Episode #015: The Metaverse, Influencing Behavior, and Facebook Ray-Bans


Duration: 14 min, 38 sec.


 • “The Metaverse is Here” by Inc.com

 • “Study finds growing government use of sensitive data to ‘nudge’ behaviour” from the Guardian

 • “Facebook on Your Face” from The Verge


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Links from this episode:

 • The Metaverse is Here | Inc.com

 • Study finds growing government use of sensitive data to ‘nudge’ behaviour | Data protection | The Guardian

 • Ray-Ban Stories: hands-on with Facebook’s first smart glasses – The Verge

Rough Transcript:

This week’s three topics:

The Metaverse is here. What is it and why every brand needs to care.

Is the British government influencing Behavior by using sensitive data?

And Facebook on your Face. Ray-Bans and Facebook partner together to bring the first pair of smart sunglasses.

The date is Sunday, January 16th, 2022, the time is 3:30 in the afternoon, and you’re listening to Episode #15 of this podcast, but Episode #1 of The Communication Strategist.

Segment 1

OK, a good Sunday afternoon to everyone out there, and happy new year.

It’s been a few weeks since my last recording and I’ve made some changes.

Most notably is I just did a name change with my website over the holiday period, and am following up by changing the name of the podcast.

46alpha.com was my website before. That is the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) of a Public Affairs Officer and for almost my entire time in the military, I had that URL and that handle, 46alpha, on most of my social media sites.

I am no longer on active duty and as continued to publish non-military-related content and the search engines continued to crawl, that name became more and more linked to my site and less to the actual job in the military.

Additionally, my content way back when I started was heavily slanted towards government and military communication as a young communicator but, not so much anymore.

So it was time to change things up on the website.

My site is now at www.commstrategy.co – the Communication Strategy Company – and all the pages from my old URL just redirect to the new URL.

I thought that would be a much harder process but I use FlyWheel, and it was actually extremely easy. I changed the URL and they did the rest.

So I followed suit with the name here, and this is now the Communication Strategist.

I think both names are now more accurate to what my interests are and probably communicate better what the website and this podcast are about.

As an example, I was asked if Communicate For Effect was related to public speaking. So, I could see that.

I won’t renumber them and start over with #1, I’ll just keep it going with #15.

I also know I will have additional tweaks to this podcast down the road as I continue to get in more reps.

Some tweaks are already planned for later, and some I assume will be through lessons learned via the process and repetition.

With that, let’s get into the actual topics for today.

Joan Westenberg, the founder, and CEO of Studio Self, writes an article in Inc.com titled “The Metaverse is here. What is it, and why every brand needs to care.”

She writes that the term the ‘metaverse’ was coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel, Snow Crash. 

In that story, humans are represented as avatars interacting with each other in a three-dimensional virtual space.

To me, this is the book and the movie Ready Player One

But she said it’s not just about wearing a VR headset.

The metaverse is the experience of choosing and owning a digital Avatar, creating your own original work, finding a connection in Virtual experiences, and having the emotional value of your online experience be equal to your offline experience.

She says it’s being able to value digital goods in the digital world on par with the physical world.

 There’s already blurring between the digital world and the physical world.

Gaming, lending money, e-commerce, and NFTs where you have virtual positions and take ownership of an item in a virtual world.

She cites platforms like Discord, which is a chat and gaming app, are becoming a part of a metaverse. 

I know of Discord because my kids are on Discord.

Discord is providing the environment, but it’s not just for gamers. 

It’s entertainment, socializing, and having spent the last year-plus in a COVID environment, I was glad that both my kids had platforms like Discord to keep socializing with their peers even if it wasn’t in a physical space.

Also, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard claims that the metaverse is the next big thing. 

I can remember when Second Life was the next big thing.

Second Life started in the early 2000s and had some early momentum but ultimately that momentum faded.

So what is the “so what” for brands and organizations?

 She says it’s an opportunity to capitalize on the emerging cultural shift by creating and producing content in the metaverse. 

It’s a way to reach consumers and audiences.

All of the arguments I’m hearing right now for the metaverse I heard before in the early 2000s when Second Life started.

Does that mean you should disregard all the current metaverse hype?

Probably not.

The differences between 2003 in 2021 are significant.

Computing power and advances of the internet have made the possibility of metaverses much more likely.

In the movie Ready Player One, there was one metaverse platform called The Oasis

Right now, at this very early stage, every company wants to be the Oasis and nobody knows who the winner or winners will be.

So she writes that you need to prepare for that future.

I think for businesses and organizations looking to engage in the metaverse, you should start by identifying the different ones that are out there.  Figure out how they work, what type of people they attract, and what the long-term prospects are for that particular metaverse.

It’s always good if you are able to get into a platform early enough to capitalize on being one of the early adopters. 

But like I said, right now we don’t know where the next big thing is going to be.

It’s a little easier to jump into multiple platforms if you’re a large organization with lots of resources, but not so easy if you’re a small organization or single individual.

If you’re a small organization or a single individual at this point, I’d recommend just keeping your eye on this technology, some of these platforms, and wait for the right opportunity to present itself.

Segment 2

An article in the Guardian talks about how British national and local governments are using targeted ads on search engines and social media to “nudge” behavior.

What they call sensitive data is really the same data that digital marketers use to target their products to a specific audience.

It says “A new form of “influence government”, which uses sensitive personal data to craft campaigns aimed at altering behaviour has been “supercharged” by the rise of big tech firms.”

Examples of this, found by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, were campaigns to deter young people from becoming online fraudsters and another campaign that tried to influence how people should properly light a candle.

While targeted advertising is common across businesses, one researcher argues that the government using it to drive behavioral change could create a perfect feedback loop.

Something I didn’t know was that the British government, under David Cameron, had a Behavioural Insight Team – or what they call a “nudge unit” – which helped look for ways to help people pay their car taxes or encourage people to buy loft insulation.

One arm of the program, which is the anti-radicalization program, involves traditional “knock and talk” visits, where officers make a home visit to talk with the young person’s parents and attempt to steer them to a different life path.

The danger, he writes, is the combination of the marketing data, you get from Google and Facebook, and all the data that the British government collects on its own people.

That is what target audience analysis is.

With all the big data that a government could potentially get its hands-on, it could paint a very accurate picture of an individual and I assume start a slow, behavioral modification process by altering and customizing the information that gets in front of that individual.

While it’s probably a good thing for the government to achieve goals like reducing house fires or preventing cybercrime, they warn that the rise of “influence government” could cause harm.

This was extremely interesting to me and is something that I have an interest in with my Virginia Tech studies.

This Behavioural Insight Team is something I had never heard about before reading this and will be curious to find out a little more.

Segment 3

Finally, in the world of tech and on a similar line of thinking as the two previous articles.

Facebook and Ray-Ban have teamed up to create a $300 pair of smart glasses.

The glasses have two front-facing cameras for capturing video and photos they will sync with your camera roll app and you can take photos and videos either by touching the sides of your glasses or hands-free by saying “Hey Facebook take a video.”

These are not augmented reality glasses but they are a step in that direction.

If you remember several years ago Google came out with Google Glass which is was an odd-looking pair of glasses that had a computer on it, but it did give you augmented reality.

These glasses look like a typical pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses with two tiny holes in the corners where the cameras are located.

You charge them by putting them in the sunglasses case and Facebook says the battery will last up to about 6 hours of intermittent use.

The author of the article gave them a try and says they feel just like a normal pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses and they’re relatively affordable as well starting at $299 up to about $379.

In addition to Google Glass, Snapchat also had a pair of photo-taking sunglasses a couple of years back.

Those glasses receive some press but they also faded away.

That’s probably because they were bright yellow and hideous-looking.

These on the other hand look like a regular pair of sunglasses anyone would be wearing at the beach.

The question is with all the media coverage of people disagreeing with Facebook’s privacy policies, will consumers be comfortable buying a pair of sunglasses and having Facebook on their face?

There’s probably a lot of people that would like to be able to rapidly take pictures or videos by touching their glasses and not having to pull out their phone, but do they want it so bad that they will conveniently forget Facebook’s privacy issues?

I’ll be honest. I kind of like them but I’ll wait a little bit longer.

Wrap Up

So that’s a wrap for #15. I will try and get back into the routine for this year.

If you have any questions or comments for me, just go to commstrategy.co and shoot me a note.

Thank you again for listening.

I’m Mike Nicholson, and I’ll see you next week.


Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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