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Virtual Influencers: The Future or Flash in the Pan?

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For over a decade, influencer marketing has ruled the internet. Brands traditionally sought influencers based on their follower count, engagement rates, and brand alignment. Then micro-influencers came onto the scene, giving brands new ways to reach consumers through personalities with a smaller following. The B2B space has not been immune to the trend, and major authors, researchers, and speakers have shifted from simple thought leadership to full-on branding powerhouses. However, today, we’ll focus on a new player in the B2C game: virtual influencers.

The Rise of Virtual Influencers

Virtual influencers, created and managed by agencies or brands, offer unique opportunities. While some virtual influencers look human, others appear as dolls or cartoons. One standout example is Lil Miquela, a pioneer in this space with over 2.5 million followers at the time of writing. Lil Miquela has become a full-on brand ambassador, having partnered with high-profile brands like Calvin Klein, Prada and BMW. Similarly, Nomura Holdings Inc. has leveraged Imma, another virtual influencer, to attract younger clients.

Lil Miquela: whether you call her a robot, AI singer, or fictional character, there’s no denying her popularity as a virtual influencer.

Are Virtual Influencers Right for Your Brand?

Engagement Is a Key Advantage

Virtual influencers have proven to generate higher engagement rates for sponsored posts compared to their organic content. In contrast, human influencers often see a drop in engagement with sponsored posts. This trend is particularly strong in the fashion and beauty industries.

Human Influencers Still Lead the Way

Human influencers typically have larger followings, offering broader reach. However, engagement often peaks with influencers who have moderate followings, suggesting that smaller audiences can still be highly effective. Consider whether reach or engagement is your most critical KPI.

A Customisable Advantage

Virtual influencers allow brands to work with diverse personas free from traditional constraints, helping brands meet their diversity goals, experiment with abandon, or even expand into the non-human world. The possibilities are endless.

On the Straight and Narrow Path

Human influencers often end up in hot water for one reason or another. Virtual influencers run by management companies with supervision can help brands avoid the scandals and controversies that human influencers might bring to the table, offering a safer way to protect brand reputation.

Cost-Effective Social Reach

Virtual influencers are significantly more cost-effective, with lower fees and no additional expenses like travel.

The Future of Influencer Marketing

Virtual influencers present a modern, compelling alternative to traditional human influencers. While human influencers still have the edge in terms of reach and have no competition among audiences who have not yet embraced the world of AI, virtual influencers shine in terms of engagement and creative freedom. As technology advances, brands should carefully evaluate their needs and objectives to decide the best influencer strategy.

No matter their preferences, consumers and business leaders alike should get ready for a new world of virtual influencer marketing.

Virtual Influencers: The Future or Flash in the Pan?