VIRTUAL INFLUENCERS: CREEPY OR CUTTING-EDGE?

With newspaper and magazine sales dwindling year on year, more consumers are taking to the internet for their daily fix of news and views.

Along with online news platforms, blogs have become a popular source of inspiration. As a result, many brands now work with bloggers and influencers. This gives companies the chance to tap into the appeal that these individuals have among their followers and subsequently spread the word about the latest launch.

As the world continues to become increasingly automated, virtual influencers are tipped to be the next top trend. With high-profile brands already utilising these avatar-like personas, could this signal the future of influencer marketing?

Creepy or cutting-edge

I must admit that initially, there was something slightly unsettling about the whole concept. Particularly our desires being manipulated by a fictional character. However, the more I thought about it, this is already closer to the current ‘reality’ than we may have realised.

Reality television continues to provide some of the most successful influencers. Yet, it’s common knowledge that these shows are often scripted. Therefore, the person that we think we’re emulating is a character, constructed by someone else entirely.

Likewise, any online persona is crafted to present a positive impression.

A personal connection

Arguably, we enjoy these platforms due to the more personal angle that they offer. This begs the question: can virtual influencers ever truly resonate with consumers?

The Drum explores this in further detail, asking whether fictional characters have the same ability as humans to forge real connections with an audience.

In my opinion, as consumers become increasingly technologically aware, virtual influencers are likely to be accepted as the next logical step. However, I believe that there will be limitations.

‘Real life’ influencers have the right to share the more personal, sometimes emotional stories and experiences. This is where I believe these constructed personalities may overstep the mark.

Echoing the thoughts shared in the article, I have concerns about virtual influencers delving into very real experiences such as sexual assault. This could be seen to trivialise serious issues, which should not be belittled in the name of marketing.

Do virtual influencers represent the future of influencer marketing?

I believe that virtual influencers have their place and I can see them becoming successful. However, I imagine their sphere of influence being more limited than that of their real-life counterparts.

I look forward to seeing how this one plays out as brands jump on this latest trend. For more tips on how to pick the right influencer for your brand, read Fareeha’s blog here.