Influencers play a significant role in how we all perceive the world around us. The need to always look up to and model after someone will forever remain in human society. We all want to get things done in the best and fastest possible way, and that is why we follow people who have walked in similar lanes. Over the years, these people have been termed ‘influencers’ because of their roles in others’ lives. While this appears to be great when seen from the outside, a more in-depth look at it reveals many shortcomings.
First is that it is almost difficult to differentiate what is real from what isn’t in the world that we live in today. There are several experiences where we have had the so-called influencers tweak their lives to manipulate others. Fake photos, videos, and twisted comments present a front that can sometimes be misleading.
The media has been a significant driver of this falsehood and manipulation as we live in an age where the media is not just a powerful tool but a very vibrant space. However, things are gradually beginning to change as there seems to be the rise of an entirely different innovation – the type we have never seen before – AI Virtual Humans/Influencers.
Looking Through the Lens of Technology
We are undoubtedly at the center of a technological renaissance characterized by an industry of digitalized people. Now, virtually everything can be done virtually, and that is where Artificial Intelligence comes to play. We are getting to a point where our so-called influencers will have to give way to virtual influencers, and that time is closer than we have ever imagined. There is no denying that technology has made our lives a lot easier and better, but it has also come with its drawback.
One major drawback is the access to the truth. It is projected that the more technology advances, the less access the world will have to the truth. Now more than ever before, the truth can be altered; the truth can be manipulated; the truth can be anything anyone wants it to be. From fake photos going viral to doctored videos here and there, one might want to pause and ask – do we want to keep going like this? How much farther do we want to be from the truth or our reality?
Virtual Influencers – What Are They Exactly?
Virtual influencers are computer-generated characters that possess similar features and personalities as humans. While they are not real humans, they can do almost everything real influencers can do and more. We are recently beginning to see the rise of these computer-generated people in the influencer marketing industry, particularly on Instagram. With virtual influencers gradually becoming a force to reckon with, many brands are waiting to tap into this innovation’s potential as it appears to be the future of marketing.
How Do Virtual Influencers Work?
Real influencers exist, and as such, it is easy to determine how they work. Many brands, businesses, and individuals have made use of influencers to drive sales over the years. However, considering that virtual influencers do not exist in the real sense, it is normal to want to know how they work. To understand how virtual influencers work, you have to study the driving force behind them, Artificial Intelligence.
With AI, these virtual influencers are created to look, dress and act in a particular way. They can be edited to suit the specific demands of a brand or business that are driving sales or boosting traffic for.
Many brands on Instagram have made use of these virtual influencers to grow their pages in a very short time. They are not as common as the real influencers yet, but the very few existing have started to gain local and international recognition. Brands that leverage social media for growth are now considering adopting these virtual influencers as a replacement for the real ones to achieve their marketing goals. While these virtual influencers are still far from the perfect picture, they have presented themselves as worthy competition to the real influencers out there.
Real Influencers and Virtual Influencers
Imitating people is easier now than it has ever been. Several online tools exist today that can be used to clone one’s voice and make it appear like another. In October 2018, Magic Leap – a popular technological agency set up a new standard for lifelike humans in its first virtual assistant – Mica. Mica is a human avatar that can be accessed and interacted with using augmented reality glasses.
Mica analyzes your mood and makes basic suggestions for you like what you should eat, music to listen to, and other things you can do. It is the start of a whole new world that will see many similar human avatars rises just like Mica to take humans’ place.
Real influencers have been at the center stage of the internet for a long time, enjoying its monopoly. However, there seems to be a new competitor: the virtual human influencers. An excellent example is Miquela, a Brazilian-American model that is a real-life simulation appearing just like a real human. She has the same appearance as a human and blurs the line between a real influencer and a virtual influencer.
Credited to have appeared on the cover of two renowned magazines and said to get invitations to exclusive events, Miquela is a pointer to what we should expect as AI Virtual Influencers are gradually rising.
AI Virtual Influencer and the Future of Social Media
When it comes to measuring how successful or otherwise an influencer is, authenticity seems to be the major yardstick. With Artificial Intelligence aiming at providing authentic simulations of real-life people, it appears that virtual influencers might be as successful as the real ones. So, if you get a poster that has a real face and seems authentic, it might be difficult to ascertain whether or not it is real or fake. While everyone seems to be looking for authenticity on social media, there are no defined criteria for measuring it. More challenging is that even when something is authentic, it is difficult to accept it because while we all want it to be so, we question when it appears to be.
Virtual influencers are the future of social media as they can help brands and businesses in many ways. Every technological imitation like Miquela and Mica discussed above and Shuda Gram – the world’s first digital supermodel, has taken into consideration the shortcomings of the real ones and capitalized on it.
What Are The Benefits Of Using AI Virtual Humans?
Getting to accept the presence and impact of virtual influencers is not something that is going to be easy, and that is understandable. However, you need to know what benefits come with using virtual humans for your personal or business use.
One major benefit of virtual influencers is the flexibility that it brings to marketing for brands. Using this technological innovation, brands can decide what collaboration they want to have and with whom they wish to collaborate.
Also, erasing the mistake of a real-life influencer may be difficult and sometimes impossible. These mistakes can go on to cost your brand or business a fortune. This is not the case for virtual influencers, as errors can be easily resolved, allowing for a faster and more effective launch of your marketing campaign.
What Are The Drawbacks Of AI Virtual Humans/Influencers?
Virtual influencers, just like every other innovation and real influencers themselves, are not without their drawbacks. The most talked-about drawback surrounding the use of virtual influencers has been the lack of emotional connection. Many consumers always want to create an emotional connection with a brand or business when transacting with it. This is why influencer marketing for brands and businesses has grown to be a very lucrative space over the years.
Real influencers’ ability to create an emotional connection with their audience is what makes some more successful than others. Can virtual influencers create that same connection? If yes, to what degree can that connection be created and maintained for a long period?
There is also the projected challenge of the audience losing their flair for the influencer marketing industry as the adoption of Virtual influencers continues to increase. Many believe that these computer-generated characters can be used as political weapons that further erase the truth from the social media spaces if not properly regulated.
If not properly regulated, virtual influencers can also be manipulated easily. We might have an internet space filled with fabricated faces of everyday people being used to relate with brands without the real people’s permission.
Virtual influencers appear to be the future of the influencer marketing industry. Several brands have decided to put this innovation to the test and have started enjoying the results that come with it. If you are still in the loop, confused as to whether to consider it or not, then you can check the internet for some of the top virtual influencers. Some of the names you should look up include Lil Miquela, Shudu, Bermuda, Blawko, and Imma.