Should Your Association Care About the Metaverse?

It’s the event space on everyone’s lips these days, but does it make sense for your organization? The truth is, it’s a strategy just like any other—and that means you have to assess whether it meets your needs.

By Melissa Bouma

From virtual rap concerts happening in Fortnite to attempts to re-create an office in a digital environment, the metaverse is having a moment right now. And it’s probably tempting to want to experiment with this new medium, especially as it seems to play into one of the biggest strengths of associations: events.

But is the metaverse something your association really needs to care about?

It’s a logical enough question. After all, the metaverse seems to be cropping up everywhere you look. For one thing, Facebook famously changed its corporate name to Meta last year. And in seeking to bring people together, associations are constantly looking to elevate the virtual event experience, which has its limitations.

However, before jumping into the metaverse, ask yourself whether it makes sense—just as you would when contemplating any new initiative, such as joining a new social network or building a new content vertical. Here are four questions your association should ask when weighing the pros and cons.

What’s Your Appetite for Risk?

Any new initiative is an investment, even if you aren’t putting up new capital for the effort, so naturally you want to know if it will pay off.

The metaverse is still unproven for many industries. To that end, think of joining the metaverse as a bet: While you can do market research to help guarantee your success, there is still some risk involved. If your association pulls it off, the reward could be high.

But you should also know ahead of time whether you can handle the opposite outcome.

Does It Reach Your Target Audience?

If you polled four people off the street, odds are high that one of them is an early adopter; think someone who has to have the latest smartphone, laptop, etc. (A Pew Research Center study puts the total at 28 percent of Americans, to be exact.)

Naturally, a metaverse-style event is likely to attract early adopters. For example, South by Southwest (SXSW), which famously popularized Twitter and Foursquare, put together a metaverse-like experience for its 2021 and 2022 festivals. In this case, a metaverse-first version of the tech-forward event made sense, since SXSW is famous for targeting early adopters.

But if your members are slower to adapt to new ways of doing things, you could miss reaching large portions of your audience if you’re not careful.

Can You Support This Event?

SXSW brought in a vendor that put a team of half a dozen people on its metaverse project—a project that Mashable reports took two and a half months to create. Not every association can do that, let alone excel at it.

And don’t forget ongoing support. Every new platform you work on will need a content strategy after it’s built out. If that strategy isn’t there, it might limit uptake. Is your organization prepared for that?

Of course, there is another way to look at the support question: Can you scale down your ambitions? Finding a more manageable way to build something could put a metaverse-style event within reach for your association.

What’s the Potential?

Investing a lot of money and time in something just because it sounds interesting makes for a good moonshot, and maybe that’s what your organization wants. But ideally, it should teach you something that you can bring to future member or association initiatives. If you’re not confident that you can make this assessment, consider partnering with someone in the know to help you figure out whether your moonshot is worthwhile.

Ultimately, you may find there are other, less costly ways to get the results you want, such as content-driven immersive opportunities.

So, going back to the original question: Should your association be in the metaverse? Sure—if your audience is there, and you can properly support the investment.

Same as with every other potential content opportunity.

Melissa Bouma, CEO of Manifest, has more than 15 years of experience building insight-driven branding and content strategy, with a client base representing large companies, major universities, and prominent associations.

(Nafi Nurhadi/iStock/Getty Images Plus)