While virtual influencers may pose the opportunity for limitless brand collaboration, will they ever have full control over the influencer marketing landscape? Delve into the morality and functionality of these man-made beings.
The Rise of Virtual Influencers:
The world of virtual influencers has come a long way since the introduction of Lil Miquela in 2016. Computer-generated accounts have been continuously growing in number for a few years now, with some of the most reputable figures garnering upwards of 2 million followers and over £120,000 worth of ad revenue per year. A recent survey shows that over 58% of people follow at least one virtual influencer online. This statistic comes as a shock considering 61% of consumers also revealed that relatable content is the primary appeal of social media influencers. Luxury brands such as Prada have taken a more profound interest in the world of virtual influencers as they recently developed one of their own to spearhead their newest fragrance campaign.
How can Advanced Tech be put to good use?
Virtual influencers are the face of the metaverse and consequently have the ability to single-handedly shape its future. As was a topic of conversation at our recent IWW panel discussion, if brands commit to creating avatars that accurately represent consumers, this will transcend throughout the rest of Web3, resulting in a safe space that users feel comfortable in. Brands that will succeed in the metaverse are those that are transparent with their audiences and inclusive throughout the creative process.
Along with the endless possibilities, the metaverse and virtual influencers also raise a number of concerns among consumers - one of the main ones being the effect they can have on self-esteem. Those creating avatars must be cautious of the unrealistic standards they are perpetuating on users and take this into consideration when designing them. To add, marketers choosing to enter the virtual landscape shouldn’t take the decision lightly. If a move into the space doesn’t make sense for a brand and its target audience, consumers will pick up on this and deem it inauthentic and ‘clout-chasing’. Besides this, the metaverse is a decentralised space for people to express themselves freely, so brands must have this at the heart of their Web3 creations.
Is there a chance for Virtual Influencers to Outgrow Traditional?
Despite the undeniable success and attraction of virtual influencers, it is highly unlikely that they will ever be capable of completely taking over traditional influencers. This is down to a host of reasons - the main one being that users will probably never feel as inclined to trust them. Traditional influencers are here to stay because the human interactions and connections that influencer marketing and PR rely on are unreplicable from digital beings. Having said that, virtual influencers are also projected to stick around for the long haul and be a buzz in the industry for a while longer. So there’s no better time to jump on this trend than the present.
Virtual influencers have the potential to be ground-breaking tools for brands if they are used sensibly and carefully. Although there is no definitive answer as to whether they are inherently good or bad, there are some precautions marketers can take when entering the space in order to keep it as safe and inclusive as possible, including hiring diverse creators behind the scenes.
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