Social Media Today recently reported on an industry overview released by social analytics platform HypeAuditor that made the very real point that very un-real influencers are becoming increasingly popular -- especially on Instagram. The growing popularity of virtual influencers (who don’t really exist!) would seem to be diametrically opposed to what consumers say they are looking for most from those they follow online. That is, authenticity.
So, why are these computer-generated models gaining ground with brands? Many brands going in this direction have cited reduced risk to brand safety as a primary motivator. While it may be easier for brands to control messaging coming from virtual influencers, they don’t comprise the only solution for delivering brand-safe influencer content.
Influencers (that is, the real ones) are experts at understanding their audience. That’s how they got to be influencers in the first place! They know what content interests their followers. They know how to communicate with them and how to keep their audience engaged. Broadcasting layers of “required” brand messaging via a cartoon is not how you maintain relationships with current customers and create new relationships with potential customers; it’s how you prolong a novelty.
Marketers wanting to ensure brand safety should, instead, look for partners that carefully vet influencers, employ stringent content approvals, have measures in place to prevent fraudulent behavior and that adhere to all FTC content guidelines. Protecting the brand isn’t about virtual influencers, it’s about finding real influencers who connect authentically with their audiences and that can be trusted to conscientiously communicate the brand’s message. Just like real people do.