Forget Westworld and Black Mirror — AI influencers are here and they are giving us a clearer glance at the future of social media influencers. 

As awe-inspiring as the idea of a CGI influencer is, there is a great deal of confusion surrounding how they, well, function. Are they real robots walking among us or are they new-age, virtual brand spokespeople? 

But before we get into the what and why of these virtual influencers, we need to unpack the how.

Let's get into it:

How do AI influencers work?

First things first: No, AI influencers are not robots and they don’t ‘exist’ in the traditional sense of the word. Rather, they are “fictional computer-generated ‘people’ who have the realistic characteristics, features and personalities of humans,” according to Influencer Matchmaker

Behind every virtual influencer is a band of creatives, engineers and brand heads that carefully curate the individual’s personality, look and online persona. As this team is extremely digitally-savvy, it is their responsibility to grow the influencer’s digital presence. 

Why do AI influencers exist? 

Answering the question, ‘Why do AI influencers exist?’ is quite simple — advertising. Yeah, you heard that right; this is all marketing, which is quite clever when you think about it. 

Brands would previously hire and pay large sums of money to a couple of different (human) influencers. But then someone thought, ‘Why not just go ahead and make my own?’ And so it began!

The perfect example of this comes from the skincare brand SK-II’s Yumi. The Japanese brand partnered up with Soul Machines, the creators of AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) Digital People, to create Yumi. 

Soul Machines prides itself in being a pioneer in “creating incredibly lifelike, emotionally responsive, artificial humans with personality and character that allow machines to talk to us face-to-face.”

Yumi is a digital influencer that promotes the SK-II brand. Pretty straightforward, right? Wrong! In addition to her promotional services, Yumi uses natural language processing (NLP) technology to give beauty tips and guidance to consumers who want to better understand their skin. 

In this sense, Yumi operates as a chatbot that can answer questions — all while promoting the brand. Sounds like a win-win to us! However, what sets the AI influencer approach apart from chatbots is that it puts a face behind (or rather, in front of) the technology

From a consumer point of view, speaking to a face (albeit a manufactured one) could add a human touch to these chatbot interactions. Moreover, using virtual influencers shows your audience that your brand is committed to providing cutting-edge solutions. 

From a business point of view, creating your own virtual influencer gives you more control. Gone are the days of brands stressing about an influencer gone rogue. Now, they can have full authority over what content goes out and, if there are any errors, they can correct them immediately. 

Lil Miquela: the AI influencer who broke the mould 

Lil Miquela burst onto the Instagram scene in April 2016 and immediately began building a serious following.

Although Miquela came out as a ‘robot’ via instagram, a better descriptor would be that she is a CGI image created by LA-based start-up Brud. Techcrunch reported that Brud closed a USD$125-million investment deal led by Spark Capital. 

*Image courtesy of Instagram.

Lil Miquela or Miquela Sousa’s persona is that of a 19 year old Brazilian-American. She has all the right ingredients to make it in the influencer industry: Looks, personality, designer clothes and carefully curated content.

*Image courtesy of Instagram.

With three million followers on Instagram, campaigns with brands like Prada and Calvin Klein and a budding music career under her belt, Miquela’s star keeps growing brighter.

Lil Miquela’s influence is undeniable, but it still leaves us wondering how humans are so trusting of her opinion on products or brands when she can’t actually experience them in real life. 

This could be due to her openly sharing her feelings and thoughts with her audience. This creates a strange sense of authenticity — and dare we say … humanness. 

What are your thoughts on AI influencers? Let us know in the comments below. 

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*Image courtesy of Pixabay