Augmented Reality and Social Media: the new inseparable duo

24 October 2019

The love story between Augmented Reality and the General Public started in 2015. It happened on Snapchat and was the first step of a long (love) story.

The first significant mass use of AR was with the first filters through snapchat in 2015. Filters are a AR marketing tool used on social medias, to share original pictures, wearing a “facemask”, may it be to beautify yourself, to celebrate an event, or to try on products for example. Augmented Reality is digital and digital lovers are on social medias. It creates the “wow” effect, which often ends by going viral on social media.

The social media released its first 7 AR filters in 2015, among them was the famous “rainbow vomit”. Augmented Reality has never quit social networks ever since, it has even shot up as Instagram announced in 2017 on Twitter (yes, on Twitter.) the adoption of AR filters too, just after Facebook invested in the Belarusian selfie firm MSQRD. On return these filters made Snapchat successful. 

Why does it work?

Social media aim at gathering people and create connexions between them. For most social media (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr…) it goes through entertaining content that can be easily shared with other users that are mainly digital natives (circa 72% of them). Social media always need to break new around and AR technologies perfectly adapt to this goal and this target with the possibility to create impressive content and before everything else highly interactive. And when something raises the interest of social media users it goes viral. AR doesn’t create totally new experiences that could scare users, it improves previous practices like sharing pictures or playing games on social networks with friends. Nevertheless it couldn’t work that well if it wasn’t that easy to use : no additional device is required, no skills too, even a 4 year old child could easily use it. Simplicity is the key.

Where is AR in social media? 

Augmented Reality technologies are used in many areas, from medicine to sport training. Here are some concrete examples of the social media AR sector. 

Augmented Reality pictures on social media

Personal pictures are key elements of most of the social media, from Facebook or LinkedIn profile pictures to pictures-based social media like Instagram or Snapchat. Actually visual content have proven to be successful on social networks and videos are said to be the next big device, and AR should be invited to the party. The “rainbow vomit” filter made the success of Snapchat back in 2015 and a lot of filters for everyone’s taste. 3D artists create even more inventive filters and improve older ones, such as FaceApp recent success with an incredibly realistic aging filter, while there already was an aging filters among the 7 first Snapchat filters. And filter creativity is unlikely to stop as Facebook (and Instagram) launched their new app to enable anybody to create their own 3D filter. It’s called Spark AR and they also provide a free full  formation on how to use this tool for beginners.

AR pictures do not stop at your face with an added effect, the possibilities are unlimited. For instance with Snapchat you can add you personal Bitmoji – an expressive cartoon avatar you can design to look like you (or not) – and make him dance on the picture. Back in 2017 Snapchat collaborated with the famous artist Jeff Koons to create virtual pieces of art that would be only accessible in Augmented Reality through the app at particular places. That’s not all, Snapchat’s Lens Studio enables to create fantastic AR visuals that can turn a building’s facade into a giant pizza on which slices of chorizo are popping. 

Augmented Reality games on social media

AR widely exceeded social media, particularly as far as games are concerned. When Pokemon Go skyrocketed in 2016, social media were “only” commentators and catalysts of this success. But games are also a tool for social media to entertain their users and keep them on the platform by making them play together. Facebook and Messenger have been offering simple games for years. Snapchat followed the trend last year and introduced Snappables : quite funny AR facial games to play with friends. Shortly after, Facebook Messenger released the same kind of games, multiplayer games, on the chat. Most of them are developed by the community of developers, who are now allowed to monetize their games. It’s probably only the beginning of AR in social games, as its immersive capacities are pretty useful for social media’s goals to engage customers.

Augmented Reality advertising on social media

Another big feature of social media is advertising. Necessary to run these free platforms, ads still have to compete with each other and draw the user’s attention, no matter whether it is paid advertising or brand content on the company’s account. We wrote a previous article about how AR can improve the relationship with your customers with a point on advertising AR tools. We talked earlier about how lenses changed the social media selfies. Filters also became a new advertising tool, offering fun experiences and funnel into the customer’s life. Let’s take the example of a well known fashion designer brand: Michael Kors. For the National Sunglasses Day in the United States, Michael Kors in partnership with Snapchat launched selfie filters of their new model for the occasion, with landscapes reflecting in the different filters. The result? More than 100M views of these filters and an increase in ad awareness (of 18% according to this report) and a rise in purchase intent. Beside filters, a lot of the content posted by brands on social media can give access to AR content, just as the packaging does. It may be the next generation of ad posts on Facebook or Instagram, a generation of experience advertising.


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