In Digital Spaces, Fans Crave an Always-On Experience From Brands

Roblox's Christina Wootton describes a new avenue for marketers during content lulls

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Editor’s note: This piece is part of our Columnist Network series, which explores the tactical thoughts and actions from Adweek’s community of high-level experts. Today, Christina Wootton of Roblox recommends real-time, always-on engagement to take marketing in digital spaces to the next level. Below, in her own words, she lays out what can be achieved when there is a symbiotic relationship between developers and community members.

The challenge

How do you keep fans connected and engaged year-round—for example, in between launches and premieres? That’s the question many brands, movie studios and streaming platforms deal with when it comes to marketing and brand strategies around their top products, content and talent. This question becomes increasingly important for entertainment and music companies, as consumers have more and more options for their personal entertainment, and as competition for their time and attention continues to heat up.

Brands already know the power of virtual spaces when announcing a movie release or new season of TV, but those experiences can also keep fans highly engaged during content lulls. In my last column, I wrote about ways to build an emotional connection with fans in virtual spaces. In addition to timely campaigns and brand activations in the metaverse, building persistent, immersive worlds can offer fans evergreen spaces to enjoy their favorite content and help maintain, even increase, their emotional investment as well as draw in new audiences. 

The process

Online social spaces have demonstrated that people want to engage with their favorite brands, artists and celebrities all the time, not just when they have something new to offer. It’s that always-on accessibility that fans crave. When the pandemic made live premieres and events impossible, movie studios turned to streaming platforms, celebrities started shooting quick home interviews and videos, and their fans were happy to follow. A persistent space in the metaverse is the natural evolution of these social interactions, allowing fans to connect with brands, creators, community members and content curated specifically for them in immersive 3D environments. So what are some best practices to consider when ideating a persistent metaverse world that will engage fans on an ongoing basis?

Embrace existing creator communities. While some brands may not have metaverse developers ready to execute on their ideas, there are global communities of experts at crafting engaging, immersive experiences. Brands can easily tap into this globally distributed creative talent with in-depth knowledge of their respective online communities to accelerate the creation of authentic experiences from the get-go.

Have clear KPIs. Create clearly defined goals for your space and let them inform the design. An experience intended to drive brand awareness could, for example, benefit from having a quick way for visitors to share screenshots of special moments with friends both on the platform and on their social media channels. If monetization is the goal, understand the kind of digital items the community is interested in purchasing to help drive excitement. 

Offer lots of interaction. Online communities expect virtual spaces to be highly interactive with real-time chats, mini-games, exclusive content (including some that are only available through earned access within the experience) and “surprise and delight” moments they can share with their friends. The Gucci Garden experience we recently hosted, for example, turned visitors into unique pieces of art while also offering coveted items during limited hours that had to be discovered through exploration. 

Listen to feedback and iterate. Even if the community’s initial feedback is very positive, a persistent world needs to be a living experience, so users can discover new things every time they visit. Just like you wouldn’t only post once on your social media channels, your metaverse strategy should be thought of in the same way. Keep people looking forward to checking back for updates, and listen to the community’s feedback, which is invaluable for tuning the experience to be more attractive to newcomers.

A great example of how a brand leveraged a persistent space in collaboration with the creator community is the recently launched Stranger Things: Starcourt Mall experience that’s already received over 15 million total visits. Much like the local mall back in the ’80s where teens came together, the virtual Starcourt Mall is a similar setting reimagined for the metaverse, opening up unique possibilities for one of Netflix’s top franchises to engage and grow their global audience. It offers quests to earn Stranger Things-inspired gear, avatar items for purchase and mini-games so visitors can compete in rotating leaderboard challenges. 

The takeaway

Claiming a spot in the metaverse is a low-risk way to keep a brand’s existing audience highly engaged while simultaneously reaching out to new segments. At the same time, simply having some sort of presence in the metaverse may not be enough; if the experience doesn’t make sense to the community, it will fall flat. The ability to collaborate with community developers lowers the barrier to entry when ideating a persistent world so brands can focus on what matters most for them: keeping fans engaged year-round.