmy), or professional background (#WomeninTech).

Here at Social Media Week, we recently wrapped a month-long virtual conference that brought our community even closer to our content. Social interactions, and building micro-communities within individual talks and sessions, were core to the experience.

Synchronous social captures attention

According to eMarketer, time spent with social media is predicted to increase by 8.8 percent in 2020, no doubt due to social distancing measures that have caused people to spend more time in the home with their devices.

Alongside this broader trend is the proliferation of digital “events” which capture attention during specific moments in time. Synchronous social isn’t entirely new—people have been live-tweeting breaking news and award shows for years—but it has certainly been given a boost as of late.

Take for example D-Nice, the DJ who has been attracting massive crowds on Instagram during planned “Club Quarantine” sets and the video chat app House Party, which recently hosted a three-day virtual festival. Twitch, the Amazon-owned eSports platform that allows people to watch and offer commentary on live games, reportedly saw a 57 percent increase in usage in the month after social distancing guidelines were put into place.

While social media certainly receives its fair share of valid criticism when it comes to furthering divides, it has also served its stated purpose of creating connections where otherwise absent. For many products and platforms, including Social Media Week, this social layer—accelerated by uncertain times—serves a clear purpose for consumers.

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The post Why Social Utilities are Accelerating in a COVID-19 Era appeared first on Social Media Week.