The Reality of Virtual Influencers

January 30, 2019 9:48 am Published by

 

2018 saw the rise of virtual influencers. The subject of Virtual Influencers has rocked the influencer landscape leaving both marketers and influencers a bit confused. What is a virtual influencer? Are Virtual Influencers a fad or are they here to stay? How will Virtual Influencers affect me?

In 2018 the demand for influencer marketing increased significantly. The World Federation of Advertisers reported that 65% of marketers are looking to scale their use of influencers in the next 12 months. While the influencer industry has risen, so have the machines! With audiences in the millions, some virtual influencers have already collaborated with heavyweight brands like Prada and Gucci.

What is a virtual influencer?

 

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A virtual influencer is a computer-generated avatar that uses artificial intelligence to operate on social media channels in the same way a human influencer would. Much like a human influencer, virtual influencers can gain popularity and collaborate with brands who want to use their influence to communicate the brand’s story with an audience. One of the most popular virtual Influencers is Lil Miquela, a “19 year old” computer generated model with over 1.5 million Instagram followers. Miquela has worked with fashion brands Prada and Channel. Another example of a virtual influencer is Shundu, the world’s first digital supermodel. Shundu collaborated with Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty lipstick. The collaboration went viral.

 

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🍊🍊🍊 . . 📸@cjw.photo . #fenty #fentybeauty #mattemoiselle #sawc #3dart

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Human influencers come and go, however, IP lives forever

Human influencers have a ceiling to their potential. Virtual IP has almost unlimited potential. There are companies such as SuperPlastic, a designer toy company turned digital agency for virtual influencers, who are exploring possibilities of using AI and technology platforms to revolutionize entertainment and social media. They can do this by creating interactive games and using trends created by virtual influencer to influence a certain way of life.

The company behind virtual influencer Lil Miquela, Brud, is now worth at least $125 million after a new round of financing the company is currently closing. Investors are backing virtual influencer companies mainly because they are creating content that is free from the personalities and scandals that has defined a generation of social media stars.

Fad or are we living in an episode of Black Mirror?

 

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For the foreseeable future, virtual influencers are not going anywhere. The success of virtual influencers like Lil Miquela and the incredible amount of venture capital that is being invested in virtual influencer companies means that we should all be prepared to see many more virtual influencers on our timelines. While virtual influencers may be fake, their audiences are real. According to managing director of Kantar, Gagan Bhalla, “What matters is not whether something exists or not, rather how creatively can a story be built around it – take Marvel or DC superheroes. They don’t exist, yet movies based on them are huge box-office grossers.”

What does this all mean for human influencers?

Human stories that are aspirational and inspirational will always be relevant. Brands will still want their stories to be associated with human stories that are in line with their identity and vision. After all, it is humans who will be buying their products. With this being said, more than ever, human influencers have a huge responsibility to uphold an appropriate image and follow FTC guidelines at all times while creating content that is engaging and authentic. As an influencer, you are now not only competing with other humans but also with technology.

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