As artificial intelligence continues to become increasingly accessible to more companies, it has allowed brands to better understand consumers and personalize interactions with them because of it. The rise of virtual influencers, on the other hand, provides businesses with an intriguing alternative to traditional influencer marketing.
Could the marriage of AI-powered technologies make virtual influencers and influencer chatbots actually boost customer experience (CX)?
This article discussed virtual influencers, its potential benefits, and how important it can be for your branding strategies.
What are Virtual Influencers?
Virtual Influencers function much like human social media influencers. The main difference is that virtual influencers like @lilmiquela are computer generated images (CGI) with personas that rely on algorithms that allow them to function as next-Gen social media influencers.
And there’s a reason why some of the largest brands have been drawn to virtual influencers like Lil Miquela and its 1.5 million followers. With a portfolio that boasts brands that include Chanel and Supreme, along with spreads in publications like Vogue, this virtual social media star can rival the influence of most human personalities.
Because virtual influencers resonate with the next most important economic demographic — Gen Z — brands are lining up to leverage the draw of these virtual influencers for their marketing strategies. Add to that that they have more control over how virtual influencers behave in act (in a way that they don’t with human influencers), brands can shape consumers’ minds precisely how they want.
Pros of Virtual Influencers
- More control on how products appear on the influencer’s feed.
- Because virtual influencers are bots, brands have more creative freedom over design and conceptual aspects of influencer marketing. This makes campaigns more aligned with their branding strategies.
- And because of the amount of control over virtual influencers, the potential for controversies are much lower. Everything can be calculated precisely. There are no untoward incidents in night clubs, and no DUI cases to deal with.
- Of course, while it’s too early to determine the staying power of these virtual influencers, one thing is undoubted: they’re not human. For the most part, it’s the human aspect of influencers that creates a connection with audiences. And while this innovative take on influencer marketing continues to rise, only time can tell how long they’ll continue to resonate with the young.
How Virtual Influencers Can Boost Your Brand Strategy
Striking Personal Connections
When it comes to virtual influencers, it doesn’t have to be limited to characters like Lil Miquela and Shudu. These can also come in the form of chatbots — a virtual buddy that can get to know consumers, and make recommendations based on their lifestyle and interests.
There are already brands like Sephora and their style guru bot that have stayed ahead of the curve, not just by developing their own ecommerce app, but also by utilizing virtual social brand mascots to strike more personal connections with their audiences. It can even be a combination of the two, with fictional influencers having a chatbot counterpart to allow for conversations beyond traditional social media posts.
The power of artificial intelligence to leverage key market insights derived from chatbot analytics makes influencer chatbots a potentially powerful marketing tool for any brand, and a great boost to CX.
Creating a Virtual Community
While developing a personality that resonates like Lil Miquela is easier said than done, when done correctly, brands can develop virtual communities with their audiences. The people behind Lil Miquela has done a tremendous job of blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, mostly with its online activity. The character actively replies to comments and DMs, and even submits itself to media interviews.
To a certain extent, Lil Miquela even surpasses its real-life counterparts when it comes to nurturing communities, frequently posting its liberal stand on socio-political issues.
This is an example of how a virtual influencer can become relatable despite its obvious lack of human characteristics. Find an angle that draws people together, and use virtual influencers to lure them into your community.
Staying on Brand
This has already been alluded to earlier, but it bears mentioning again because of how important it is. When brands collaborate with human influencers, they open themselves up to people’s distinct personalities relaying their messaging. And while that’s a big part of partnering with influencers, it also makes brands vulnerable to branding mistakes.
With virtual influencers, brands can control the type of content produced, and make personalized recommendations using AI. Staying on brand will no longer be a concern.
Modernizing an Old Strategy
As with most advertising strategies, consumers have also learned to tune out branded messaging from even some of the most popular influencers. How many times have you seen a celebrity you genuinely like on your feed holding a product, only to scroll past the post? For the most part, people are interested in what they have to say, not what products they endorse (unless it’s something really cool).
With virtual influencers, particularly when it comes to influencer chatbots, brands have a chance to modernize an old strategy — delivering their message in a more nuanced, tailored way. As people get even more used to interacting with virtual personas like digital assistants, it’ll only become easier to influence them, especially with AI providing insight into what it is they already like.
Stretching the Influencer Budget
Of course, collaborating with virtual influencers like Lil Miquela will cost you. But developing your own influencer chatbot (with the help of a growing number of software engineers) — one that your community can not only get used to, but also trust — allows you to spread influence on a budget.
Often, it’s the accessibility, relatability, and personality that draws people in. And with the wealth of data AI-powered influencers can tap, you can provide a virtual influencer that truly understands.
The Future of Virtual Services
There are obvious benefits to having an influencer that brands can fully control. But as mentioned earlier, it’s still far too early to determine whether this virtual influencer concept is one that can truly stick. But as progressive companies like Marriott, Sephora, and Coca-Cola have found, having chatbot influencers can be a boon for boosting CX.
We’re a year away from an Oracle study’s finding that 80% of businesses want chatbot assistants by 2020. And with the continuing capabilities being developed for these type of AI-powered tools, we can only expect this trend to grow.
People have been influenced by celebrities since celebrities became a thing. So while human influencers don’t appear to be going away anytime soon, virtual influencers provide an intriguing alternative.
What’s your take on virtual influencers? Let us know in the comments below.
Virtual Influencers: The Significance of Influencer Chatbots to Your Brand Strategy was originally published in Chatbots Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.