marketing / social media

virtual influencers are taking over – Revolutionary or Terrifying?

Influencers have taken Instagram by storm, especially in 2019. However, unlike how social media was originally intended, it’s no longer based entirely on human interaction. 

Advertisements reach your Instagram feed daily, and in many ways with the help of influencers, become a regular part of your life. We buy clothes, visit tourist attractions and even pick next year’s holiday destination through influencers spreading the word. 

But, is it revolutionary or terrifying that some of these influencers are not human, but computer-generated characters?

Is it a genius, money-saving concept or nothing but a sham? The creation of animated influencers is certainly questionable. 

Over the past five years, the art of influencers has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, with 17% of companies spending over half of their marketing budget on influencers. An astonishing amount, with a lot of added risk to say the least. (*)

Instagram seems to be the most popular selling point. With over 1 billion users, a decade since its release in 2010, there is an incredibly strong network of influencers posting millions of sponsored posts each year. 

The original purpose behind social media.

Remember when you couldn’t virtually reach a friend without having to call their parents’ landline? Social media was originally created to advance human connection and to increase our interactive potential with new and incredible ways to share life experiences and memories online, not just with loved ones but the entire world if we wish. 

We have spent years defining social media success as ‘’the more human you are, the better.’’ Humanising your brand is what supposedly brings the business in. People want to see people in order to place trust in the company. But, as time and technology quickly progress, virtual influencers are taking the cake… not eating it, but selling it for double the price. 

The trend of the future.

Computer-generated models are taking the world by storm on Instagram and various other social platforms, just as a human influencer would. Did you know that virtual influencers have almost three times more engagement than real influencers? (*)

Virtual influencers are unpaid, not subject to a particular opinion and better yet, available at any time of the day. So, are they the future? We would assume so, since characters like Miquela Sousa (widely known as ‘lil miquela’), now has a following of 1.6 million. 

If you were to browse through your Instagram feed, model Miquela looks like any normal Brazillian American 19-year old-girl. But she isn’t real. Miquela has taken part in many advertisements, a memorable one being a Calvin Klein campaign alongside famous model, Bella Hadid, (which did receive some negative backlash (*) and well-known Stranger Things actress, Millie Bobby Brown.

Brud, a Los Angeles based company first introduced Miquela in 2016, who seems to be one of the first computer-generated characters until her popularity caused for more similar creations to appear this year. Almost 260,000 people listen to her music on Spotify, and she has given interviews with celebrities at Coachella. It sounds like any other day in the life of the famous.

The disadvantages.

While they are easier to mould and change with the times, working with virtual influencers means brands can easily manipulate a virtual opinion on their products and create an inauthentic message controlled entirely by themselves. 

You can imagine why businesses have welcomed virtual influencers with open arms because the risk of human mistakes is pricey. Going virtual means brands can rest easy that their latest famous client could never tarnish their reputation by partying too hard at the weekend. Which, in turn, does minimise unpredictable behaviour. Yet, wouldn’t we sooner trust a real person who has emotions and a real-life opinion?

It seems like a fair battle in 2019 since many celebrities came under fire for falsely promoting products without mentioning the fact they were paid for the ad. Before the new rules came into place, 2017 was a time where this was happening frequently amongst the famous crowd. (*)

What do you think about virtual influencers? Do you think they are revolutionary in the new world of technology? Or, do you prefer brands that are a little more human? Let us know what you think! 


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