Brave New World: Virtual Instagram Influencers

First, Instagram was populated with savvy photographers posting filtered pictures with witty captions. Then, businesses and brands discovered the potential audience they could reach by creating their own Instagram accounts. As a result of this discovery, we witnessed the rise of influencers, who used their impact and creative touch to promote products and leverage their own voice. What, might you ask, may be the next big trend for Instagram? Virtual influencers. Here, the digital marketing aficionados at Zest unpack the details surrounding the virtual online influencers who are slowly but steadily beginning to “run” their own Instagram accounts and promote major brands.

How is Instagram Shifting in Terms of Digital Marketing?

We certainly live in a digital world. Over one billion users are on Instagram currently—that’s about one-seventh of the entire world’s population—and the number continues to grow. Even though Instagram seems to be taking over the world, it is still relatively young—the social media platform has only been around since 2010 and did not gain mass popularity until 2013. However, since companies and brands discovered the potential benefit of using Instagram to promote their business, the rise of Instagram influencers has skyrocketed. While we’ve seen influencers promoting products and services for a few years now, but there is a new type of influencer taking over Instagram. The most interesting part is, they aren’t even human. Virtual influencers seem to be the newest method big businesses are implementing in their social media marketing strategies

What, Exactly, are Virtual Influencers?

Virtual influencers, which are carefully constructed by photographers, graphic designers and photoshop extraordinaires to appear human, are growing in popularity for use in digital marketing and are receiving a mixture of reactions. These influencers will often support specific social movements and have a consistent voice and personality that shines through their content. Many of the creators of these virtual influencers are unknown, which helps them appear to be real people. While still a new concept, there are virtual influencers who boast considerable popularity, such as Lil Miquela, who has over 1.5 million Instagram followers.

Who are the Top Virtual Influencers on Instagram Currently?

The biggest names in virtual influencer marketing include Lil Miquela, Shudu and Sophia the Robot, to name a few. Lil Miquela, who began posting on her own Instagram account in 2016 as a 19-year-old Brazilian-Spanish influencer, now boasts a considerable following and voices her own social and political opinions, which she displays in her posts and on her Instagram bio. She is known to have donated $100,000 in equipment to different music organizations, as she also considers herself a musician, yet she is entirely computer-generated and her creator still remains anonymous.

Shudu, who is considered the world’s first digital supermodel, was created by photographer Cameron-James Wilson and has represented big brands including Prada, Balmain, Fenty and Chanel. Like Lil Miquela, Shudu is also known to make personal connections to her followers and maintain her own unique persona. Sophia the Robot, while not computer-generated, is a social humanoid robot activated in 2016 who can create over 50 facial expressions and was the first robot to be recognized as a citizen in Saudi Arabia. Artificial influencers like these, and many others, may have begun in what seemed like a futuristic fad, but their influence has certainly proven that their tremendous impact on society and business is far from declining.

What Effects Do Virtual Instagrammers Have On Society?

Virtual influencers give brands a creative edge because they can look however you want, say whatever you want and project any image you deem fit. They look human, can appear to have values and their own personality and even make emotional connections to their audience. Because of this creative advantage, a growing number of businesses seem to prefer the preciseness of carefully constructed digital avatars to their old human counterparts—that there may be more safety in using a digitized figure than dealing with the unpredictability and imperfections of a human being behind a screen. However, the growing trend of virtual Instagrammers has also been met with some controversy, mostly surrounding the fact that, while they may seem to have personalities and look realistic, they are ultimately not human, which takes some of the authenticity out of interacting with a real person.

The Zesty Digital Marketing Gurus at Zest Stay on Top of the Trends

Are virtual influencers the next big thing in terms of social media marketing? Will actual, human influencers start to lose their jobs to their photoshopped replacements, or will society ultimately prefer real people to handle brand promotion over digital avatars? Will the world eventually be taken over by robots? These are some of the questions that the dedicated social media marketers at Zest try to answer.

Dedicated to all things digital, and all things zesty, the social media marketers at Zest can help you create a meaningful brand, build a new website, create online content and so much more. We can even help answer your questions surrounding the virtual Instagrammers filling up your feed. For more information on the many services provided at Zest, contact our digital marketing aficionados today!