Two influential former Facebook employees are now deep into the development phase for Fabric, a digital social media integrator/journal that promises to let users compile their digital paper trails into comprehensive, online stories. As content marketers, we think a lot about digital storytelling; Fabric offers us a new, rich, and complex visual medium through which we can compose.
Cofounder Arun Vijayvergiya told TechCrunch, “In the really long term, we want to be an augmented memory solution. You want to be able to search through your brain at some point—we think that will exist. We’re trying to take the first step towards that.”
Is this a short-lived techie pipe dream, or the next step in the evolution of social media? Is there a place in all this for businesses to join in on the augmented reality diary format like they have with Waze and Google Maps? With the advent of Pokémon Go and the precedent set for advertisements on popular GPS apps, audiences are quickly growing accustomed to augmented reality and the possibility of more richly integrated multimedia platforms. The question isn’t if this is the future of storytelling—it’s when, where, and how quickly will audiences catch on?
Last year, it looked like virtual reality had a shot at becoming the next storytelling frontier. Google rolled out Glass and Cardboard VR glasses, and Oculus Rift partnered with multiple major enterprises to work on marketing transformation through experimental means. While the leap to full-on virtual reality might have been a bit premature, Fabric is different. For one, its founders are former high-ups at the premiere social media company. And while at first pass, Fabric does appear to do something that several apps already sort of do, it strives to do them in a better, more neatly integrated way.
The digital age has turned us all into data nerds, especially when that data is presented in intuitive, high-design ways. Lately, the biggest problem facing would-be personal data junkies is that there are too many silos recording different fragments of our lives. Fabric breaks that barrier by integrating your phone’s camera roll, your Instagram account, and your Facebook account to create an easy-to-browse map of time and space that shows when you went where, what you saw, what you did, and who you were with. It’s mesmerizing—and it’s just the sort of thing that creates automatic nostalgia (which is a great way to sell things). Combine that emotional connection with the priceless geographical data that Fabric collects along the way, and the platform is ripe for some serious marketing potential.
For brands wondering why they should pay attention to a bootstrapped start-up founded by a couple of big dreamers from Facebook, the reason is simple: for large enterprises in particular, marketing transformation demands proactive, sometimes unconventional, thinking. And even conventional wisdom says that apps that once seemed beyond the reach of advertisements are now not only fair game, but could soon be passé. If you’re looking to make a splash in the location-based native content game, getting in early with a new platform is a great way to potentially get a lot of bang for your buck. McDonald’s recently made a blockbuster partnership with Pokémon Go, which shows that native content can and should include native location-based ads. These types of ads still have a bit of reach because users haven’t had an opportunity to get ad fatigue with unfamiliar platforms, especially since location-based ads are often much more participatory than true interrupt advertisements on more traditional channels.
There are plenty of hints about the future of personalized digital journals that we can glean from Fabric’s early stages. The combination of maps, timelines, and multimedia integration of photos, videos, and events shows that barriers are being broken down between content channels and how we perceive them. As brands look to fit in with the way users consume content today and will continue to in the future, it’s best to assume that sticking to one platform is a mistake. The benefit of targeting Fabric or whatever platform usurps it as the future of integrated digital storytelling is that it forces brands to think big picture while targeting individual users where they are—both digitally and literally.
It’s no secret that location-based advertising is growing. And not in the old “Are you a single 30-something in Anytown, USA? Find dozens of singles in your area today,” kind of way. While that cookie-based targeted marketing was creepy and vague all at the same time, the new paradigm integrates the massive array of data your apps collect to create a real-time, real-life map of who you are and where you’ve been. It isn’t hard to envision how valuable that could be to a brand looking to reach a demographic that can’t be clearly identified with search history—or in a way that supersedes the easy-to-ignore banner ads of yore.