In recent years, a new kind of influencer has made its appearance on the social media marketing scene — virtual influencers. These computer-generated characters have taken the digital world by storm, attracting millions of followers and securing lucrative brand deals.
With their flawless appearances, innovative storytelling and lack of real-life baggage, virtual influencers offer a fresh take on influencer marketing that is catching the attention of marketers and consumers alike.
The rise of virtual influencers has been a result of advances in technology, as well as the changing tastes of younger generations. The virtual influencer phenomenon speaks to a desire for more curated, aspirational content and the potential for an entirely new type of celebrity.
Let’s take a closer look at the rise of virtual influencers and explore the implications for the future of marketing and social media.
What are virtual influencers?
Virtual influencers are a new kind of influencer created through computer-generated imagery. These digital characters are designed to resemble real-life influencers in appearance and behavior.
They engage with their followers by posting content on social media platforms, building relationships with followers, partnering with brands, promoting products in their respective niches and developing their brands by exploring various creative ventures, such as music, fashion, and activism.
However, unlike regular influencers on social media, virtual influencers are not real people but rather are created and managed by companies using sophisticated technology. This process requires a significant investment of time, money and diverse skills from the team responsible for their creation and management.
How virtual influencers became popular
Virtual influencers have gained significant popularity in recent years due to several factors, including advancements in technology and their ability to interact with followers in a highly realistic manner.
Around 35% of consumers, particularly those between 18-44, have purchased products promoted by virtual influencers. In fact, 58% of social media users follow at least one virtual influencer, demonstrating these digital avatars’ growing popularity and influence in the marketing industry.
The advancement of AI and 3D graphics has enabled the creation of highly realistic and sophisticated virtual characters that can interact with users in a natural and engaging way. AI algorithms can analyze data and generate personalized responses that feel natural and conversational, while 3D graphics can create virtual characters with lifelike facial expressions, body movements and emotions.
As a result, they can converse with followers naturally, respond to comments and messages, and even generate their own content using machine learning and other AI-powered tools.
Virtual influencers can also be programmed to learn from user behavior, personalize interactions and create deeper connections with followers over time. This made them a powerful tool for brands seeking to create a more engaging and interactive social media presence and establish a deeper connection with their audiences.
Benefits of virtual influencers for brands
Virtual influencers have become an increasingly popular resource for brands seeking to engage with audiences on social media. They offer several benefits over human influencers, including greater flexibility, consistency and control over brand messaging.
Let’s explore the benefits of virtual influencers over human influencers and the opportunities they provide brands in social media marketing.
While human influencers with over a million followers can charge brands over $250,000 per post, one of the most popular virtual influencers with over three million followers, Lil Miquela, charges only $9,000. This cost difference makes virtual influencers an appealing option for smaller brands or those with limited marketing budgets but still looking to reach high levels of engagement on social media.
Brands don’t need to pay for travel or accommodation expenses for virtual influencers to make appearances or attend events as they can participate in virtual events from anywhere in the world. They can also create and manage virtual influencers in-house or work with specialized agencies to design and execute their campaigns, which can significantly reduce marketing costs.
Target specific demographics
Virtual influencers can be customized to suit a brand’s marketing needs and objectives. They can be designed to target a specific age group or geographic location and promote various products and services across different social media platforms.
Brands can create virtual avatars that embody certain values, lifestyles or interests that resonate with their target audience. This approach can help brands build a loyal and engaged following by targeting those most likely to be interested in their products or services.
Additionally, virtual influencers can communicate in multiple languages. It’s beneficial for brands looking to reach an international audience, making it easier to connect with audiences in different regions around the world.
Virtual influencers can also be programmed to interact with followers in a highly personalized and interactive manner, further enhancing their ability to retain followers.
Virtual influencers are not subject to the limitations of real-life influencers, such as physical distance, fatigue or personal issues. They don’t need to take breaks, rest or sleep, and they can continue to post content and engage with their followers at all times of the day.
Virtual influencers are available to followers around the clock and posting content in real-time. They can respond to comments and questions from followers in real time, helping brands to build a stronger connection with their audience. These influencers can work with brands beyond different time zones.
Drawbacks of virtual influencers
Although digital influencers come with several advantages, it’s crucial to consider potential downsides such as authenticity, transparency and ethics concerns.
Virtual influencers don’t appear as genuine as human influencers, potentially impacting their effectiveness in promoting products and services. They lack the personal touch, emotions and connection that human influencers bring. As a result, it can be difficult for them to connect and engage their audiences in the same way as their human counterparts.
Another issue arising from virtual influencers is the challenge of ensuring transparency and ethical conduct. Audiences may struggle to identify who is responsible for the content these virtual influencers create and share. This lack of transparency can make it difficult for audiences to hold virtual idols accountable for their actions.
The rise of virtual influencers has brought about a new era of influencer marketing that reshapes how brands interact with audiences on social media. As technology advances, they will become more common and sophisticated, with companies using AI to minimize human involvement. In the future, virtual influencers may be capable of creating content and interacting with followers in real-time. Marketers should be ready for this new generation of influencers.