Sunday June 23, 2024

Virtual influencers: the new kids on the block

By Dr Imran Batada
October 07, 2023

Virtual influencers are AI-generated characters that are modified to imitate people. They are made using various technologies like AI, 3D, modelling, and animation.

In as much as they are computer-generated, they have traits, characters, looks, and personalities like actual people. Therefore, their actions also depict human personalities, which is perfect for their roles as virtual influencers. They use their capability to influence people to try out certain brands, services, or products.

Since they emulate human behaviour, you may find it hard to differentiate them from humans while online. Virtual influencers are increasing and gaining popularity in the world. Their creators choose how they will look, dress, and act. They also choose their interaction and engagement basis.

Virtual influencers are customized based on what they advertise, for example, travel, fashion, beauty products, gadgets, etc. Since virtual influencers are flexible, they give brands more control over collaborations. In case a mistake is made it can be erased and amended fast.

Virtual influencers are authentic and have full control of their roles. Unlike real people who act as social media influencers or general influencers, they do not have to deal with privacy, availability, and controversy issues. Therefore, companies can be assured that their brands will be represented in the right ways.

Additionally, businesses can also create a unique persona to meet their marketing goals. It is possible to customize virtual influencers to appeal to certain audiences; they can also cater to certain interests.

Another great thing about virtual influencers is that they can provide many companies with influencing services at once. Therefore, they will help more brands and companies to grow without any contradiction. Luckily, due to virtual influencers’ diversity, they can indulge in different imaginative scenarios without any limitation or judgement.

A human influencer may have some barriers like religion, beliefs, personality, legal obligations, etc. However, an AI-generated influencer will not have to feel any restrictions. Therefore, virtual influencers can provide great narratives, experiences, and interactive advertising. The end goal of grabbing the consumer’s interest will be met.

If you have a tight budget, you can consider hiring a virtual influencer. Dealing with human influencers with large followings can be a bit more expensive than dealing with virtual influencers. Human influencers may even have some time restrictions, let’s say they are out of town or dealing with some other brands. However, virtual influencers work all-round and can provide services at lower costs when fully developed and customized for certain functions.

The cost of hiring a virtual influencer varies based on services offered. For example, Lil Miquela charges $9,000 per post. The potential of virtual influencers is still to be explored to ensure they provide the best assistance to people.

Some well-known virtual influencers include Lil Miquela, Guggimon, Milla Sophia, Rozy, Shudu, Thalasya, Bermuda, etc. They all deal in different niches like fashion. Virtual influencers are great as they easily attract customers through storytelling and interaction.

In the next few years, the global virtual influencer market is estimated to be worth $530 billion. As of now, there are over 200 active virtual influencers on social media. Some brands like Coinbase, Maje fashion brand, Balmain, Balenciaga, Prada, Yooks, Nars, and Tiffany & Co have partnered with virtual influencers to promote their products.

In as much as virtual influencers are great, they challenge the traditional notions of celebrity and fame. It becomes hard to distinguish between real and artificial. Also, the way they are created contributes to unrealistic beauty standards and negative feelings of identity and self-worth since they are next to perfect.

Luckily, they are well-customized to depict different people. Another great advantage is that virtual influencers are not limited by time or geographical constraints and can be engaged at any time. Therefore, brands can build long-term relationships with the target audience.

However, there are some disadvantages of virtual influencers since they lack their emotional connection. Their main role is to promote a product, service, or brand, but they will fail to establish a deep emotional connection. They may not have the same kind of empathy or understanding as real people. Therefore, it will not be easy to engage well with followers since they are controlled by a team.

Their customization is based on developers, marketers, and designers. They also cannot provide real-life experiences like human influencers. For example, a human social media influencer may have tried out a certain skin product and liked it, however, a virtual influencer will just promote a product based on what it has been fed.

Also, companies are continuously using virtual influencers without disclosing and can even raise concerns based on the advertising. Moreover, they may not be as flexible as human influencers.

Both virtual and human influencers are great at what they do. Therefore, brands or companies need to be sure of the kind of help they need to choose the right way to promote their products or services. Additionally, people are continuously using social media and this provides a large platform for influencers to succeed in their campaigns.

People also like to hear other people’s opinions about certain brands, companies, services, or products, and this leads to the success of influencer marketing. The rise of virtual influencers is set to continue in the coming years. Brands will use them to build their reputation, develop innovative marketing campaigns, and connect with consumers. In some cases the virtual influencer engagement is 2.6 times more than human influencer engagement.

Virtual influencers are positively shaping the media. The ease of customization is making them popular with each passing day. They can be customized to have a certain fashion sense which is great for the consumer. Fashion industries can easily use that creativity to boost their fashion collections.

Through different designs, brands can get more ideas on how to improve their products to suit the virtual influencer’s taste. Virtual influencers will continue to impact consumer buying decisions if you put across services and products in a way that people can easily relate.

Companies need to embrace that virtual influencers are here to stay and will even increase in number to suit different needs. However, human influencers will still be used since they provide the human touch that people relate with.

The writer is the author of ‘Digital Pakistan’. He tweets/posts @imranbatada and can be reached at: