For one, the average consumer does not understand what the metaverse means, according to eMarketer. Secondly, it requires an investment: in a headset, in a game, in time. And most marketers aren’t willing to make that leap when they don’t understand the value.
From my perspective, though, the industry has been overcomplicating the concept of the metaverse rather than making it accessible for audiences. Rather than pointing back to the origin of the word from the 1992 novel “Snow Crash,” let’s instead compare the metaverse to something widely known and understood -- not the obvious like The Sims or Fortnite. Instead, let’s discuss how MySpace created the gateway to the metaverse.
How Tom Became Everyone’s Friend
While Mark Zuckerberg may be the kingpin of the metaverse today, the face of MySpace, Tom, was ahead of his time in building another world online.
Though no longer in its heyday, MySpace created a defining moment for the world of social media. At the height of its popularity in 2006, the platform became the most visited website in the world, surpassing search engine behemoths Google and Yahoo, according to Wikipedia.
MySpace provided a platform for real-time digital interaction between individuals and their friends, family, and peers, as well as brands, artists, etc. Users could customize their pages and build a world that was a reflection of themselves, from background to profile music to a favorite mirror selfie to selecting their top favorite friends (and yes, for some that was Tom). And their connections could see when they were online and available to chat.
In many ways, MySpace is to Web2.0 as the metaverse is to Web3.0.
In the metaverse, people too can customize avatars to their preferences, creating a virtual identity that either imitates real life or is idealized. They can build and explore other worlds and invite people to engage with them. They can put on a VR headset and feel like they’re next to their friends.
This elevates the 2D social connection of MySpace and creates a 3D immersive social platform, just with more sophisticated technology.
But will the metaverse ever reach the hype status of MySpace?
The Metaverse, in Its Current State, Lacks Social Status
If the staying power of social media and online gaming is any indicator, it’s likely the metaverse will eventually reach the mainstream and be a viable marketing channel. In its current state, the metaverse is still squarely in its infancy. Most brands will still hesitate to put a stake in the metaverse because their consumers are not yet replacing time spent with Netflix and TikTok in favor of Horizon Worlds.
Consumer behavior has a domino effect. There needs to be a wave of adoption before something becomes a staple activity rather than just a marketing headline. And for that to occur, there needs to be greater accessibility, ease of use, and practicality.
So, my advice to marketers: Stick to social for now and let Meta continue to be the loss leader until the time is right for your audiences.