Today, social media is a polarising experience.
On one hand, it connects us with others and gives us opportunities beyond the physical world.
Today, most social media platforms are a visual representation of you. Digital identities align with physical identities — for the average person, at least. This visual representation creates validation and societal acceptance through a specific set of attributes.
Things like beauty, physique, and aesthetics are highly valued on visual platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and even YouTube. That’s a big reason for the rise of social media influencers.
In theory, this isn’t bad, but there is a downside to influencers being put on a pedestal for their physical qualities. And in the metaverse, where physical identities don’t matter, it just might be that people of all shapes, sizes and colors can gain influence without the use of heavily filtered or photoshopped pictures and videos.
Influencer marketing is big business
Originally, influencer marketing was seen as a grassroots, organic marketing initiative that gave real people (aka non-celebrities) opportunities to tout the products they love.
Today, influencer marketing is big business. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, brands are spending upwards of $13.8 billion
per year on influencer marketing. And BigCommerce reports
that 17% of companies commit over 50% of their marketing budgets to influencer marketing.
Successful brands like Kylie Cosmetics and Fenty Beauty have been born through this strategy. And the impact on consumers is striking. According to Morning Consult
, millennials trust influencers 12% more on product recommendations than celebrities.
When you introduce this much money into the mix, individuals will go to great lengths to harness social influence.
Instead of relatable content, the market is saturated with filters and photoshopping — exactly what influencer marketing was supposed to combat.
Can the metaverse change this?
All of that can change with the rise of web3 and the metaverse. The ability to express yourself in a more level playing field of virtual worlds is a game-changer, particularly for Gen Z. They meet friends in virtual worlds and through games, buy digital goods and collectibles, express their beliefs, and create unique styles. All online.
In these worlds, anyone has the chance to create something. To be whoever they want to be. To create a digital identity that represents exactly who they want to be in that moment.
Here are just a few examples of how people can interact with one another differently in the metaverse.
Social media today is a visual representation of oneself. But in a virtual environment, you could create an anonymous green alien, dress it in Lisa Frank rainbow print, and change your voice to that of David Attenborough. Your identity is your choice, and everyone has the same options available to them to create their dream avatar.
If anyone can look like a model, models are no longer scarce, and their value decreases. If anyone can take an image aboard a virtual yacht, “appearing wealthy” is no longer scarce, and that image of wealth decreases too. Equal visual representation becomes a real possibility.
With the rise of digital avatars also comes a huge opportunity for digital fashion as a way to express creativity and identity. Fashion is inherently about being different. It’s about identity, innovation, and above all, always thinking ahead to what’s next.
Gucci was one of the first fashion houses to experiment with digital fashion through a digital installation with gaming platform Roblox, which has over 40 million daily active users. Gucci has created metaverse experiences and stores to purchase limited-edition avatar items, some of which have become more expensive than the real thing. More recently, Gucci launched a collaboration with Superplastic called SUPERGUCCI, with ultra-limited NFTs co-created by Gucci and synthetic artists Janky and Guggimon. While there were only 500 NFTs available, tens of thousands of people jumped in.
Contribution & creativity
In the social media apps of the future, we imagine autonomy, creative avatars, and influential experiences.
Much like the secret identities of the players in Ready Player One, people can create a version of themselves that they think best represents their true identity. If they prefer, they can be autonomous.
Being an influencer in this world will look very different. It will require creative and meaningful contributions — whether through communities, experiences, art, games, or some other futuristic thing we haven’t imagined yet.
This is exciting for brands, too. Influencers in the metaverse will be able to offer creative relationships and perhaps reach a wider, more diverse audience. For most brands, the most immediate opportunity is to create wearable items for in-game or social experiences. The biggest opportunities involve partnering with games like Fortnite, Roblox, or League of Legends.
Additionally, brands can create mesmerising virtual fashion AR lenses on Snapchat, which has the best full-body tracking capabilities. DEPT® launched our first virtual fashion lens back in 2019 for ASOS’s Gen-Z brand, Collusion. When the lens recognized items from the gaming-influenced clothing collection, we animated the clothes in AR.
The metaverse might not solve every social media problem, but we think it has the potential to create a safer, more inclusive space for users of all shapes, backgrounds, ethnicities, and ableness. A “betterverse,” if you will, which will be a big focus at our Meta Festival
event on June 28.
For brands, this means people will be able to interact with them in different ways. We’re going to see new KPIs, such as pay-to-play, wear-to-earn, etc. And influencers and ambassadors will need to find value based on their contributions to brands and cultural conversations, not their looks.
Alex Kunawicz, principal consultant, BYTE/DEPT®
Alex is an expert in the realm of the metaverse, especially virtual reality, augmented reality, immersive environments, gaming and NFTs. Alex has a background in technology start-ups, experiential content, and working on cutting-edge projects with global clients.