The Rise of Virtual Influencers
By its very nature influencer marketing is exciting and extremely fast-paced. The next big influencer, trend and viral product is always just around the corner, waiting for their time in the spotlight.
With so much going on in the influencer space it can occasionally be tricky to keep your pulse on what’s what.
So, you may have missed or overlooked a growing trend for virtual influencers in the space. Or perhaps you just haven't had time to look into this unusual new approach to influencer marketing.
Well, you are in luck. In this article, we are going to run you through everything you need to know about virtual influencers and how they are set to keep growing in the next few years.
What Are Virtual Influencers?
Let’s start by defining precisely what we mean by the term ‘virtual influencer’.
The Wikipedia Virtual Influencer page summarises this pretty well:
“A virtual influencer, at times described as a virtual persona or virtual model, is a computer-generated fictional character that can be used for a variety of marketing-related purposes, but most frequently for social media marketing, in lieu of human "influencers".”
Or to put it another way - a virtual influencer is an, often hyper-realistic, animated person that is used to create content that closely matches that which you expect to find on a real-life influencer's social media feed.
Think OOTD (Outfit Of The Day), hanging out with friends and of course, recommending products.
What Are The Benefits of Virtual Influencers?
There is no denying that virtual influencers are a pretty cool concept. But what's the point?
Well, from a brand’s perspective, there are plenty of benefits to consider.
Total Brand Control
Virtual influencers offer brands an opportunity to create or work with their perfect influencer. Unlike real-life influencers that focus on portraying their own version of themselves on social media, virtual influencers can be curated.
For example, if a brand wants to work with an influencer that has a specific look, way of speaking, posts a certain type of content, has specific values and has a particular type of personality - then a virtual influencer can be moulded to fit this ideal picture.
When working with virtual influencers, then your imagination is practically the only limitation to what you can do. Not only this, but virtual influencers also eradicate many logistical considerations as well.
Take for example a brand that wants to collaborate on content with a real-life influencer. They initially have to get in touch with that influencer or their agency. They then need to maintain communication and negotiate the details. Finally, they need to organise all the logistics including booking locations, travel, photographer/videographers and hotels.
On the flip side, you have practically none of these potentially limiting factors when working with a virtual influencer. Simply click a few buttons and the exact content you imagined is ready to go.
Less Time Sourcing Relevant Influencers
One of the biggest challenges of working with real-life influencers is finding them. This is especially true if you are looking to work with nano and micro-influencers and want to find those that fit well with your brand.
This issue isn’t present when working with virtual influencers as they can easily be tailored to meet your needs.
Innovative & Fun
Finally, as virtual influencers are relatively new to the influencer marketing party, using them in your campaigns can be both fun and challenging. Their novelty can also be a great way to grab the attention of your audience.
What Are The Downsides of Virtual Influencers?
Of course, there are some downsides to working with virtual influencers which should also be considered.
Although some big brands are regularly using virtual influencers as part of their marketing strategies, they still are a relative ‘unknown’. This means it can be difficult to tell exactly how well they will perform as part of long term marketing campaigns.
Potentially Less Long-Term Engaging
Some stats claim that virtual influencers are achieving 3 times the amount of engagement as traditional influencers. However, there is a chance that this heightened engagement is due to novelty and as virtual influencers become more widespread and common, this level of engagement could easily drop considerably.
Potentially Seen as Disingenuous
It could be argued that virtual influencers are created for one purpose - to serve brands and generate profit for their creators. As time goes on, this could lead to social media followers finding virtual influencers disingenuous, resulting in lower engagement and selling power.
It is likely that virtual influencers will raise the already unrealistic expectations being set on social media. This could be a big challenge for brands that want to portray their products and services in the best light, but also need to be careful not to mislead their customers.
The Rise of Virtual Influencers: Summary
Although relatively new, virtual influencers are already making a lot of noise. In fact, one recent study found that a massive 58% of those surveyed were already following at least one virtual influencer on social media.
It is clear to see that virtual influencers offer brands some big opportunities and benefits. However, it is also clear that there are some aspects of working with this new type of influencer that brands need to be aware of and cautious of.