Is Facebook Spaces the Beginning of an Event Industry Revolution?

Last month Facebook launched its immersive VR experience "Spaces" which is a major sign of things to come in the world of brand experiences.

Facebook is already considered the most effective social network for use when planning events. Now, industry professionals have a new weapon in their event management arsenal. Facebook Spaces, which launched in April 2017, blends social media with virtual reality, providing users with an interactive space to hang out with friends. Event marketer can use this app to create more immersive brand experiences and take their events to the next level.

What Is Facebook Spaces?

Currently, Facebook Spaces is available on the Oculus Rift — a VR system that lets users explore virtual worlds. "Today, we’re introducing Facebook Spaces," said the social media superpower in a recent press release. "[This is] a new VR app where you hang out with friends in a fun, interactive virtual environment as if you were in the same room."

With Facebook Spaces, users create an avatar — a virtual doppelgänger based on their Facebook profile picture — sync their Facebook account and explore digital landscapes. Once they cross over to this other dimension, users can chat and exchange virtual gifts, watch 360-degree videos, make video calls and take virtual selfies. Up to four Facebook friends can interact at one time.

While Facebook Spaces is a social app, it offers unparalleled marketing opportunities, specifically within an event context.

The Benefits of Facebook Spaces for Event Marketers

The rise of VR has already transformed the events and experiential landscapes. Not only does VR bring live experiences to people who can't attend an event—earlier this year, FOX Sports streamed highlights of the Super Bowl in VR on its mobile app—but this technology enhances events for spectators, too. Intel, for example, hosted its 2017 CES conference in VR. (Organizers placed 260 VR units on chairs for attendees.) “This is the most technically difficult event we have ever done,” said a company's spokesperson.

Facebook only launched Spaces last month, and while its features might be limited as the app is still in beta, this technology signals the future of event management and certainly the revolution of virtual events and event live streaming on the whole. The avatar-based voice chat system facilitates easy communication and the immersive, geographically limitless, virtual hangouts make communicating with customers easy, fresh, innovative, and fun. No longer will virtual events feel like navigating Windows 95. New types of VR apps like Spaces provide event organizers with unlimited opportunities for marketing and creating bespoke customer experiences in the future.

Joel Comm, CEO of InfoMedia, believes Spaces will have an impact on events. "This is what VR events are going to be like," he says. "In the not-too-distant future, you’ll attend one.” Whether it's a wedding or a sales pitch, apps like Spaces let users experience all the action without leaving their home.

Facebook Spaces and the Future of VR

Thirty percent of consumer-facing brands in the Forbes Global 2000 will incorporate VR into their marketing strategies in 2017, and event marketers are using this technology to create personalized content for customers. VR lets customers experience a live event from the comfort of their own home, for example. This provides users with a chance to see a sold-out concert or a sports game that is taking place in a distant location.

Some broadcasters are already doing this. NBCUniversal’s Telemundo recently announced plans to stream matches from the 2018 FIFA World Cup through its VR suite. Users will be able to access 2-D feeds, 360-degree video content and 180-degree views. In 2016, Citi, Live Nation and NextVR announced plans to produce up to 10 live VR concerts. The initiative will also bring users exclusive content, such as backstage interviews.

Spaces could offer something similar. Facebook launched its streaming service, Facebook Live, in August 2015, letting users broadcast live video from anywhere in the world. Perhaps the company will incorporate Live and Spaces and let users stream content in a virtual environment. This could have a major impact on event management and expose VR to its biggest audience yet. Currently, Facebook has 1.94 billion monthly active users, making it one of the world's most visited websites.

As well as streaming concerts and sports games, apps like Spaces let event organizers create unique virtual experiences — events that can't be experienced in person. In the future, event attendees may not even have to travel or book a hotel room to experience every minute detail of a conference.

Social Media and VR

Facebook isn't the only social platform to experiment with VR. In 2016, Snapchat's Spectacles marked the beginning of the company's AR/VR exploration. Then there's YouTube, which offers a broad range of 360-degree and 3-D videos. In fact, YouTube's Virtual Reality channel already has more than 2.3 million subscribers. These technological developments prove one thing: VR is here to stay.

The number of active VR users is expected to reach 171 million by 2018, and event marketers will continue to be on the forefront of experimenting with virtual experiences like those provided by Facebook Spaces.

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Jonathan Ronzio

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