Does an influencer have to be human, or even alive at all?
It may seem like an odd question, but it’s surprisingly relevant. We all know a lot of influencers who are seen as “fake,” but some brands have taken this a step further.
What is a virtual influencer?
A virtual influencer is a new type of influencer that has been introduced to the internet very recently. A brand/creator will commission an artist to create a virtual “person” to be an influencer to promote brands.
This supposedly takes away any worry about scandal or controversy while still allowing brands to keep the benefits of a regular online influencer.
What does a virtual influencer do?
So far, the primary social media presence of these non-human influencers has been Instagram. A virtual influencer may act as a model for clothing brands, a political advocate, or even a musician. There are many possibilities.
Here are some examples of virtual influencers that have gained a large social media presence.
Miquela Sousa, often referred to as “Lil Miquela”, is presented on Instagram as a model, activist, and musician who calls herself a robot (even though she’s a CGI character and isn’t made of tangible material). She’s depicted as a girl with light skin, brown hair, and a hairstyle one might call “space buns.”
Her work has paid off, according to Quartz News, she was just hired by a magazine in Europe (yes, they hired a fake person) to be a “contributing arts editor” alongside two other (real) people. A lot of people found this to be just a little too much.
Bermuda is another virtual influencer similar to Miquela, whom Refinery 29 has deemed to be “The Most Controversial CGI Influencer On Instagram.”
Bermuda and Miquela were both created by a company called Brud. Bermuda is controversial because, in order to gain popularity, Brud created controversies surrounding her political views and relationships with other virtual influencers.
Bermuda once “hacked” the @lilmiquela Instagram account, which turned out to have been deliberately staged by Brud for attention. Her account, @bermudaisbae, has over 246k followers. Bermuda does not have as many followers as Miquela, because Bermuda apparently “used to be a Trump supporter,” according to Refinery 29.
Shudu’s Instagram bio refers to her as “The World’s First Digital Supermodel.”
Her purpose is a much more high-fashion, sophisticated approach to being a virtual fashion influencer. Shudu also seems to be the least problematic influence in the CGI influencer world.
She has very dark skin and is portrayed as confident and embracing of her skin tone, making her an inspiring “person” to be following on Instagram.
Shudu’s modeling has inspired a lot of black women to love themselves and to remember that they’re beautiful.
Should you use a virtual influencer?
A virtual influencer has its pros and cons.
On one hand, with a CGI influencer, controversy would only happen if you let it. On the other hand, the influencer wouldn’t do anything interesting unless you made it up for him or her to do. You control the influencer.
This is different from having a human influencer represent your brand because a real person could contribute ideas and share his or her own unique, real life without needing you to prompt it.
If you do choose to use a virtual influencer, it is best not to deceive people. You need to be upfront about the fact that the influencer is a made-up character and not a real person, or else your audience will feel deceived.
Virtual Influencers may be just a fleeting trend, so it may be best to choose a real person who is easy to work with. However, the choice is ultimately up to you.
If you feel that a real person would be too risky for your brand promotion, a virtual influencer might be the way to go–as long as you don’t get bored and make your own fake controversy for them.
Elisabeth Chase is a photographer, student, and writer who is passionate about blogging. Through her writing, she hopes to help others learn how to blog and share what they love with the world.