AI social media influencers

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer a new phenomenon.

It has already found its way into the digital marketing landscape.

AI helps with customer data management, content marketing, real-time data analysis and many other aspects of a business.

In this blog post, we will be discussing a certain type of AI, virtual influencers.

If you are a regular social media user, you might have seen an army of these virtual influencers popping up across Instagram recently. 

Just when you think you have got to grips with the digital marketing landscape, it changes again. 

Traditional online influencers

Whilst using Instagram, you see influencer posts on your feed every single day.

A celebrity could be promoting a new drink, a clothing line or new phone model and the brand would have paid them to do so. 

This type of influencer marketing helps a brand to become more recognised, open up new audiences and increase sales.

However, what happens when the celebrity promoting the product isn’t actually real?

What are virtual influencers?

The users of Instagram were introduced to virtual influencers in 2016, with the most famous example, Lil Miquela. Lil Miquela gained traction quickly on social media.

Currently, she sits at 1.6 million followers and has done campaigns with Calvin Klein, Prada and Samsung. 

In this blog post, we will be discussing the positive and negative impacts of virtual influencers in the digital marketing landscape. 

  • The Positive Impact of Virtual Influencers
  • What are the Negatives Surrounding Brands Using a Virtual Influencer?

The Positive Impact of Virtual Influencers

1. Time Saving

One of the main benefits of working with a virtual influencer is that it takes less time. 

Whilst the process of creating an image including Lil Miquela or any of her other CGI friends takes a couple of days, it is a lot simpler than working with real people. 

Directing a ‘real’ influencer during a shoot can be difficult and time consuming. 

The model will have to get their hair, makeup and outfit assembled. 

The photographers will have to get the right angles and a good amount of shoots. Then the images will have to be chosen, go through editing and be approved by the brand before they can be posted on social media.

Whereas with a virtual influencer, there is a lot less orchestration involved. 

It is still not simple by any means, however it does cut out a lot of the work.

2. Fan Base 

Another positive aspect is the influencer fan base.

Virtual influencers operate online much like real-life ones do. They have large fan bases and brand communities of people that follow them on social media and who are influenced by what they say and do.

Brands want to team up with them to tap into their fan bases. 

Examples of AI influencers

1. Lil Miquela

Lil Miquela collaborated with Samsung for the launch of their newest phone, the Galaxy Five. With this phone, Samsung wanted to aim their marketing towards the younger generation.

These virtual influencers are the latest ‘trend’ on social media and that means that a lot of younger users on the Instagram platform follow accounts like Lil Miquela. 

Lil Miquela and other CGI models resonate with next generation – generation Z. 

Samsung are able to reach their target audience through employing virtual influencers to be in their marketing campaign. 

One more positive would be the simple fact that they’re not human.

They have no need to sleep, eat or even breathe. 

They can work whenever, for any length of time, in any conditions.

2. KFC

For example KFC have started using a virtual version of Colonel Sanders.

This Colonel Sanders is younger, has an equally as large following and even does paid collaborations with brands.

Whilst the positives are plentiful, the negatives also need to be examined.

Disadvantages of virtual influencers

A negative that the media has reported on multiple times is that these virtual influencers could be taking jobs from real models and influencers.

For many influencers, their social media presence is how they get their name out there, start working with brands and make their income. 

With more virtual influencers popping up on social media, it could be taking the limelight away from human influencers. 

What are the Virtual Influencer Marketing Negative Impacts For Brands?

An alternative negative impact would be about the authenticity of these collaborations between virtual influencers and brands.

Can a virtual influencer recommend a product if they can’t physically test it?

Influencers promote a multitude of everyday items, from weight loss products to clothes. 

  • – But what if that influencer hadn’t tried them?
  • – What if that influencer couldn’t try them?
  • – Would you trust their opinion?

For example, Lil Miquela did a campaign with Calvin Klein, where she posted a few images on Instagram of her wearing the product and was featured in their advert.

However, Lil Miquela is incapable of being able to feel the item or wear it, yet she is still promoting it to her audience.

How many virtual influencers are there?

There are over 150 virtual influencers in existence already. These figures are expected to increase as influencer marketing spending continues to grows to a forecasted US$15 billion by 2022.

Only time will tell if these virtual influencers are a trend on the social media marketing landscape, or if they are here to stay and will shift branded content into a new direction.

What are your thoughts on virtual influencers?