‘Human’ influencers not right for your brand? Rather go ‘virtual’

By our News Team | 2022

With virtual reality seemingly the next big thing in marketing, perhaps it’s not surprising that influencers are going that way too.

Social media influencers have become an integral element in many marketing strategies, particularly when it comes to targeting Millennial and Gen Z consumers. But is the next big thing in influencer marketing going to be the ‘virtual influencer’?

As the name suggests, virtual influencers exist only in the cyber world and are fictional computer-generated characters with near-human (sort of) features and personalities.

In a recent blog post, Natasha Miller, International Media Manager at Africa-based agency, The MediaShop, examines the rise of virtual influencers as an established media trend in some regions.

Miller notes that part of the marketing attraction of ‘real’ influencers is their ability to build deep human connections and establish trust with consumers.

Virtual Influencers

Virtual influencer Lil Miquela has more than three-million followers on Instagram. Photo credit: @lilmiquela on Twitter

“So, if relationship and trust are core, how on earth can a virtual influencer pull that off? Can one really trust a robot to have a real, authentic, engagement and build a meaningful relationship?” she says.

Miller continues: “One thing that is for sure is that consumers follow influencers primarily because they have interesting ideas or are entertaining. 

Form or size doesn’t necessarily matter

“In terms of trusted influence, it seems that form or size doesn’t always matter. Consumers will continue to follow influencers as sources of information and inspiration as long as they can identify with them and feel that trust is part of the value proposition.”

Knowing this, creators of social media content design these ‘people’ with purpose in mind. They choose what their virtual influencers look like, how they dress, act and what they love. They decide who to hang out with, date, fall out with, and which brands or individuals they collaborate with on Instagram and other social channels.

And what are the marketing benefits of opting for a ‘pretend’ influencer rather than a ‘real’ one? Miller thinks she has at least some of the answers.

“Virtual Influencers give brands more control over their collaborations. For example, if a real-life influencer makes a mistake, it can be difficult to resolve on the spot – often having to re-shoot and, as a result, the campaign’s launch can become delayed. When it comes to virtual influencers, the mistake can be erased and simply amended within a matter of minutes,” she explains.

“For travel brands, marketers can easily edit their influencers on whatever backdrops they want, with a backdrop image of the destination/location they want to promote, and have the virtual influencer tick it off their bucket list.”