Blog, Marketing

Facebook plans to make virtual reality more than mainstream: it plans to make it second nature.

Facebook has changed the way that its 1.71 billion users communicate. It has brought everyday conversations into the digital space and allowed us to construct our identities there too.

But now Facebook is moving away from those little red flags and blue-topped boxes we’ve come to associate with modern communication. According to founder, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook wants to make digital interaction more human, under the slogan “People first”. And he plans to do that via virtual reality. It might sound like an oxymoron, but trust us, it’s not.

Back in 2014, Facebook acquired virtual reality startup, Oculus VR. Now, we’re finally seeing the real fruit of this purchase. At the recent Oculus Connect conference, Mark Zuckerberg put it all in context with a VR demonstration. Mounting VR goggles, avatar-Zuckerberg took attendees on a round-up journey through the new technology’s potential. Virtual reality has long been the domain of gaming, and Zuckerberg shows how you can do just that.

Avatar-Zuckerberg teleports to his office at Facebook HQ to play a simple game of cards with avatar colleagues, Lucy and Michael. Right before he conjures up a sword, and duels them. All impressive, but nothing that seems revolutionary at this point…. Even when Zuckerberg and co teleport to explore the surface of Mars, and the bottom of the ocean.

 

The surface of Mars: not as far away as you think...

The surface of Mars: not as far away as you think…

In the more mundane uses of the technology exist the greatest potential for communication revolution. During the demo, Zuckerberg pops home to check on his dog, Beast. Although this is much less exciting than space travel (unless you really like Hungarian Sheepdogs), it gives the best indication of how Facebook’s VR will change our everyday lives. Little conveniences are the beginnings of big changes for the social network.

 

Avatar Mark Zuckerg takes a family selfie with his wife on an iPad and his dog, Beast.

Zuckerberg posted his first ever “VR selfie” to his Facebook page

But to what extent will Facebook become VR-based? Facebook’s Michael Booth, one of the participants in the demo explained that “Everything you can do on Facebook, you should be able to do in VR.” If this isn’t an overstatement, this is huge news for social users and brands alike. As you doubtless know, Facebook is no longer just for socialising: it’s a powerful advertising platform. So it makes sense that VR should take marketing into a new dimension.

We’d like to field a few predictions on this topic. It’s not just going to be ads you can immerse yourself in, although this new format does hold great creative potential. There will be more direct, interactions between brands and their customers. Lines of communication will collapse, representing a huge emotional swaying power for brands. Imagine holding a virtual reality product launch or conference: letting your clients feel a part of the excitement, enabling them to field questions to company executives they would never have otherwise interacted with.

It also has the potential to optimise the conversion rate of your website. Imagine how your online store could perform if you had virtual reality customer support and product demos, where the customer could interact with the product before they purchase it. Even trying on clothing could be revolutionised through virtual reality!

But– here’s the big question– will this shift really happen? Well, based on Facebook’s dynamic past, and pre-established ability to adapt, it looks more than possible. The platform has already established in excellence in the last transition cycle. Facebook receives 85% of its advertising revenue from mobile advertising, a space where other social media giants like Snapchat have struggled to monetise. Can we predict a similar success as Facebook shifts from mobile to virtual reality? And then a similar shift for advertising revenue? If we now know Facebook as an advertising superpower, why can’t they be a virtual reality advertising superpower?

We don’t want to be too dramatic here, but if anyone has the power to trigger this massive communicative shift…. it’s Facebook.