If you thought social media was blurring the line between what’s real and what’s not- wait till you hear about the new crop of influencers in town! Virtual influencers, as in digital creations —who are leading the best life ever on Instagram with beautiful pictures, product promotions, basically anything that a real influencer does.
The most famous virtual influencers today are Miquela Sousa(1.3m), Shudu(128.9k Followers), Sophia the Robot(15.5k followers), Bermuda(82.8k Followers), and Blawko(72.6k followers)
Sophia the Robot was activated in 2015 and is known for being the first robot in the world to be recognized as a citizen in Saudi Arabia.
While Shudu isn’t powered by artificial intelligence, she can be compared to a video game character, created by London-based fashion photographer Cameron James Wilson. What is different about Shudu, besides her existence, is that she looks incredibly real, so much so that Rihanna’s Fenty beauty reposted her image of her wearing their lipstick, not knowing she wasn’t real.
The most popular virtual influencer on the Internet right now is Miquela Sousa. With 1.3 million Instagram followers, Miquela states in her bio that she is 19, a model/musician with an interest in Black Lives Matter, the innocence project, LGBT issues, and justice for youth. Dubbed as a digital ‘IT Girl” by Vogue, Miquela’s feed shows her dressed in Prada outfits; she has also appeared in fashion gear by Chanel, Supreme, and Vans
Virtual influencers lie outside the definition of influencers who are known for authenticity as they express no real belief or preference.
“A virtual influencer, they’re the opposite of authentic. They’re completely fake.”
-Larissa Jensen, NPD Group
Despite this, brands can explore working with these influencers or better yet, making one they can control for themselves. It can greatly simplify social media marketing as the brand can decide the message of the campaign, the time to post, the kind of pictures to post without the hassle of dealing and negotiating with real influencers.
These influencers are no Kim Kardashian, at least not yet, and their following can be considered a small pool of thousands but those who are highly engaged. We’ve already covered why we believe micro-influencers are better for a brand in this post, and for those reasons, AI can power many virtual influencers with varied niches who can target different needs and trends.
Another advantage is the reduced risk of controversies. By working with a virtual influencer, brands can be assured that they will not do something that could impact their base of customers unlike real influencers, who being humans with capricious feelings, can do or say unexpected things.
Another slightly grey advantage is that the brands can decide how they want the influencer to look. There might be a tendency to make the influencer perfect-tall, thin, blemishless and unaging but at some point, this may not seem authentic and relatable to their audience.
Sure, these virtual influencers are a marketers dream- being able to place them on beautiful beaches without spending a dime on plane tickets!— but these avatars again cannot give a genuine experience of a product or service. For many social media users, word of mouth is the push for them to ‘add to cart’.
So, could these influencers overtake the hegemony of big-name influencers like the Kardashians, Selena Gomez or Ronaldo? We’re not really convinced yet as the term influencer itself is so new that to think of an unreal influencer might take some more time. However, as long as the influencer has got a profile on Instagram, Affable can accurately profile and help brands find them!
And like a virtual influencer, you no longer have to be real to resonate with real people. You just have to be online.