Social Media and the Virtual Revolution (Part 3): Ringing the Changes

What comes next for the future of social media? In our first article of this series, we discussed how the evolving merger between social media and virtual reality will affect marketing, particularly in property. In the second, we discussed the impact on communications. In this, the third and final article of the series, we’re going to take a look at the nitty gritty of these changes, to give you some ideas for evolving your own social media strategies.

Let’s start with this quote from Ryan Holmes, Founder and CEO of Hootsuite:

“There are a couple of massive waves that are really going to create opportunity, such as (artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality). Will the next social network be on AR and VR? I think it’s highly likely that some very clever incarnation of a social network in augmented and virtual reality.”

One interesting early incarnation that gives credence to Holmes’s prediction is vTime, which recently teamed with Facebook IQ for a study into emotional engagement through virtual conversations.

The findings from the study are absolutely fascinating. Whilst wearing an Oculus Rift headset, 30 participants were asked to have a conversation with a stranger in vTime. The control group of 30 more participants simply had a conversation with a stranger in real life. The participants were wired up to EEG devices to measure brain waves, and eye trackers to monitor signs in their eye movements. Both devices were used to measure the participants’ comfort with the conversation.

The results were really heartwarming. 93% of those who conversed in vTime said that they liked their conversational partner. Some also expressed interest in meeting them in real life. Interestingly, the study also found that these participants felt pretty comfortable revealing personal information.

Participants who were identified (via a pre-study questionnaire) as introverts responded best to the vTime conversational format, noting that they were less self-conscious and anxious meeting new people this way.

This study actually reveals some interesting information for marketers. Knowing how comfortable people can be with interacting via virtual reality is valuable insight for how we can leverage that to engage social audiences as the integration of the social and the virtual grows.

Another piece of information that comes into play here comes from a separate Facebook IQ-commissioned survey from 2015. The Tech Transformations survey, undertaken by Crowd DNA, revealed that a significant proportion of US consumers could see themselves using VR for travel, shopping, entertainment and work. All of this, of course, sounds like a marketer’s dream come true.

Let’s turn our attention now to the next generation. Though the post-Millennials are not yet at the stage where they’re likely to be considering buying or renting a home, many of their forebears in the Millennial generation are. And there is certainly some overlap between the online behaviours of the two groups. Equally, these are demographics that marketers must begin nurturing early, paying attention to how they develop their digital habits.

The Young and the Virtual

An article from Facebook IQ (again) from 2015 quotes a 22 year old Canadian named Aria:

“People don’t really want to read through text all the time … they just want to see it visually. It’s more appealing.”

Of course, visuals are what it’s all about with property marketing, and certainly why we focus our efforts on architectural visualisations and virtual walkthroughs. Aria’s comment rings very true, even in these days before mainstream VR adoption, and provides a good indication that we are moving in the right direction.

Another quote, from Andrew Hutchinson for Social Media Today, is equally relevant:

“As younger users grow more accustomed to participatory content, that will help usher in the next stage of the content shift. Just like social media before it, or the internet before that, eventually there’ll come a time where younger generations simply don’t know any different, where VR will just be how they’ve always consumed certain content. And that will be the most significant shift.”

Imagery is overtaking written communication as the way people choose to express themselves online. The vast majority of young Millennials interviewed for Facebook’s study identified Instagram as the principal social platform they used to document their lives and express their identities.

The visual storytelling aspect of Instagram, its aspirational nature, and the sense of belonging the platform affords, have all been found to be strong factors influencing its popularity. Whilst we are not necessarily marketing directly to Millennials in our industry, these factors undoubtedly ring true for the digitally savvy generations before them, whose social media use must not be underestimated.

The question for property marketers is, of course, how do we leverage this to sell and let properties? And, secondly, how can we take the Instagram model into the virtual space as we continue our journey towards virtual reality social media?

Here are three ideas:

Inspire

The golden rule of social media marketing is to elicit emotion in your audience. Whether this is by educating them or by sharing an experience with them that they resonate with, inspiring your audience is absolutely key. Seek to surprise and delight your audience with high quality, original, and visually appealing content. Take them behind the scenes for an ‘exclusive’ look, sequence stories in smaller chapters. Treat them as trusted friends, and they will respond in kind.

Showcase Your Special Spark

Social media users, i.e. people, like to feel that they are special. And so are you. Mirror this special spark back to them, demonstrating an authentic perspective on your properties and service. Reveal how you see the world differently, how you and your properties are unique, caring and special.

Innovate

Of course, both the above factors apply to current social media platforms, and will be a valuable tool in your current social media strategy arsenal. However, to position your brand as a switched-on and future-thinking company, you should be aiming to build this inspiring, special content in new formats. Producing 360 videos that showcase your properties in a way that is approachable, relatable and appealing, is a good strategy. Use virtual and augmented reality technologies wherever you see an opportunity and don’t forget that, whatever you’re marketing, storytelling is key.


The shift to VR isn’t going to happen all at once. However, it’s certainly on the up. Whilst 2016 was widely hailed as the year VR would explode onto the scene, it was more of a dull fizz than an atomic blast. That’s because these things take time.

That being said, the world is making incremental steps towards a mass adoption that is on its way. 360 video and live streaming are early evidence of this fact, as the social space moves to an increasingly interactive format. Consumers are no longer satisfied with being passive viewers; now they want to be in on the action, and we have already got some of the tools in hand that can make that happen for them.

Throughout the entirety of human history, we have sought to express our experiences of the world and to share our perspectives with others. Storytelling with words and text, imagery, and video are now giving way to virtual reality, the next evolutionary leap in the context of experiential expression and interaction.

As technology continues to develop at an increasingly fast rate, so the methods of producing content that meets with the changing popular consciousness will develop, too. And, as early adopters of the virtual reality technology that’s set to change the landscape of the digital world, we welcome the next stage with open arms.


If you would like to learn more about the sectors within the Property industry that will benefit most from augmented and virtual reality technologies, and the ways in which this will happen, then be sure to download our whitepaper ‘How Virtual and Augmented Reality Will Revolutionise House Building and Property Marketing’.

Download our Whitepaper Revolutionary Tech – How Virtual and Augmented Reality Will Revolutionise House Building and Property Marketing:

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