Is the future of influencer marketing virtual?

Terms like “influencers” and “influencer marketing” are not new to us anymore – the impact on the social communities they build online is growing more and more every day. Moreover, after noticing how profitable it can be and the attraction brands have towards these concepts, more people have started to consider it a profession and a source of income, rather than a hobby.

However, considering the fast-growing rate of AI and VR developments in every sector of our daily lives, it might be interesting to ask ourselves how long until artificial intelligence will take over this domain as well?

Well, not long now – we’d say!

Earlier this year, singer Rihanna’s own make-up brand, Fenty Beauty, featured an Instagram image of an unknown model as part of their new lipstick campaign. The post went viral and viewers went on a hunt for the model’s identity. By the beginning of April, Shudu, as the mysterious woman is called, gained more than 90,000 followers. After numerous presumptions, the truth came out in a Haarper’s Bazar article: Shudu is not a real person, but a computer-generated product of British photographer Cameron-James Wilson. As more and more people started to follow her, she became an influencer and a new opportunity for fashion and cosmetics brands to expand their markets. She is now considered the first digital supermodel, but apparently, she’s not the only one out there!

Lil Miquela is another computer-generated character, with a real Instagram account which now has more than 800,000 followers. Her feed features luxury brands outfit posts and she even released a single on the music platform Spotify. But what makes her special is the fact that she promotes technology training for girls on her social channels, which makes the line between reality and fiction hazy and builds trust relationships with her followers.

How effective is it?
Although the innovative idea of using virtual influencers seems like a cool topic, some marketers still have their doubts about how effective brand endorsements with these characters could be – Giordano Contestabile, CEO of Bloglovin’, featured on BBC website, claims:

“I think there are opportunities which could be a fit for brands to market products, but I think it’s going to be shallower than what you see with a real person. The human aspect of influencer marketing is the key to it. I don’t know how you can replicate that. Getting someone to follow you on Instagram is easy, he says. But getting someone to identify and create an emotional connection, that’s a different challenge. In other words, you can’t fake it.”

It is safe to say that the next few years are going to be interesting, in terms of how influencer marketing is going to evolve and what direction it will take – whether it’s shifting to a more virtual approach or relying purely on the human factor.