Will a virtual influencer change your mind?

Virtual influencer - cartoon drawing of a social media influencer

Discombobulate: To confuse or bewilder.

I am discombobulated right now. Perhaps you can help me understand.

My confusion started with an article in ITWeb about computer-generated influencers. According to this, virtual influencers will “impact on the future of jobs for “real” influencers”.

Can an influencer be virtual?

I understand the idea of influencer marketing. It’s like having a celebrity endorse your product or brand. Instead of being a music, movie or sports star, the influencer is someone who has developed a following on social media in a particular niche or market.

I know that some influencers make good money, and that making videos all day is hard work. But I’m not sure about the concept of “jobs” for influencers. I don’t think there are recruitment agencies and job postings for influencers.

That’s not the cause of my confusion, although it’s an interesting side topic. Apparently many Gen Z and millennials want to be influencers and get paid for sponsoring content. I don’t know if that’s true (and I don’t want to be guilty of misinformation), but it sounds right. After all, teenagers over the years have dreamed of becoming actors and musicians and dancers and professional soccer players. Perhaps it’s a question of scale. You can be a small-scale influencer (like playing for your local sports team). Or you can be a large-scale influencer (like playing for your country).

I looked for a good definition of a social media influencer. Most definitions require an influencer to have credibility in their niche, and to have built a relationship with their following.

So here’s my first source of confusion. I don’t understand how a computer-generated personality is going to develop that kind of credibility. Or build a relationship with its following.

The “real” side of human influencers

The negative impact of social media is largely due to the way it creates unrealistic expectations. We look at posts on social media, and we know that we don’t look like that, and we don’t have that kind of life, so we feel bad about ourselves. (I realise that is an over-simplification.)

As a result, some social medial influencers are now posting “real” photos of themselves. To prove that they are not actually as perfect as their carefully-posed Instagram photos suggest.

So now we have “real” human influencers and “not-real” human influencers.

What is the “real” side of a virtual influencer?

I assume that showing you are a “real” person – wobbly bits and all – makes an influencer more credible – and therefore more influential.

But what will a virtual influencer show as its “real” person? Computer innards? Will that build a credible following? Here’s my real confusion. I can’t imagine identifying with some pieces of electronics.

On the other hand, there are plenty of virtual girlfriend and boyfriend apps for iPhone and Android. So obviously I’m missing something.

Maybe I’ll understand it better when the app stores offer me a virtual cleaner, virtual gardener, virtual chef and virtual driver.

Will you be happy to buy something because a robot tells you it’s a good product? What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments.

3 thoughts on “Will a virtual influencer change your mind?”

  1. Nerine Leonard

    Well well well. I would lie if I disn’t admit that this piece leaves me somewhat “discombobulated” to say the least. Before I could ever imagine being influenced by a “virtual influencer” I would first have to imagine being influenced by a living influencer ornfornthat matter anyone at all.. I’ve always marvelled at the idea of doing exactly the oposite of what is expected or thought to be the norm. But then again, being on the wrong side of fifty rather than 15, who am I to to try on this stilleto…

    1. Incus Data Training for Programmers: Jacqui Coosner (Director)
      Jacqui Coosner

      Ha ha! Thanks for the feedback. I admit that I don’t see myself as being the target for influencers either. It always sounds like something for a more youthful market. I realise we are all subtly influenced by the opinions of others. But accepting the “opinion” of a computer-generated image seems ridiculous.

  2. Pingback: My Quick Attempt at South African Futurology • 2022 • Incus Data Programming Courses

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