This fall, as universities geared up to welcome students to campus for the first time in two years, Facebook made a radical announcement: as of October, Facebook is no longer, but is now to be called Meta, for metaverse. But what is the metaverse, why did Facebook change, and what does that mean for university recruitment?
The term “metaverse” was first coined by sci-fi author Neal Stephenson, meaning a virtual world that people used to escape from the real world. The 2011 novel Ready Player One again popularized the term, pushing the concept of a 3D virtual world where real people could exist in avatars. Outside of sci-fi, the metaverse is sometimes used as an umbrella term for any futuristic technology relating to 3D or virtual worlds, but as Facebook simply defines it, the metaverse is “a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.”
Source: USA Today
Some of the most exciting possibilities – and the reason why tech gurus are raving about its revolutionary potential – include real-time 3D computer graphics and personalized avatars, more varied and complex social interactions, user-created virtual environments and items, integration with real-world features including commercial activity, and compatibility with XR devices such as VR headsets. Some predict that the metaverse will completely replace social media, some that it will replace the internet – such absolute shifts are currently unknown, but at the very least, the metaverse will be a new digital space with an increasingly significant impact on all social and digital interaction, first for Gen Z and eventually for the population at large.
Facebook, like a myriad of other companies, wants to capitalize on the metaverse trend long-term. Its rebrand to Meta reflects its shift away from a “social media company to being a metaverse company,” in the words of CEO Mark Zuckerberg. And the name change isn’t just empty words – Facebook, or rather Meta, has increasingly invested more and more focus to augmented and virtual reality. It now has entire teams of thousands of employees dedicated to the metaverse, and recently announced that its head of AR and VR Andrew Bosworth will be promoted to chief technology officer.
Source: The Verge
Other major companies are making similar moves. Snapchat recently rebranded themselves as a “camera company,” following their upcoming product lines of AR glasses. And tech giant Google’s reorganization under Alphabet in 2015 was a strategic decision to shift away from their identity as a search engine, toward the expansive and high-tech company that we know today.
So why should universities – and specifically college counselors and enrollment managers – care about this new tech? Well, the first reason is simple: because your students and future students do. Over 90 percent of Gen Z-ers made crucial decisions such as university matriculation or employment decisions based at least in part on the technology of the institution or company; and over 80 percent aspire to learn and work with “cutting-edge technology.” By including the metaverse – some of the most innovative and futuristic technology out there – and its VR and AR applications in your university language, college marketing, and student outreach, prospective students will be attracted by your school’s commitment to the newest frontiers of technology.
Source: Campus 360
Moreover, who hasn’t seen your kids or colleagues’ kids obsessed with the latest online world video game? The metaverse is the perfect way to surprise, impress, and delight prospective students. A creatively branded AR holographic popup of your university mascot or VR-enabled virtual college tour sent to admitted students will make your university truly stand out – literally pop off the page – and leave a lasting impression that will boost your conversion and matriculation and let you welcome even more first-year students to campus next fall.