Virtual Influencers: What Are They and What They Can Mean for Your Business

    February 04 2022

    Before the metaverse, virtual influencers were somewhat unknown to mainstream social media. Brands like Calvin Klein and Moncler dabbled in using virtual influencers to promote their brand, but using virtual influencers as a marketing strategy never truly caught on past the point of making headlines. However, with the emergence of the metaverse, we will start to see virtual influencers more and more as brands, businesses, and creators join the metaverse to grow their businesses.  In this guide, we’ll discuss what a virtual influencer is and how brands, businesses, and creators can leverage them in their social media marketing strategy! Let’s get started. 

    What Are Virtual Influencers? 

    By definition, virtual influencers are characters created through AI technologies. They mimic the way real influencers or creators use social media and are an emerging trend in the influencer marketing space. However, there’s still a real creator or brand behind virtual influencers that come up with content they share on their accounts and aren’t as “robot-like” as one might think. 

    Part of the reason virtual influencers haven’t caught on until now is because of how new they are. There’s not a lot of knowledge or experience surrounding businesses working with virtual influencers and with that comes a lack of regulations or guidelines for brands and businesses wanting to work with virtual influencers and ethically. However, most recently Meta is preparing for wider adoption of virtual influencers and is working on creating an ethical framework to guide their use. Before we dive into ways businesses can leverage virtual influencers for growth, here are top virtual creators to know about. 

    Lil Miquela 

    Lil Miquela is by far one of the most famous virtual influencers on Instagram. She came to the scene in April 2016 and has worked with Calvin Klein and shot influencer marketing campaigns alongside real-life model and influencer Bella Hadid. She shares content for brands, but also shares her beliefs involving certain social good movements. 

     

    Shudu.gram

    Coined the world’s first digital supermodel, Shudu, has worked with Balmain and even was mistaken for a real customer and reposted as UGC for Rihanna’s Fenty beauty line. 

     

    How Businesses Can Leverage Virtual Influencers 

    As more and more brands start to experiment with AR and VR technologies, virtual influencers will become something that’s not so far fetched or offbase. Brands have the opportunity to make the metaverse a space to build experiential ecommerce into their businesses and leveraging virtual influencers as virtual fashion consultants might be a way to sway customers into buying your products versus another competing brand. For example, Forever 21 experimented with virtual personas on Roblux. They created "Forever 21 Shop City" where players could own and manage their own and manage their Forever 21 stores. Players were able to buy and sell Forever 21 merchandise as a way to customize their characters or "avatars" just like people would in the physical world. 

    Virtual influencers have the ability to be just as much of a tastemaker in the digital world as real-life influencers are in the physical world. And as more brands and retailers populate these virtual worlds, partnering with virtual influencers will become less of a publicity stunt and more of a lucrative marketing strategy that increases your sales and drives website traffic. Here are some of the benefits of working with virtual influencers. 

    Related: What is the Metaverse & How it Affects Your Business

    Top 3 Benefits of Working With Virtual Influencers 

    Control Over Messaging: Working with a virtual influencer, you'll have more say in the content they create and positioning of your post.  

    Create With Less Regulations: The rules regarding what can and can't be posted doesn't apply to virtual influencers. This could lead to more creative freedom. 

    Market to Gen Z: By incorporating virtual reality, specifically virtual influencers, into your social media marketing, you'll create an experience that's unique and relevant - something that can catch Gen Z's attention. 

    How to Get Started In Virtual Reality Without Using Virtual Influencers 

    The metaverse has its fair share of uncertainty. However, we do know that future of shopping is virtual. 

    By the end of 2022, the AR and VR market is forecasted to grow up to $209 billion. Augmented reality and virtual reality technologies are going create even more seamless shopping experiences that the average consumer will expect brands to have virtual showrooms or virtual try-on solutions purely out of convenience. For example, Sephora offers a filter that applies makeup to your face so customers can see what their product will look like on. CB2 also uses virtual technologies to show you how their furniture will look like in your space. Outside of filters, brands might find sponsorship opportunities within virtual storefronts or showrooms. This not only will help grow your brand awareness, but set you a part from competitors who haven't quite entered the metaverse. 

    The future of experiential marketing efforts – like pop-ups, showrooms, or demos – could all likely be in the metaverse. And as we start to get more comfortable with the future of social media, we will begin to experiment more and more and none of this will feel out of the ordinary. Take advantage of these growing technologies and look to virtual influencers who pioneered the way and see how you can tap into those same strategies to translate it into your own virtual marketing efforts! 

     

    Learn more about Carrie Boswell, on PLANOLY

    Carrie Boswell

    Carrie Boswell is the Digital Marketing Content Specialist at PLANOLY. She is always finding ways to include pop culture and the Gen Z perspective into the content we create for marketers and small business owners.

    More by Carrie Boswell

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