Meta tests new avatar reactions in Instagram stories

July 5, 2022

Jayde Robertson

It’s been almost 9 months since Facebook announced a global rebranding - and repositioning, laying out the tech giant's vision for the future. Yup - we’re talking about the Metaverse. While the name change was largely cosmetic - it did come with huge ambitions, one of which was to create an AR and VR showcase - effectively evolving the social landscape as we have come to know and love it.

Zuckerberg stated that building the Metaverse would necessitate collaboration among many technology businesses, new kinds of governance, and other features that would require intense development and strategy. However, he outlined various scenarios in which the Metaverse could be helpful, including video games, fitness, and careers. We’re yet to see how - but we know that Meta has stayed true to its word, and by that, we mean facilitating a social world defined by virtual reality. It has so far allowed for 3D avatars, discussions, and much more. Meta is currently experimenting with avatar reactions on Instagram Stories.

The usage of digital avatars in more ways is a significant component of Meta's metaverse drive; as it strives to convert these virtual representations into more habitual engagement tools in all aspects.

In this case, the principal platform is virtual reality, with users engaging through cartoonish proxies in fully immersive environments. Meta, on the other hand, wants non-VR users to be able to participate in the same way, with the characters they pick to represent themselves becoming a more visible manifestation of their identity and presence. Meta needs to make its avatars more engaging and flexible to do, which it is currently doing with the implementation of 3D avatars on Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram stickers.

And now, Meta is taking the next step, with avatar reactions being available in Instagram Stories for select users.

What’s the point really?

The introduction of Avatar reactions is just another approach for Meta to encourage users to create custom characters, which is part of the company's larger effort to make this a more frequent, habitual engagement activity, with the goal of these representations being the way you identify yourself online.

This would then open up a whole new set of possibilities.

The major focus is on interacting within virtual worlds, or the metaverse, but the wider use of bespoke digital characters will open up new potential for Meta to sell virtual goods within its developing areas. Snapchat, for example, already offers a variety of corporate-sponsored products for its Bitmoji avatar characters, allowing users to modify their avatars with Adidas, Nike, and other well-known brands.

What’s the catch?

Right now, dressing your avatar in these digital clothing variations is free, but as avatar usage grows, there will be more demand for exclusive items and customizations, which platforms will be able to charge for, as people seek out more unique, elusive variations that can give them a sense of prestige within the virtual realm.

What is a digital avatar?

A digital avatar is a graphical representation of a user or a user's character performing a certain task. It can be a two-dimensional icon, as seen on social networking platforms and forums, or a three-dimensional figure, as seen in games or virtual worlds. Despite its reputation as a form of entertainment, many companies throughout the world have started to acknowledge its value in industries such as healthcare, advertising, and soft-skills development.

Does this mean anything to marketers?

As it stands, marketers rely on user feedback and preference in order to create an ideal target persona - in other words, identifying who we are speaking to - before we identify a means by which to market to them. Interacting in a virtual world is Meta’s main reason for introducing, or rather pushing - Avatar reactions. As marketers, we can use these online identities to get a deeper look into our consumer persona - taking hints at their preferences through the way that they identify themselves as Avatar. In a nutshell - it gives us a sneak peek at the real person behind the profile picture.

Here’s what we think.

The online world can be a difficult place to navigate. But with so many options - platforms to express ourselves, and ways in which to identify ourselves - it seems that becoming our most authentic self is becoming that much easier. In the past, people used social media as a means to hide - become keyboard warriors - or internet trolls. Now, however, with the advance in personalization (and privacy) - we’re seeing a rise in authenticity, with users seemingly becoming more comfortable expressing themselves online.  

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