You've probably already heard all the buzz about Facebook recently rebranding as Meta. The corporate makeover was meant to signal that the company is looking to expand outwards from social media and into the so-called "metaverse."

OK, great, but that leaves us with one big question. 

What IS the metaverse anyway?

Well, it's complicated - and it depends on who you ask. The concept of the metaverse is famously a bit nebulous and hard to pin down, not to mention that at this stage it remains somewhat theoretical in nature.

To borrow's Facebook's -- sorry, Meta's -- definition, “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.”

Still a bit confused? Well, think of the metaverse as a network of online worlds rendered in persistent, real-time 3D in which users interact via personalized avatars and do things like play video games, attend virtual events or buy virtual goods. Sometimes, the metaverse can be accessed via virtual and augmented reality headsets --  but not always. 

Here's just one example of where the possibilities lie. Let's say you're shopping online for a new winter coat. What if, instead of having to make your decision based solely on glancing at 2D pictures of the coat, you could enter a virtual dressing room and "try on" the coat yourself, allowing you to see how the jacket looks on you? In the metaverse, according to its advocates, you can do just that... and so much more.

Only the beginning

Some say that the metaverse could revolutionize the internet and fundamentally alter the digital landscape. Not yet, though. 

We're still a long way from the metaverse becoming completely functional. Like other previous Next Big Things, the concept of the metaverse may never fully come to fruition - or, it may turn out to look and feel completely different from how we conceptualize it today.

Still, it's easy to see how big brands with large advertising budgets perceive a ton of opportunities in the metaverse. But where does that leave smaller publishers and content creators? 

Creators will be key to developing the metaverse

Large companies like Google and Meta may initially supply virtual reality headsets, but individual creators and developers will make the metaverse really come to life.

"At the end of the day, it is really the creators and developers who are going to build the metaverse and make this real," Mark Zuckerberg said. He also goes on to mention his expectation that hundreds of thousands of people will work to create and sustain the metaverse. But this could only happen if there is an economy to support them. Says Zuckerberg, "It's critical that creators and developers can make a good living doing this work."

Meta plans on ensuring that creators, developers, and entrepreneurs will have plenty of income opportunities for participating in the metaverse. This includes creators who make digital objects, offer services and experiences, and build entire digital worlds.

Many ways to leverage the metaverse's potential

Content creators have long relied on social media to make an income and that is unlikely to change in the future. In fact, it may only grow further as the metaverse rolls out. "Our goal is to provide a way for as many creators as possible to build a business in the metaverse," said Vishal Shah, VP of Metaverse. 

With that in mind, Meta has some recommendations for how creators can maximize the metaverse environment. Some of the forward-thinking ideas Meta shared include:

  • Horizon marketplace: A virtual store to sell and share 3D digital items.
  • Virtual reality events: Attend live concerts, political debates, poetry readings, exclusive parties, and other events.
  • Sell virtual merchandise: Artists can sell their work for avatars to wear or display in their virtual homes.
  • 3D digital objects in the physical world: People can place 3D virtual objects in the real world that people can interact with and personalize.

Many of these virtual ideas are already starting to see some implementation today. Take a look at the controversial NFT concept, for example, which allows people to buy an original digital file that can't be replicated due to protection by blockchain technology. And there's some serious money involved. The most expensive NFT ever sold was bought at 69 million dollars.

If this digital trend continues, it's easy to see how a metaverse could be filled with opportunities for creators to share their work and make an income from it.

2022 will be a huge year

While a fully developed metaverse is still years away, the first steps towards building out that digital universe are already underway.

Zuckerberg claimed that in the next year, creators will be able to "connect different physical locations into cohesive augmented reality storytelling experiences." Creators could possibly create virtual experiences like guided tours and scavenger hunts. It may be time to put on your thinking cap and see if you can brainstorm an idea to launch with this new feature.

Online communities may never look the same

Meta also emphasized that the metaverse will be a whole new way to connect with your audience -- one day, you might be able to invite people into your virtual home and have a personalized, real-time conversation with them. 

Regardless of where the metaverse goes from here, it's still important to employ a variety of ways to reach your audience. After all, we all saw the effects of Facebook being down for an entire day earlier this year.

For now, it's best for content creators to continue to stay as up-to-date on all of the latest developments as the metaverse concept continues to evolve. As concept transforms into reality, those who are best-informed will be the ones who stand to reap the biggest rewards. 

What do YOU think about the metaverse? Let us know in the comments!