Virtual Influencers – Who are they and what to consider

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

We spend a lot of time on social media sites. There is no end to the flood of images, movies, and memes that we see. When it comes to determining what is genuine and not, it is getting more difficult (apart from leaving social media, of course). Some of the influencers you see on social media aren’t really genuine people at all.

People’s preoccupation with sci-fi movies about robots taking over the world has waned. It has gone from a far-fetched idea to a possible reality owing to tremendous advancements in science, engineering, and artificial intelligence. Virtual influences were mostly unknown to the general public before the creation of the metaverse. Brands such as Calvin Klein and Moncler experimented with leveraging virtual influencers to promote their brands, but the concept never really took on beyond the point of creating headlines. Virtual influencers will become increasingly common as companies, corporations, and creative minds join the metaverse to expand their reach.

With each new technology advancement, their looks become more customizable and lifelike. Some people believe they can have a positive influence on the world by helping those who are struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation. Another way “people might be made to feel inadequate,” says University College professor Peter Bentley, is via the use of virtual influencers. In this article, we’ll provide you with information on what virtual influencers are, how they work, and what are the things that should be taken into account. 

What (Who) Are Virtual Influencers?

There is a new generation of “virtual influencers” sweeping the internet, and millions of people across the globe are following and engaging with them. These characters may not be made of flesh and blood, yet they nonetheless have a strong emotional impact (and entertaining). Human-to-human H2R (Human-to-robot) engagement is still decades away in the real world, but social media is one location where H2R (Human-to-robot) interaction is advancing rapidly.

“Fictitious people” and “robots” are other terms for computer-generated characters that are intended to seem as human as possible and to have their distinct characteristics. “A first-person vision of the world, and made available on media platforms for the goal of influence” are the characteristics of these digital personas.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is used to generate virtual influencers. In the influencer marketing field, they are mimicking how genuine influencers or content producers utilize social media. To be clear, virtual influencers who create and post material on their accounts are not as “robot-like” as one would assume. From Spider-Man to Mr. Bean, any fictional figure you’ve ever identified with has the potential to serve as a virtual influence. You may consider a character to be a virtual influencer as long as it is created using software, has a human appearance, and influences people’s behavior (particularly their online behavior and purchasing decisions).

The primary goal of these computer-generated influencers is to take the place of real-life counterparts and do away with the drawbacks of having human equivalents. Because of their nature, virtual influencers (or VIs) have several advantages. They are becoming a major player in the influencer marketing sector, with more of them surfacing on Instagram every week and more firms eager to become engaged in this cutting-edge kind of advertising.

How Do Virtual Influencers Work?

In the strictest sense of the term, virtual influencers do not “exist.” So how do they function? Individuals and brands with a deep interest in technology are behind each of them, but their identities remain anonymous. Instagram influencers are the ones who have grown their platforms and molded these virtual personas into globally recognized figures. Using computer graphics, you may establish yourself as a digital influencer. Everything about these influencers’ appearances, from their clothing to the settings in which they share photos, is fabricated. There are, however, certain exceptions to this rule. Imma, for example, was previously used in a marketing effort in Japan, where she was a virtual influencer.

With an increasing number of elegant digital characters appearing on Instagram and other social networks, and gaining big followings, virtual influencers have become a strong and futurist marketing tool. 3D models, like celebrities and bona fide influencers, are commonly used in advertisements, brand partnerships, and PR stunts. The makers have complete control over their appearance, attire, and demeanor. On Instagram, individuals also have the power to choose who they date, who they break up with, and who they work with. Finally, they get to retain all of the money these influencers generate from their brand relationships.

Virtual influencers haven’t taken off till now since they’re still relatively new. Since virtual influencers are a new phenomenon, there is a lack of legislation or rules for firms that wish to operate with them ethically but have little understanding of how. As of late, Meta has been working on developing an ethical framework to govern the usage of virtual influencers.

When it comes to Instagram interaction rates, virtual influencers are three times more popular than actual influencers. It should be stated that more than half of all customers in the United Kingdom are intrigued by the concept of virtual beings in some way.

Some digital influencers are regarded as “virtual idols” in China, where they are listed alongside celebrities. There is a wide range of personalities that may be embodied by these computer-generated personae. More than $1 billion was spent on these characters in 2021 alone. That the nation has made significant investments in computer-generated imagery (CGI) technology, which has enabled virtual idols to take on a life of their own, in part explains why the country has such a vast and loyal fan base.

What Are The Advantages Of Virtual Influencers?

As companies strive to find new methods to interact with their customers online, digital influencers may provide a degree of intimacy that traditional celebrities, brand spokespeople, and influencers simply cannot. Isn’t it more cost-effective to build your digital influencer from the ground up and customize it to your product or service?

Digital characters are a novelty that is likely to attract clients, but there are several benefits to take into account. Nobody has to be aware of this more than companies that want to remain ahead of the curve and connect with a new audience. So, much like ‘real influencers,’ companies that partner with these virtual faces will get access to a wide variety of advantages.

Another perk for brands is their ability to adapt to changing market conditions. Brands will have more control over their partnerships thanks to virtual influencers. Real-life influencers, for example, might make mistakes that are difficult to fix, and the campaign’s debut may be delayed as a consequence. Virtual influencers, on the other hand, allow for quick and easy edits and corrections. The AR and VR market is expected to reach $209 billion by the end of 2022, according to industry estimates. Customers will anticipate virtual showrooms and virtual try-on solutions from companies simply because of the increased convenience that these technologies will bring to the buying experience.

Marketing expenditures are a major factor in the creation of virtual influencers. As a result, this shouldn’t come as a shock to anybody. We’re all too acquainted with automation displacing people’s employment. One of the most recent developments in automation is VIs.

They don’t need to be compensated in any manner. You may even make them thank you by programming them to thank you for “life.” Celebrity endorsements are much more expensive in the long run than establishing and promoting a fictitious character. As a tried-and-true marketing strategy, the latter never goes out of style. Virtual influencers, like most new trends, need a pioneer to dip a toe in the water before the rest of us could follow suit.

Some companies have already begun to engage in this kind of forward-looking advertising. A pioneering step by Renault, the global car company, was the introduction of their very own virtual ambassador, Liv, in their recent television commercial. Designers like Dior, Coach, Balenciaga, and OUAI have collaborated with up-and-coming virtual stars.

Using virtual influencers also necessitates a digitalized environment in which the influencers engage. Consequently, you don’t have to depend on real-world circumstances for the influencer to sell your items. Rather than looking for human influencers and attempting to discover individuals with the “ideal match”, which can be a time and expensive process, firms may develop ambassadors that are exactly customized to them.

The virtual influencer movement is here to remain, no matter how we look at it. All of these characteristics make them appealing to a wide range of potential customers. Using unique storytelling, organizations can use these platforms to broaden their reach, boost impact marketing, and build relationships with customers.