TLDR: We’ve been able to preview the 360 image experience in Facebook’s Instant articles and Canvas Ads for awhie now, but the technology is being released as a standalone feature to the general public today. Anyone using an Android or iOS enabled device can view 360 images simply by tapping the compass icon and panning their device around while viewing an image. In this post we discuss what the technology is, where it’s headed, and how businesses can get the most out of it.
Exploring Immersive Digital Experiences
What are 360 Images?
If you haven’t dipped your toe into the world of “360” yet, get ready to be amazed…sort of. First glimpses of the technology were floated to the public at Facebook’s annual developer conference in 2014 as something called “spherical images”. And while the technology was kind of a neat party trick, it wasn’t been immediately clear how Facebook was planning to use it.
With the subsequent release of Facebook’s “Oculus Rift“, the idea behind 360 images and video have started to come a bit more into focus as the foundation of a legitimate virtual reality framework – one that could support the ability to share any experience in a deeper, richer way, not just through scripted advertising.
Driven by the ability to provide a ninety-one billion dollar a year gaming industry with the types of ground-breakingly immersive experiences that have always defined its progress, the race to produce a technology that achieves a total suspension of disbelief has been one of the major hallmarks of the digital experience for decades. So, it’s only natural (like so many pieces of gaming technology) that it has begun to influence other facets of our digital experience, including social media.
It’s not hard to imagine a world in which we don’t just use 360 images and video as the basis for buying products on a website, but in it.
How Will 360 Images Effect My Marketing Strategy?
Like all new technology, 360 is a bit awkward and won’t really change the game in any significant way for several years to come. As of now you must have a special camera or app to take one. Though we assume that these barriers will be quickly overcome as the technology gains more exposure, that is several months away. Users and developers alike are still very much in the process of figuring out what might be described as either the UX or ergonomics of how best to experience the VR that 360 was meant to support. Some technologists are already of the mind that it is this discomfort with the 360 environment that will push full scale holography to its next incarnation. Holodeck anyone?
Facebook, in the intermediary, is banking heavily on the idea that 360 images, video, and virtual reality are the next steps in how we will experience social media..
“We think people will share a lot more 360 content in the future, especially as technology makes it easier to record it themselves. We’re excited you can discover them on Facebook.” ~ Mark Zuckerberg
Content and social media marketers should be getting familiar with the technology sooner, rather than later. For many experience-driven organizations, 360 has the potential to be a huge leap forward in the ability to communicate the gravity of their product in a way that regular photos or video could never quite capture. Whether it’s anything from the worlds tallest roller coaster to the world’s greatest nightclub, 360 provides a fully immersive way to communicate what you sell.
How do 360 Images Work?
360 images will currently come across your Facebook feed the same way that any other image would, but with a compass icon in the middle. Clicking on this icon will allow you to tilt and pan your phone or other device, such that you can view a full three dimensional experience. In the coming months, larger manufacturers like Samsung and Apple are planning to provide camera and application updates that will allow for easier capture and distribution of 360 images.
As with 360 video’s, Facebook advertising with these new photos is not allowed quite yet. It’s difficult to tell how these images will actually pan out in the near term and developing a set of best practices first, is going to be crucial here. For organizations looking to get out there on the leading edge, remember that Facebook often rewards early adopters with significant increases in organic exposure. If your business has the resources, investing in a 360 camera could be great move. Staying ahead of technology trends in social media, whether it be Facebook or anywhere else, helps ensure that your everyday content is not just another piece of noise.
Looking to develop your marketing strategy with either 360 images or video? Contact us an we’d be glad to help.