The Metaverse Will Be Led by Creators

By BEN Influencer Marketing 04/25/2022

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One day, I’ll walk into a room and scan it with my device, put on glasses and earpieces, and be transported into exciting experiences with friends and family across the world. We’ll shop, exercise, access entertainment, and even work. We’ll do a workout class that has us moving across several different countries in a Jason Bourne-type experience. We’ll attend a zero-gravity concert on the moon.

That’s the metaverse. Aspects of our physical lives move online and are augmented in unexpected ways. But despite all the hype, we have a long way to go to get there. To date, the most advanced applications of the metaverse can be found in the gaming world: Gucci created a virtual exhibit with Roblox, while pop star Zara Larsson hosted a concert via the same game. Already, there are ways to find success in the metaverse (Zara’s concert brought in over $1M in merchandise sales), yet there’s also money to lose (see: metaverse real estate).

Mostly, the metaverse holds massive potential for the creator economy as it grows. Creators are experts at fostering connection with audiences today on a variety of different platforms. Whether it’s promoting a product or garnering excitement about an event, regardless of industry, creators can generate audience engagement and excitement. And the possibilities in the metaverse for different types of engagement with creators far exceed what’s possible on today’s social media platforms. Because of that, I see creators powering the future of the metaverse. And for brands and creators today, that has some important implications.

From the Desk of Ricky Ray: What Brands and Creators Need to Know About the Metaverse

The good news about the metaverse is that it’s not all that new. There are plenty of web2 examples, like Second Life or Minecraft. Our team at BEN has even worked on early metaverse campaigns: In 2014, to promote the launch of the film Earth to Echo, we created mini-games for users to play along with the plot of the film. These early metaverse examples offer us blueprints and lessons as we look ahead to new applications. 

For example: If it’s hard to understand or confusing to adapt to, it’s probably not working. While Second Life still exists, it serves as a cautionary tale due to its hardware-intensive onboarding and clunky user experience. Our Earth to Echo game, meanwhile, got hundreds of thousands of players, with users playing the games twice on average, because it was easy, engaging and accessible. 

But there are some bad aspects of the metaverse as it exists today—namely, that it’s in the middle of a hype cycle. The most glaring example is virtual real estate. Prices rose 500% in the course of a few months, and there’s the famous story about the person who paid $450,000 to live next to Snoop Dogg in the metaverse destination, Decentraland. All this hype means that it’s hard to separate—and invest in—what’s viable from a flash in the pan. 

And that leads me to the ugly, which is: there are folks out there proclaiming themselves to be metaverse experts, and consulting on the metaverse (I’ve said before: if someone tells you they’re a metaverse expert, hide your wallet). Most of what’s being discussed today is theoretical. The only thing we can say with some certainty—thanks to web2 iterations of the metaverse like Second Life—is that it needs to become more engaging and more interesting to draw users in. One critical piece of the equation is technology. The other? Creators.

Metaverse Today: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The good news about the metaverse is that it’s not all that new. There are plenty of web2 examples, like Second Life or Minecraft. Our team at BEN has even worked on early metaverse campaigns: In 2014, to promote the launch of the film Earth to Echo, we created mini-games for users to play along with the plot of the film. These early metaverse examples offer us blueprints and lessons as we look ahead to new applications.

We’re already seeing the power of creators in the ever-expanding world of influencer marketing. This year alone, the industry is expected to grow to $16.4 billion, and more than 75% of brand marketers will dedicate budget to influencer spend. It’s no surprise why: creators are bringing the distribution, engagement, and community. If we move away from traditional social media channels to the metaverse, the importance of those things won’t change. Instead it will be even more important, particularly in the short-term to help ensure ROI. Creating a metaverse experience requires writing the code to bring every aspect of it to life, the investment is much greater—meaning ensuring distribution, building community, and driving engagement is even more critical. 

As industry pioneers, gaming brands are already developing some of the most robust virtual experiences with the help of creators. During the pandemic, for example, Ubisoft had to cancel its popular E3 event and instead put together “Ubisoft Forward,” a series of virtual events designed to translate live, in-person game launches into a digital, remote-attendance format. The team partnered with popular creators to introduce users to the games for the first time. The first of these events for a game called Watch Dogs Legion delivered nearly 4 million views. 

As metaverse applications grow, and the technology becomes more accessible, we’ll likely see more creators build experiences for audiences themselves. I predict creators owning games is going to become more common. Already, I know of one creator, Brandon J Laatsch, (formerly part of the studio Rocketjump) who is now one of the most successful VR game publishers. His deep understanding of his audience enables him to build experiences he knows they’ll enjoy.

We’ll also see brands building influence themselves through virtual creators. It’s another tactic that’s cropping up in the metaverse, but is familiar from earlier web2 applications: Our team at BEN developed a creator for InterMountain Moms called Nurse Danny, which we grew to 60,000 followers giving advice on taboo health topics. Today, brands like Prada are launching virtual creators in the metaverse to model clothing and build clout and influence with audiences.

A Closer Look at Creators in the Metaverse

So what does this creator-led, influence-first view on the metaverse mean for the future of influencer marketing? Put simply, a shifting of roles and relationships. Today, partnerships are generally centered around brands that have products to promote, tapping creators for their reach and clout. But as the metaverse evolves, so too will the dynamics of these relationships. 

Creators might look more like brands, with products to sell or games they’ve created; brands might learn to gain influence with virtual creators. As technology advances in the metaverse, we’ll see a democratization of this ability to develop engaging experiences for audiences—and that’s a good thing for everyone.

Shifting the Brand-Creator Dynamic

Want to know more about how creators can elevate your brand, raise awareness, and drive real sales?

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