Not long ago, brands had no idea they would need highly skilled, highly paid social media managers to succeed -- or even just compete -- as a business.
Yet social media managers are now commonplace -- a requirement for the vast majority of businesses. So what’s next?
Sami Khan -- co-founder and CEO of Atlas: Earth, a mobile gaming experience that invites players to earn cash on digital versions of real-world properties -- believes metaverse brand managers are the future.
Khan, who also developed growth strategies for the micro-investing app Acorns and money-saving browser extension Honey, recently spoke with MediaPost about his real-world vision for the metaverse, the growth of gamified experiences, and why brands will need a role dedicated to managing its metaverse experience.
MediaPost: What types of projects do you think will succeed most in the metaverse?
Sami Khan: I've been a marketer all my life. What I’ve learned is that brands must bring innovation to the people in a way that's accessible and understandable, not in a way that feels like a large leap from the present.
I'm not against the virtual reality (VR) feature or the notion of cryptocurrencies being a major form of payment. But I don't believe the vast majority of Americans are prepared to adopt that kind of metaverse thesis.
Worlds that are digital twins built on top of ours that enhance the experience of the real world will be the ultimate winners, more so than the ones where you have to teach people new physics and new things to remember.
MP: Is gamification part of this “accessible metaverse” ethos?
Khan: 100%. Acorns, in a way, gamified fintech with confetti, and Robinhood changed investing by swiping up.
It's a very absurd simplifying strategy, but when you're used to buying stocks by clicking a button and looking at your dad's interface, confetti falling from the sky feels great.
Personally, I believe that everything will become more gamified. Tinder is more gamified dating, Robinhood is more gamified stock-trading. People shouldn't sleep at what gaming can do at scale.
MP: Why do you believe metaverse 'experts' like Mark Zuckerberg are missing the mark?
Khan: What the experts are doing is saying “let me drop you in this sophisticated world, here you go.” There's no steering; they're giving people the world's greatest speedboat and dropping them in the middle of the ocean. They’re going to be like, “What do you want me to do with this, I need food and water.”
When Steve Jobs announced the iPhone, he likened it to three devices people understood -- an mp3 player, a computer, and a phone -- all compiled into one. That's steering. His explanation primed developers and everyone in the ecosystem.
Zuckerberg’s latest Quest headset is genius in what it can do, but it lacks the Steve Jobs steering technique -- he’s giving us a $1,600 thing to have Teams meetings?
MP: What role would a metaverse brand manager play in all of this?
Khan: I think all brands are accepting that this kind of immersive experience is coming.
How will people get there? We think it will be real-world locations, Meta thinks it will be through Horizon. Whatever way you get there, we're talking about the new website or social media page for a brand.
But if you think about the skill set today -- building a website or your TikTok -- those are two different people. I think there's a third person coming who will be really good at game-engines like Unity or Unreal, which will let them design game-spaces for brands. These are not games, but gamified spaces with deals, discounts and giveaways.
Fast-forward: maybe we, at Atlas, make an in-house white-label agency for the first 50 or 100 brand customers. That's what Facebook did; they were building the first Facebook ads in Facebook. I think we'll go through that same experience here in the metaverse.
There's going to be a new role that encompasses this. But do brands like us create a builder on our end that people use, or is it a third-party like Hootsuite? I'm not sure yet. I think eventually it will be an in-house team, depending on the complexity.
MP: What will these immersive web-pages do for brands?
Khan: As a marketer, I've always been told that for brands you need to think of AOV (average order value) -- you want to increase that -- and retention.
Brands already have their metrics, but need to enhance their real-world experience. Walmart wants their AOV and retention to go up, but that doesn't have to be in person.
This is why loyalty programs are becoming so important these days. They want to embed this notion that if customers don't get their next meal at Chick-fil-A, they won't get that next free sandwich. Immersive technology in the metaverse is another way to increase metrics brands already care about.
MP: Will metaverse spaces also help brands increase revenue?
Khan: Yes. We have to think of the YouTube angle of this. The NFL, "NBC Nightly News," and "Late Show" companies air their shows, make the normal money, then post highlights on YouTube, which all have ads in them. YouTube has allowed these shows and games to expand their revenue by remonetizing.
Depending on how the metaverse is monetized, there may be an opportunity for a separate business line for brands.
At Atlas: Earth we sell badges whenever users travel to a new city. We've talked to professional sports leagues about allowing users to commemorate a soccer or tennis game by buying a badge on our platform. For a $20 badge, we can give half of the cost ($10) to the respective sports league. We, like YouTube, would then be a totally new revenue stream.
MP: Will there be any crossover between social media managers and metaverse brand managers?
Khan: I don't want to say never, but agencies are usually very compartmentalized. Having been in CMO roles in the past, brands want to find someone directly accountable for one particular job. Hiring marketing teams, it becomes difficult to hire someone to run social media accounts on all platforms and something else entirely.
I don't believe in the winner-take-all metaverse future. It will likely be a mix of companies and platforms that make up the metaverse, just like social media. You're going to have different levels of immersive experiences, similar to how TikTok and Instagram require different forms of content. These future subtleties will require a metaverse brand manager.
MP: Do you think the metaverse will spawn other brand or agency positions?
Khan: I do and I don't. A lot of tailoring must happen on an AI/automated level. When we run Facebook ads, I'm not telling it who to show them to. The platform does that on its own.
I think metaverse managers will create a slew of experiences -- a giveaway, a contest etc. -- and when each individual enters the space, the algorithm knows one person's a contest kind of person, while another person is more prone to giveaways.