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Virtual influencers
Saveluc Andreea, IAA Romania Young Professionals Member

Influencers from the future

Virtual influencers will become those who will make the famous models just a memory

Seems to be a scenario from a Science Fiction movie but many brands started to give up influencers like models, singers or other kinds or celebrities for a “safe” alternative.

By “unsafe” I mean those multiple scandals in which a “traditional” influencer is involved or might be involved. Either it is a big or a small scandal, the image of the brand can be affected, and the process of “healing” is longer and expensive. When we speak about a real influencer, we also speak about some dishonest “tricks” that one can use in order to obtain a big number of followers. In the category of “tricks” we must include fake followers and bots used in order to grow the chances of a collaboration with a brand.

Before we start to speak about the benefits of using a virtual influencer, is important to keep in mind what an influencer is, and after that we can focus our attention on this new type of influencer.

Decades ago, the term “influencer” was associated with opinion leaders because they had the power to change the public opinion. Meanwhile, this word has changed the meaning and is not anymore associated with political or cultural figures, but with celebrities, bloggers or ordinary people. This last category of influencers is extremely used nowadays because people are not searching anymore for ideal life models, but for a person with a similar way of living and who had experienced the same situations and feelings.

From a marketing industry point of view, an influencer is a person who can change a decision of acquisition based on his authority, knowledge or the social status. Often, this type of persons creates content for a specific target and keeps a close communication style in order to maintain or to grow the follower’s level of trust.

Virtual influencers or “artificial influencers” are avatars, 3D creations, fictional characters like those from video games, created by one or more graphical artists. Usually, this kind of characters are the owners of social media accounts. This way, they look like every usual person and can attract much more followers especially on Instagram as the content created is based on images. Furthermore, the photos posted on the social media accounts are accompanied by text in order to emphasize the human figures. Nonetheless, they are also a big fan of being involved in social causes.

Coming back to the advantages of having a virtual influencer, one of the major advantages is the autonomy and the control over the messages created and shared in social media. At all of this, we can add the ownership over an avatar that represents 100% the brand’s values.

By this, we can easily predict that they have the opportunity to reach one of the most hunted target: the millennials.

This generation surrounded by technology has the capacity to interact with digital characters and even to create emotional connections; this is the main reason why brands are creating virtual influencers.

February 2018 was the moment when the entire world met for the first time a virtual influencer: her name was Miquela Sousa known by her fans as Lil Miquela. What was at the beginning just a social experiment became in 2018 one of the most followed Instagram account with more than 1 million followers. In the same time, the debates regarding “how real is Lil?” became a common aspect in every dialogue between Lil’s fans.

Lil Maquila, this new version of an influencer, took her status as a ”real person” in a credible way and the content from her Instagram account shows aspects from her “perfect human life” like: hangouts with friends, concerts, parties or holidays. More than that, to convince the fans about “her humanity”, Lil is involved in social causes like transgender rights and she’s expressing often her political preference.

Also, Maquila is offering interviews to the press and is answering often to all the comments from her followers. This direct interaction with her fans is made thought the online community created in order to eliminate the real-virtual obstacles. This kind of interactions is very useful for the brands because represents an authentic and real involvement for the potential clients.

This active involvement in the community’s life and the authority that Lil has gained made many famous brands from Fashion Industry like Prada and Chanel to contact her for a collaboration. Even, magazines from Fashion & Lifestyle decided to publish some interviews with the virtual influencer, Lil Maquila.

Even if we are living a new reality in which real influencers will be replaced by new prototypes, many owners of influence marketing agencies or ordinary people are coming with some questions like: “How can an influencer recommend a produce without a real tasting? How can a virtual influencer convince the public about the right size of a fashion item without wearing it? The answers for these questions reveal that people still believe in the power and influence of a real influencer, a human that is capable to experience the same situations in his life. In other words, the trust that a person might have in an influencer is given by the level of trust, trust that can convince a follower to buy a product or a service.

With this new change that had happened in marketing influence area we cannot say if the role of the real influencers will be taken by virtual ones, at least not so soon. But we do have to take into account the fact that this category of influencers not only can help brands interact more easily with customers, but also, the brands will have full control over the influencers created.

This article was written by Saveluc Andreea, Young Professionals member of International Advertising Association, Romanian Chapter.


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