Ultimate Guide to Virtual Influencers - What is a Virtual Influencer?
A March 2022 US survey revealed that 58% of respondents were following at least one social media virtual influencer with that rate rising to 3 in 4 for Gen Z.
In today’s piece, we’ll focus on virtual influencers in particular, a very particular type of influencer, looking through some awesome examples, explaining how to create your very own, and much more. Let’s dive in!
What is a Virtual Influencer?
A virtual influencer is a digital being designed to replicate the personality traits and nuances of a real human influencer.
Some of the key characteristics of virtual influencers include resembling a human persona, and having both rational traits and a relatable backstory. In other words, virtual influencers aren’t merely bots with a digital appearance. Ultimately character depth is key to ensuring virtual influencers can catch on and appeal to customers when it comes to brand marketing.
With an array of advantages (e.g., they receive three times more engagement than human influencers), the popularity of virtual influencers is on the rise as they become an increasingly impactful force in the influencer industry.
Unsurprisingly, a growing number of brands are utilizing virtual influencers to promote their products.
Examples of Virtual Influencers
Brazilian virtual influencer Lu do Magulu has a whopping 6.3 million followers on Instagram, making her the most followed digital influencer worldwide. Lu do Magulu has a further 14.6 million Facebook followers and 2.6 million YouTube subs!
While the mainstream popularity of virtual influencers is a relatively new phenomenon, Lu do Magalu first appeared on social media (for Magazine Luiza) way back in 2009. Lu do Magalu, just like many human influencers, has taken part in unboxing videos, product reviews, and more.
Not too long ago, the idea that a digital being would make Time magazine’s “25 Most Influential People on the Internet” list would have seemed absurd and yet the iconic virtual influencer Lil Miquela has done just that.
Virtual influencers like Miquela emphasize how the novelty of CGI influencers appeals to large audiences, even if many would have doubted a market trend like this could ever take off in the first place.
Lil Miquela has 2.8 million followers on Instagram, representing another multi-million-follower virtual influencer. Her fanbase even has a name going by Miqualiens, reflecting just how influential a virtual influencer can be.
Indonesian influencer Thalasya shows the ease at which international ‘travel’ is possible when it comes to virtual influencers. Thalasya regularly explores Indonesia (often appearing in stores and on balconies), displaying her country to the wider world. However, she also visits other countries, even having made an appearance in a Florida recording studio!
Thalasya has been known to promote hotels, restaurants, health pills, and more. Beyond that, Thalasya has a clothing store Yipiiiii which she co-runs with her friend Zeline. To date, Thalaysa has nearly 470,000 followers on Instagram and proudly boasts of being Indonesia’s first Metahuman.
Qai Qai is a great example of an alternative approach to digital influencer generation. This funny and sassy virtual baby serves the purpose of getting good laughs out of their followers and bucking some of the more serious trends associated with digital influencing.
Qai Qai currently has 330,000 followers on Instagram, and with the site expected to grow by almost 100 million followers in the next two years, there is even more room for virtual influencers to grow, all while interest in digital personalities is likely to rise further among those present on the site already.
This funny doll often syncs to sounds answers user questions, and performs funny dances, offering a light-hearted and silly show for users to enjoy in an often too-serious world. Qai Qai also shows that you need not limit your virtual influencer ideas to the same old same old.
As a relatively new segment, there’s certainly room to go outside the box and surprise the market with a new type of virtual influencer (i.e., tapping into a virtual influencer niché before anyone else). Qai Qai is a clear example of that.
Next, we have Bermuda, a virtual influencer who's been on the scene since late 2016 and calls herself the ‘Robot Queen’. Originally from LA, Bermuda orients her posts toward inspiring up-and-coming young entrepreneurs to chase their dreams. More specifically, Bermuda seeks to encourage more women to delve into robotics careers.However, Bermuda’s multi-faceted personality doesn’t end there. In fact, she’s already delved into the world of music, having released a cover of Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ ‘Under the Bridge’ in 2019. Bermuda now has her sights set on furthering her music career in the future.
Modeling is also huge in the influencer space, and the same is becoming true for virtual influencers. Supermodel virtual influencer Shudu who originates from South Africa, has modeled for brands ranging from Vogue to Cosmopolitan.
Shudu is known for her striking and trendsetting poses, using a wide array of fashion, from the modern sparkles of glittery figure-hugging dresses to gorgeous traditional African attire.
The success of digital supermodel Shudu reflects how virtual influencers can really be trendsetters, perhaps evidence of a paradigm shift to a world where digital beings will play an increasingly important role in the global economy.
Why Are Virtual Influencers Essential For Your Marketing Strategy?
Creating brand new or hiring existing virtual influencers can help take your brand to the next level in a cost-effective and creative manner. You’re also able to have complete control over the creative angle, since you’re working with an influencer that is not an actual person.
At Collabstr, we know how navigating the influencer industry can be challenging, especially if you’re new to this and unsure where to start.
Our marketplace is the ideal location to find and hire influencers. Collabstr makes it straightforward for brands and agencies to purchase custom content ranging from sponsored social media posts to testimonial videos, User Generated Content (UGC), and more!
Brands Have Complete Control Over Influencer Image
There are various reasons why working with virtual influencers as well as real human influencers, can make a big difference in supporting your brand’s growth.
Ultimately, it comes down to the bottom line; virtual influencers can make you more money. And, of course, part of the reason for this is the total control you have over your influencer’s image.
No need to worry about a real-life influencer creating a PR nightmare. Of course, most influencers don’t fall folly to this sort of behavior, but at least you know with a virtual influencer that it isn’t a risk! As you might imagine, finding influencers for your brand is much easier if you choose a virtual influencer, as they can be tailored to fit your brand.
Naturally, it’s much easier to ‘work with’ a virtual influencer since they’ll do exactly as you ask of them, and you can ensure their beliefs match your preferences. This is ideal for maximizing the value of an influencer in your content collaboration strategy. All in all, using a virtual influencer can make everything less complicated.
Along with having total control, virtual influencers are much cheaper to work with. There’s also no need to worry about waiting for a virtual influencer to take a flight over for a photo shoot (if hiring).
Even if you’re creating a virtual influencer, there is massive potential for a huge return on investment over time if you can turn your digital influencer into an online success. If you get things right, the financial rewards of creating and running a virtual influencer can far outweigh the cost of maintaining them.
The creative potential of building a virtual influencer is practically unlimited. If you already have a target audience you want to please, you’ll have the freedom to design a virtual influencer to perfectly meet what appeals to them, whether in relation to aesthetics, personality, or how they engage with followers.
You’ll also have the ability to edit and update your virtual influencer’s characteristics with ease which can be very useful when it comes to specific marketing campaigns or product launches.
Also, as mentioned earlier, you may want to use the creative potential of virtual influencer building to create an unconventional influencer. This is a daring approach, but if you want to break the mold and bring something truly new to the world, this can be your chance to shine!
Perhaps you’ll want to make a virtual influencer who is a wise-old philosopher, an alien obsessed with human fashion trends and hauls, or an angel who fell to Earth and needs more compassion in the world (with the help of their followers) to get their wings back.
If you want to try something new in an emerging field, the sphere of virtual influencers is definitely worth considering, or perhaps you’ll want to stick with a tried-and-tested strategy. Whatever the case, the sky's the limit (unless you can send your virtual influencer to space someday!)
Brands Who Use Virtual Influencers
Balmain, a French luxury fashion house, used three digital models in their influencer marketing strategy, described as their “new virtual army” to promote their fall 2018 fashion.
Balmain’s models Margot and Zhi can be seen pictured on the left and right, respectively, while free agent Shudu Gram appears in the center and was recognized as the first digital supermodel in history.
Remember Lil Miquela? One of the brands to utilize her service is South Korean tech giant Samsung. In 2019, Miquela joined the company’s #TeamGalaxy campaign. Fittingly, the campaign’s tagline was “Do What You Can’t” and it’s certainly true that Miquela can perform feats and offer features beyond the human form.
The L'Oréal-licensed brand Prada uses a virtual model to promote the luxury brand among the latest generation of young consumers. Candy is known as Prada’s digital muse. Described by the brand as ethereal, connective, and evolving, the brand’s virtual influencer is helping to grow its brand authority and market impact in the TikTok era.
Digital influencer Maya was created to represent the athletic fashion brand Puma in Southeast Asia. Puma worked alongside an agency UM Studios x Ensemble Worldwide, to bring Maya to life to create an effective regional marketing campaign.
The agency used the social media AI platform SoMin to generate Maya’s face and create an original digital persona to promote Puma in the region.
How to Effectively Create A Virtual Influencer?
So, how do you go about creating your very own digital influencer? Ultimately, you need to take a several-step approach to build one capable of growing your brand’s reach and engagement and ultimately improving your revenue flow.
Getting each of these steps right is key to ensuring your virtual influencer has the best shot at success.
1. Understand Your Audience/Customer Base
Before all else, you need to think carefully about who you want to influence. Through social media demographic research, get to understand your audience more intimately and have a clearer grasp of what will click with your followers.
Along with demographics, you’ll want to consider:
Psychographics (i.e., the aspirations and attitudes of your followers as well as other psychological attributes related to marketing influences)
Through the right research, you’ll be left with a clearer idea as to how you’ll want to design your virtual influencer to maximize their impact and brand value.
2. Create a Persona
After undertaking in-depth target audience research, it’s time to develop your virtual influencer’s persona accordingly. Be sure to consider your target audience’s buying behaviors carefully as you build up your digital influencer’s persona.
As you develop their persona, think about how their characteristics and traits can benefit your business when presented to your followers.
3. Design Your Brand’s Avatar
While your digital influencer’s persona is at the core of what they offer, their appearance and backstory matter just as much.
Ultimately, you’ll want your brand’s avatar to offer an appealing and perhaps unique image along with a relatable personality. It’s definitely best to develop several drafts before carefully choosing the right one.
4. Build Your Virtual Influencer
Now it’s time to build your virtual influencer. Of course, you’ll need people on your team with the right skills and expertise necessary.
Alternatively, you may want to dedicate the hours needed to expand your own knowledge before bringing your virtual influencer to life. Animation, 3D modeling, and artificial intelligence are all key components of building a virtual influencer.
5. Spread the Word
While the first four steps sound like a lot of work, you’ve got to be ready to put in the time and energy needed to spread the word.
Creating a virtual influencer is the first real step in the long-term journey of maintaining and growing the reach of your influencer.
Some ways of successfully promoting a virtual influencer include:
Promoting your influencer to your existing audience
Using good SEO and paid adverts to promote your virtual influencer online
Host a virtual event where your digital influencer is the start of the show
In today’s guide, we’ve explored what a virtual influencer is, explored influential examples from around the world, and discussed the key five steps to building your very own virtual influencer!
As you grow your brand with the help of virtual and real-life influencers, you’ll want to find an easy and effective way of hiring more talent.
Collabstr is the ideal marketplace for finding and hiring both influencers and content creators so that you can grow your brand faster and bring your long-term business dreams to life!