What Is a Virtual Influencer?

The possible future of advertisements, commerce, and fashion may be from a virtual influencer. Recently, many people find themselves on social media platforms such as TikTok or Instagram when they have a second to take a break in their work day. Statistics show that 56.8% of the world’s population is on at least one social media platform, meaning over half of the world has the potential to see an influencer appear on their social media feed! Whether this influencer is an actual human or a computer-generated image (CGI) is the question that must come to mind nowadays. 

what is a virtual influencer

What Is a Virtual Influencer?

A virtual influencer is an entirely digitally-designed “person” with the intent of creating content on different social media platforms. Creators use software such as Blender, Unreal Engine, ZBrush, Photoshop, and Illustrator to create realistic-looking influencers. Compared to a traditional influencer, which is an individual or group who has a high level of expertise on a particular topic or industry. Traditional influencers also have a solid and trusting relationship with their niche audience. 

Virtual influencers share most of these traits but are different in the fact that they will never age. They also exist only to gain a following or influence people. Human-like personalities and features are an inspiration for designing these virtual influencers. The real people behind these CGI influencers are brands and individuals that work with real businesses to obtain brand deals for their virtual influencers. Some of the most popular include Lu of Magalu, Barbie, Nobody Sausage, Good Advice Cupcake, and many others.

The first-ever virtual influencer and Time Magazine “25 Most Influential People (2018)”, 19-year-old Lil Miquela appeared on people’s Instagram timelines in April of 2016. With over 3 million followers, this CGI influencer is the mysterious creation of a Los Angeles start-up company that specializes in AI and robotics, Brud, with undisclosed intentions. Miquela can be seen on Instagram and almost appear to be a real-life human being, hanging out with her friends, posting brand deals, and even dating another virtual influencer. In her comment section, some people are incredibly supportive of her posts. However, some people are not as approving of her. 

Examples of Virtual Influencers

Both print and digital campaigns featuring virtual influencers have become increasingly popular for larger incorporations such as Samsung, Fenty Beauty, Calvin Klein, and Prada. Increased engagement and revenue from these campaigns featuring virtual influencers are creating an influx of brands digitally designing their influencers. Being able to place the CGI influencer in any wardrobe, change their location as desired, and have complete control over them is leading many investors to believe that using these influencers is the future of advertising. Leading businesses want to see these CGI influencers not just on Instagram but also on TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat. Some of the biggest virtual influencers are coming from brand mascots, including The GEICO Gecko, and even Barbie of Mattel. 

social influencer

Dong Dong from Alibaba

E-commerce platform Alibaba created a virtual influencer named “Dong Dong” for the Beijing Olympics in 2022. She is different from other virtual influencers in the fact that she is a virtual brand ambassador who assists a customer with their online shopping experience. Another unique feature of the virtual influencer Dong Dong is that she can independently communicate with customers and followers in real-time. She is able to do this using Alibaba’s speak-to-text AI technology. This virtual influencer can also host her live streams alone and can answer questions from her fans in real-time. 

Barbie

Barbie even has her own YouTube channel where she posts different “Barbie Vlogs.” There are videos of her doing various activities with her dad, hanging out with her friends, and even making cooking videos. The youngest generation is the primary target audience for these videos. Her channel has gained over 10 million followers by mirroring other influencers on YouTube. They’ve also created different playlists on the channel to have a wide range of content. One of the most popular videos on the channel is a music video with over 200,000,000 views. This shows that  this target audience is enjoyably rewatching the content from this virtual influencer multiple times. However, this engagement is only extended to views and likes. Interestingly, the comment section is disabled, which is a popular trend amongst children-geared content. 

What Is a Social Influencer?

Social media influencers are authoritative figures on different social media platforms that have a large following with engaged followers who listen to the social influencer’s opinions. Some of the top influencers at the moment include Chloe Ting, Chris Klemens, and Brittany Broski, to name a few. Different content that these social influencers create includes blogs, workout videos, vlogs, live streams, makeup tutorials, podcasts, or lifestyle videos. The followers of these social media influencers interact with each other in the comment section. They can also engage with the creator by liking or resharing their content. Some creators also live stream on platforms such as Discord or TikTok. Some of their followers even give “gifts” to the creators during the live stream, which are worth real money.

The followers of these social influencers create different communities within a variety of social media platforms. These communities create a strong loyalty between followers and creators, especially when people are interacting in the comment section. Some creators are even interactive enough to respond to people’s comments. Doing so creates even more loyalty toward the social media influencer.

In reality, anybody can become a social influencer; it just takes finding the correct niche for yourself and posting relevant and enjoyable content. Different niches on social media can range anywhere from gluten-free recipes to simply posting random, humorous videos throughout the day. Building a following can be time-consuming. However, in some cases, people can become viral overnight and gain a mass amount of followers.

virtual influencer

Brittany Broski

One case of when a video and account became viral overnight was with TikTok star Brittany Broski. After filming a TikTok of herself reacting to her first time drinking kombucha, Brittany became one of the most popular influencers on the app. After the video became viral, she kept posting more videos and gained almost 7 million followers from her relatable content. Every social media platform flew her out to their headquarters in Los Angeles within a week of posting her first TikTok. Since then, this viral social media influencer has created a community that she has named “Broski Nation.” Many of her followers treat her comment section as if it was a group chat with friends. 

What Is a Micro Influencer?

Micro influencers are social media influencers that have a smaller following, but this community is arguably more engaged and supportive. To be classified as a micro influencer, the account must have between 10,000 to 50,000 followers. They must also focus on a super-specific niche, sense of humor, or topic area. Typically, micro-influencers have a much stronger relationship with their followers since they tend to interact more with their followers than influencers with a more considerable amount of followers. This interactivity generates a super loyal community that these micro-influencers will more easily influence. Stronger relationships between followers and creators lead to more success with sponsored posts and brand deals. 

Influencers receive a discount code and link to offer their followers from the brand, which is mutually beneficial. Most sponsored posts from micro influencers include mentioning a discount code and the link in their bio. This typically receives more engagement and revenue than more prominent influencers doing the same thing. Since they are trying to grow their profile, micro-influencers tend to charge a much lower price for collaborations or sponsorships compared to more prominent influencers who can charge up to $10,000 per post. Micro influencers with up to 100,000 followers typically charge anywhere from $100 to $500 per sponsored post. On the other hand, macro-influencers, with a following from 500K to 1M, have a rate ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. 

micro influencers

Brands and Micro Influencers

Whether or not a brand chooses to work with a micro influencer is typically based upon the amount of money they have to spend. It may also depend on the amount of engagement they want to receive with their sponsored post. Commonly, brands will receive less but more loyal and responsive attention from these micro influencers. However, they are also spending thousands of dollars less. When a brand works with more significant influencers, they run into the risk of working with an influencer that is jumping at any brand deal opportunity.

Typically, the followers of these more prominent influencers are used to seeing daily sponsored posts from them. Eventually, though, the account begins to feel less authentic and more monetarily driven. The more successful campaigns are with influencers that only work with brands that they believe in and have used. Their followers are more likely to trust them and engage with this sponsored post because they will think of their opinion as if it was an expert’s opinion. 

FAQ:

  • What are virtual influencers?
  • Who are some virtual influencers?
  • What is a micro influencer?
  • What platforms are virtual influencers on?
  • How much do you pay a micro influencer?

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