Virtual Influencer 101: A Guide to Digital Humans on the Rise
Artificial humans or robots coexisting with real humans is one of the most popular sci-fi concepts that has been around for decades. Even though we are probably still far from seeing robots walking casually along with us on the streets, we can already interact with some of these artificial beings on social media.
The rapid developments in technology are driving this idea from a far-fetched thought to a promising reality. The lucrative online influencer market now sees increasing numbers of virtual humans establishing a foothold worldwide. Millions of people are already engaging with a new wave of online public figures: virtual influencers!
WHO ARE VIRTUAL INFLUENCERS?
Virtual Influencers are fictional computer-generated figures with human-like features. And just like human influencers, there are teams of creators behind them who have a keen eye for technology and give life to the virtual influencers, literally.
These virtual figures are typically created with computer graphics software like computer-generated imagery or CGI. Some creators might photograph a human model before generating the virtual face and merge the computer-generated face with the model’s body in the process to make a virtual influencer look even more realistic.
Plus, these digital characters are also designed to forge two-way relationships with humans, just like human influencers do. Technologies like CGI have been with us for several decades with the power to create and manipulate things that do not exist in the physical environment. And now we are using it to create artificial humans and influence the real ones.
HOW DO VIRTUAL INFLUENCERS WORK?
…or how the team behind these virtual influencers work, to be exact.
The teams behind virtual influencers are the experts who manufacture pre-defined backstories, personalities, and behaviors. The creator teams have complete control over creating their virtual influencers, designing their engagement with followers, and choosing who to collaborate with online–typically on Instagram. To put it simply, you can think of them as an agency that offers virtual talents as a new innovative marketing tactic in this digital era.
Some brands even have their in-house team to create their virtual ambassador, allowing them to build unique backgrounds to best fit their brand and the products they offer. Businesses are among the first to be more aware of staying ahead of the curve, opening up to new audiences with the innovation that takes the customers’ experiences with their brand to the next level.
VIRTUAL INFLUENCERS TO FOLLOW
The influencer marketing landscape continues to grow at such a remarkable pace, so does the number of virtual influencers. Since many brands have already started to partner with virtual stars, let’s see some of the rising virtual influencers you are bound to hear more about in the future!
Ai-Ailynn is Thailand’s first metaverse human created by a Bangkok-based virtual influencer agency SIA Bangkok. Her Instagram posts are a mix of her daily life in the city of Bangkok; the self-confidence and cool vibe shine through her posts, just like what is to be expected from any Gen Z Instagram. Ai-Ailynn has recently secured a deal to be the first virtual brand ambassador to a major mobile operator in Thailand.
Created by Tokyo-based CG company Modeling Cafe, Imma has appeared in innumerable fashion editorials with her statement haircut and noticeable fashion. In July 2019, Imma was featured on the cover of CG World, a computer graphics magazine. She then became one of the up-and-coming virtual influencers who continued to take the online world by storm and was once named the new 100 talents to watch by Japan Economics Entertainment.
Lili Miquela or Miquela Sousa was created by Brud, a startup based in Los Angeles. Listed as one of TIME Magazine 25 Most Influential People on the Internet in 2018, This virtual It-Girl is reportedly the biggest virtual earner. Lili Miquela has worked with many world-class celebrities and endorsed renowned brands’ campaigns, continuously gaining fame and fans up to more than 3 million followers on Instagram now.
The rise of virtual influencers is an exciting evolution in both computer science and marketing industries and will definitely have a more significant role in the near future. The concept of influencing real people with artificial ones might be skeptical, but it is only natural of cutting-edge technology progression.
Now that a significant portion of consumers are digitally adapting to novel affordances and getting even more familiar with all things virtual, these influencers will see more potential to bridge the real and virtual worlds closer together.