On October 28, at the Facebook Connect 2021 Keynote live stream, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook’s parent company, also called Facebook, was rebranding under the new name Meta. Since then, the company has already updated its new name, logo, and taglines on its other social profiles, like Twitter. Other than just causing people to refer to the brand as “Facebook or whatever it’s called now,” what does this change mean for businesses and marketing professionals who use the platform to connect with customers?
According to Zuckerberg, the name change comes from the realization that the internet and technology have developed a lot since Facebook’s creation in 2004. We’ve jumped from desktop computers to phones and written content to video. He also thinks this isn’t the end of the internet’s evolution, and the next change may take us from 2D to 3D using just technology. Because of this, Zuckerberg said the original branding didn’t “represent everything [the company is] doing today, let alone the future.”
There’s also speculation, and probably truth to the matter, that Facebook tried to rebrand after concerns over misinformation on the app for the past few years and Zuckerberg’s time on Capitol Hill testifying about those issues among others, like targeted material and the correlations between social media and mental health.
Rebranding can be a gamble. Calling the new brand Meta should represent its exploration into the metaverse. But the public still associates the company with its predecessor and all the history, good and bad. Whether the name change makes any difference in how people view the brand, or even how the company itself conducts business, remains to be seen.
The brand name comes from the term metaverse, which Zuckerberg speculates is the next big change in digital interactions. But what is a metaverse? The term comes from the 1992 novel Snow Crash, written by science fiction author Neal Stephenson. The definition of Metaverse from Investopedia says it’s a space where social media, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), cryptocurrency, and online gaming come together.
In the Keynote, Zuckerberg describes the metaverse as a cross between reality and virtual reality, where you can become a hologram in your office without a commute, or attend a concert without having to step into the aisle 300 times during the show so people can get up and go to the bathroom. This vision doesn’t exist yet, but Zuckerberg thinks the metaverse could be an online substitute for real life as we know it.
He expects the experience in the metaverse to be immersive. You’re not just passively reading or scrolling through content, but you’re getting a full sensory experience as if you’re really there. Whether that sounds exciting or terrifying to you isn’t necessarily important, though I think I’m in the terrified category at the prospect of losing live music and hockey games to digital counterparts. Rather, the proper focus is on seeing if creating a world like this is actually possible — and its effects on marketing and the economy.
As of now, whether you’re ready to grab your goggles and jump into the metaverse or you want to hide under the covers and pretend it can’t happen, it’s not affecting your current marketing plans or social apps. For the time being, platforms under Facebook/Meta — such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger — are keeping their original names and functions. But in the future, users won’t need a Facebook account to use the company’s other services. There’s no word on how long before a change like that takes effect.
Much like the billionaire space race, Facebook/Meta is just the latest company to throw its hat into the ring and try to make it a reality. There are still concerns about privacy issues, security risks, and the general concept of who could “own” or “control” space like this. These issues prevent any actual changes from coming to the apps soon.
Right now, we don’t have enough information to know exactly what this rebranding and beyond means for marketers. Because the apps as we know them are staying the same for the time being, nothing about how you do your current social media marketing through Facebook/Meta services should change. But as things progress, if this “metaverse” really becomes the next wave of technology, that’s going to be a whole new world for businesses and marketing professionals online.
However, like other social media updates, the metaverse could fail. Companies launch and beta test new features all the time, and some just fall flat, like the poor Twitter Fleets. We don’t know yet if the metaverse is going to be the next big bang or big fail, even with more prominence and success of tools like VR and artificial intelligence (AI). For the moment, don’t panic, and keep doing what you’re doing. As of right now, the Facebook change is in name only, and your followers can access the great content you share just as they always have.
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