Human technology

Virtual influencers are taking over Instagram

A new wave of online personalities known as virtual influencers are invading our Instagram feeds.

While we won’t see bots roaming our streets, you can find them online, either promoting the latest fashion trends or vlogging about their digital lives.

These virtual influencers are beyond reproach – their hair and makeup are impeccable, they can sing, dance and are safe from career-ending scandals. But, what are they exactly?

What are virtual influencers?

Virtual influencers are entirely fictional computer-generated (CGI) “people” who are created and managed through software by companies around the world.

These hyper-realistic influencers typically create a following on social media where they post their “life” and speak with their fans — Meta even verifying 35 virtual influencers on Instagram.

They can either be brand reps to help promote a company’s services or products, or collaborate with brands, like their human counterparts.

How do virtual influencers work?

Brands around the world are using virtual influencers as a new marketing solution to reach new audiences.

Sidus Studio X, the creators of South Korean virtual influencer Rozy, said after its launch in 2020 that “big companies and creators wanted to use Rozy as a role model.”

“This year, we expect to easily reach more than two billion Korean won (approximately A$1.52 million) in profit with Rozy alone,” said Baik Seung-yup, CEO of Sidus Studio X. CNN.

Once Rozy’s popularity skyrocketed, Studio X secured more sponsorships with media companies and luxury brands such as Hermès and Chanel.

However, while collaboration works the same way as human influencers, their virtual rivals take much less time and labor to produce content and will be forever young – most of them between 16 and 25 years old.

Most Popular Virtual Influencers

1. Lil Miquela – 3 million Instagram followers

Miquela Sousa, otherwise known as Lil Miquela, is a self-proclaimed 19-year-old robot living in Los Angeles who has collaborated with major fashion brands Dior and Prada, and worked with model Bella Hadid for a Calvin Klein campaign.

The Brazilian-American robot was created by a Los Angeles-based startup called Brud, which works in robotics and artificial intelligence.

She released a single, “Not Mine” in 2017, and was listed as one of Time most influential people in 2018.

2. Lu do Magalu – 5.9 million followers on Instagram

The Brazil-based virtual influencer is the brainchild of e-commerce site Magazine Luiza.

She is the virtual spokesperson for Brazilian retail company Magalu and uses her social media to promote reviews, product tips, unboxing videos and brand updates.

The company created her in 2003 and she is currently the most followed virtual influencer of 2022.

3. Knox Frost – 634,000 Instagram followers

The 21-year-old male virtual influencer hails from Atlanta and was created by social media marketing firm Influential.

The self-proclaimed ‘Universal Adaptor’ uses his platform to promote and advocate for social issues, working with the World Health Organization to raise awareness about the coronavirus.

A representative from Influential said News Feed Knox’s partnership was to make sure people stayed healthy and donate to the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

“Although Knox Frost may be a virtual human, he is making a real impact on the world in this time of need,” they said.

4. Blawko – 140,000 Instagram followers

Ronald F Blawko, otherwise known as Blawko, was also created by start-up LA Brud.

He describes himself as a “young robot sex symbol”, known for his many tattoos and his street style.

The virtual influencer has his own YouTube channel and also has an on/off relationship with another bot, Bermuda.

5. Imma – 406,000 Instagram followers

Imma is the first virtual fashion influencer and model created by Aww Inc. in Tokyo, Japan.

Known for her signature cropped pink bob and high fashion style, she has collaborated with luxury brands such as Nike, Puma, Dior and Valentino.

She was also selected by Japan Economy Entertainment for the “New 100 Talent to Watch” and appeared on the cover of Grace magazine.