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The Rise of AI-Generated Influencers

The Rise of AI-Generated Influencers

To say that artificial intelligence has dramatically altered the business landscape is an understatement. From AI-optimized content to predictive analytics to customer segmentation, AI is revolutionizing marketing. The latest example? Influencers. That’s right—these social media deities now have a giant target on their collective backs, courtesy of pixels purporting to be people. Say that three times fast!

All kidding aside, as we look to the future, “virtual influencers” have the potential to reshape digital marketing strategy, offering new ways for brands to connect with their audiences.

What Are AI-Generated Influencers?

First things first, let’s clarify the concept: AI-generated influencers are virtual personas created using artificial intelligence and digital artistry. They typically mimic human characteristics, complete with distinct appearances and personalities. In fact, these digital beings often have elaborate backstories and engage with their audiences across platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. While Max Headroom—80s digital star and Coca-Cola pitchman—may come to mind, the modern concept originated with companies like Brud, which introduced Lil Miquela in 2016, one of the most famous AI virtual influencers. (In case you're curious, Lil Miquela now has 2.6 million Instagram followers!)

These virtual characters may have started as quirky experiments, but now they're front and center, collaborating with big brands, charming audiences worldwide, and raking in the dough for their human creators. They’re proof that we’ve entered an era of influencer marketing where reality and virtual reality are becoming nearly indistinguishable. 

Advantages of AI-Generated Influencers

So, what's the big deal? As a digital marketer, why should you care about social media influencers who don’t even exist IRL? Let's unpack the perks.

1. Consistency and Control

Imagine having an influencer who always aligns with your brand message. No off-script moments, no unexpected controversies. AI influencers can be meticulously crafted to embody your brand's vision, ensuring consistency across all campaigns.

2. 24/7 Availability

Unlike their human counterparts, AI influencers don’t need sleep or coffee breaks (those are real-person problems!). They’re always ready to engage with your audience, no matter the time zone. Talk about dedication!

3. Cost-Effectiveness

Human influencers can come with hefty price tags, but AI influencers? They’re a one-time investment (assuming you created one internally and own the IP). No need for first-class flights or five-star hotels. Just plug them into a social media platform, and you’re good to go.

4. Customization

AI influencers are like chameleons—they can adapt to any campaign or demographic you’d like to target. Want an influencer who’s passionate about sustainable fashion? Done. How about a tech-savvy trendsetter? Easy peasy.

5. Creativity and Innovation

With AI influencers, the sky's the limit. They allow brands to explore creative concepts that might not be possible with a human influencer. From intergalactic adventures to futuristic fashion, if you can dream it, they can do it.

Challenges and Ethical Considerations

Are there drawbacks to this newfangled digital wizardry? You betcha. While AI-generated influencers present exciting opportunities, there are important challenges and ethical considerations to keep in mind.

For starters, people love human influencers for their relatability and authenticity, but how genuine can a virtual influencer be? There's always a risk that audiences might see through the façade and feel disconnected. That’s why it's crucial to be transparent about whether an influencer is real or virtual—after all, no one likes being duped.

Ethical issues like body image concerns and misleading endorsements are also relevant when dealing with AI influencers, so brands must ensure they’re promoting positive and truthful messaging.

There’s also the potential for scandal—not necessarily from the virtual influencer but from its AI creator. It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario in which a company behind a popular virtual influencer runs afoul of the law or takes a controversial political stand. The fallout for brands associated with its “product” could be catastrophic.

And of course, the public can be fickle. Marketing campaigns using AI virtual influencers might not always land well, making it important to gauge audience sentiment and respond quickly to any backlash.

Star Wars Episode XV: The Influencers Fight Back

So are the Paris Hiltons and Kim Kardashians of the digital world in trouble? Only time will tell. But one thing’s for sure, they’re not going down without a virtual fight. Notably, one flesh and blood influencer has already become the first to AI clone herself. Caryn Marjorie is a Snapchat influencer with almost 2 million subscribers—but she can’t communicate directly with all of them. That’s where “CarynAI” steps in, allowing Marjorie’s fans to enjoy private, personalized conversations with an AI version of the human influencer.

As AI technology advances, others will inevitably follow Caryn’s lead. In fact, TikTok is actively exploring creating AI-driven influencers who can promote brands, discuss popular topics, and pretty much do what human influencers already do—only they’ll be digital. AI tools like RenderNet already let you create digital characters. Today, anyone and everyone can become a virtual influencer.

The Future of AI-Generated Influencers

While predicting the future is often a fool's errand, it's safe to assume that increasingly immersive experiences lie ahead. For brands seeking to harness this evolving technology, the boundaries are nearly limitless. AI-generated influencers will engage with followers in real-time through AI-driven conversations, fostering deeper connections and personalized engagement. Virtual influencers will also inhabit VR spaces, providing brands and audiences with immersive environments where they can interact and connect on entirely new levels. This blend of AI and virtual reality will redefine how brands approach digital storytelling, offering unparalleled opportunities for engagement and creativity.

Conclusion: Embracing the Virtual Frontier

AI-generated influencers are no longer just a quirky novelty—they’re a disruptive force redefining the marketing landscape. As brands explore this new digital frontier, it's crucial to weigh the pros and cons. While these virtual personas open doors to innovative storytelling and brand engagement, ethical considerations, authenticity concerns, and potential controversies abound.

That being said, the future of digital marketing is undoubtedly intertwined with AI and virtual reality. The “real” influencers may have a fight on their hands, but in this new era of AI-generated personas, there’s room for both reality and virtual reality to thrive side by side. As marketers, it's time to buckle up and embrace a world where pixels meet personas and creativity knows no bounds.