10 hour bushwhacking epic pays off, with a visit to the little lake (at 6400ft) that feeds our cabin water system. #mountainlife #360VR #pembylife #discoverbc #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

360 degree panoramas and virtual tours have been around for a while. But now it seems, with the booming market in virtual reality headsets and content, that this immersive experience might just be ready to go mainstream. And camera makers have come to the party with some amazingly affordable technology that lets anyone point and click in 360 degrees. So let’s get started.

Step one. Do you even NEED 360VR?

Not all brands will benefit from immersive content. But if your strategy involves sharing experiences (travel, real estate, events) or storytelling (some might argue that’s every brand’s job) the ability to pan around an image or video can provide valuable engagement.

One experiment for Columbia sportswear compared identical 360VR and standard video content. The 360 video ad had a lower retention rate than the standard ad, but drove 41% more earned actions than the standard ad and had a 46% higher view count at the end of the experiment. What brand wouldn’t want that?

Step two. Start small.

Ricoh Theta 360VR CamerasCreating content in 360 degrees is a totally different mindset. But if you want to play around with the idea, grab yourself a Ricoh Theta 360. I got mine for $449 CDN at London Drugs. There are a number of other consumer camera options out there with more resolution and features, but for my money right now, the Theta is the easiest and most versatile choice.

With one click you can point and shoot stills or video in full spherical format. The camera does all the stitching and formatting. You will need a smart phone or tablet with the Theta app to see any live preview or playback of the images and upload to your selected share point, but Ricoh even makes that easy with a free theta360.com account where you can store and share your content to YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.

Step Three. Shoot stuff and share it.

Look around your office, store, location or event. Hold up the camera and capture scenes that will be interesting for your audience to explore. If you have action to capture, put the Theta on a tripod and you can grab up to 25 minutes of fairly decent video.

Just remember, the photographer is almost always in the shot. So comb your hair. And everyone else around is in your shot too, so have lots of release forms on hand if you plan to use the content professionally.

Step four. Share 360 relationships.

Besides the #Theta360 community there are lots of people and influencers who love to share the new VR content. Surf around and see who they are and what they are up to. Follow them and comment, and thank people who share your 360 content. Find a VR headset to try out, or for 20 bucks grab the cheapo Google Cardboard viewer for your phone. It’s a fun world to play in and it won’t be long until you find yourself trying to swipe and scroll traditional stills and video!

O Canada Day! Things are lookin up! #360vr #GranvilleIsland #Canada150 #theta360 #jazzfestvancouver #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Step five. Go pro.

If this is a winning strategy for your brand’s social media and customer engagement, look at upping the ante. The Theta’s low resolution video won’t really compete for high end brands in a 4K retina screen world (though there is a new THETA coming, of course!). Editing, titles and effects are a whole different sphere as well. Doing the research into higher quality equipment and suppliers blows the budget of this humble article, but Dr. Google knows all.

In the meantime, scroll on down for a few more examples of 360 experiences.

See you around!

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