While video is currently the most engaging form of digital content, new options are slowly rising, and could become the next big shift you’ll want to get ahead of.

Consider this – the global virtual reality market is expected to grow from $7.9 billion in 2018, to $44.7 billion by 2024. And according to a report from eMarketer, 42.9 million people are expected to use VR in 2019, and 68.7 million will use AR at least once a month. 

360-degree videos are relatively commonplace now, as are face-altering digital filters, which you see in the various Stories options on social platforms. But there are many more opportunities on the horizon which marketers can, and should, start incorporating into their social media strategies to get ahead of the curve.

Immersive reality explained

Immersive reality is the umbrella term covering Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).

AR is the technology which superimposes a digitally constructed image onto a person’s view of reality, creating a composite view. The aforementioned Stories filters are the most ubiquitous use of AR.

VR relates to putting a person into a constructed world or dimension. Virtual technology, usually in the form of a headset like Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, or HTC Vive, enables users to transport themselves into a 3D digital environment. VR users can then explore and manipulate this new environment themselves.

And although AR has become a big part of social media, virtual reality has yet to break through in a meaningful way.

Why use immersive reality?

Using immersive reality in your social media efforts can help you in three main ways.

First, it’ll give your customers the impression that you’re a cutting-edge, and therefore a more desirable brand to be handing over their money to. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 71% of consumers consider a brand to be forward-thinking if it uses immersive reality.

Second, it enables you to bring your customers closer to your business. By definition, immersive media lets your customer become totally immersed in your brand.

And lastly, using it in your social media has already been proven to encourage more impulse buying and increased content-sharing. Such tools can help you expand your following, increase your customer engagement, and ultimately, boost your revenue.

(Re)define your social media goals and metrics

Whenever you introduce a new tactic into your social media activity, it’s worth going back to your goals and looking at how it will support them.

Whether your social media goals are raising brand awareness, generating leads, driving traffic to your owned media, building a community, or even research and development, look at how you might expect immersive tactics to support these.

Second to checking back in on your goals, it’s also worth defining how you’ll measure the success of your immersive reality social campaign. At this point, taking a baseline measurement  – of your social traffic, engagement, conversions and reach – will give you something against which to measure success.

Set out your social media tactics

Create and share valuable content

For those just setting out in immersive reality, a good starting point is creating immersive content to share on your social media channels.

As a starting point, 360-degree, immersive videos can be a great way to showcase your products, or show people around your physical store.

Boursin’s VR video lets viewers watch the video, but also interact with it by moving the cursor around the screen. They can make their own journey around The Sensorium, checking out food pairings and recipe ideas.

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To get started, try out Facebook 360, which enables you to upload 360-degree images that can be manipulated by the user.

Moving on from that, you can begin to look at third-party software to help you create all sorts of interactive content. Tools like Scapic, for example, can help you to build virtual tours and other interactive VR experiences.

Influencer marketing

Whether it’s Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories or Snapchat, you can use digital tools to enhance your live or temporary content, and create extra buzz on your social media channels.

To get started with using filters on your temporary content, you first need to identify which platform(s) you feel most confident with. If you already have a good following on a particular social platform, then start there. Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook all offer a range of digital tools in this respect, and you can create your own in Snap’s Lens Studio and Facebook’s Spark AR Studio.

That does, of course, take an extra level of expertise. To keep it simple, start by playing around with the different filters available in each app, keeping in mind your brand values. The filter/s you choose should fit both with your overall brand but also with the context of your story content.

It can be tricky to know if you’re getting your live content right. Look out for feedback from your audience, and check in with your social analytics to see how well your audience is engaging. There’s no harm in playing around with different filters until you find one that works. After all, the content isn’t permanent.

AR-based advertising

A few years ago, Facebook launched ‘Canvas‘, “a full-screen ad experience built for bringing brands and products to life on mobile”.

L’Occitane used Facebook Canvas to advertise its new ‘Immortelle’ range – the open screen introduces the viewer to the geographical origins of the Immortelle flower. The ad then takes the viewer through the product, via a virtual ingredient tour, with a final CTA inviting them to shop for holiday gift sets.

To get started with Facebook Canvas, go to your Facebook Page:

  • Click on “Publishing tools” in the top menu and choose “Instant experience (Canvas)” in the left-hand menu
  • Click “Create”
  • Now click on “Add component to start building your ad”

To create an interactive ad, a carousel component lets viewers scroll through various images – perfect for launching a new product range. You can also add a “Button” component to create a CTA to direct people to the relevant landing page on your website.

In summary

Immersive reality is a growing marketing tactic, and is expected to become an integral part of how businesses and consumers interact within the next 5 years.

There are various ways in which you can get started with immersive reality within your social media strategy – from creating interactive content to share on your social accounts to running an interactive advertising campaign. Or you can get even more advanced, and look to build your own digital masks and experiences. 

The key thing to keep in mind is that if you are going to embark on immersive media, then it must add value to your customers. Creating immersive content for the sake of it risks seeming gimmicky, which could potentially harm the customer experience.

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