Virtual influencer — ever heard the term before? Maybe not, but these names may ring a bell. With popular names such as J-Pop’s iconic vocaloid Hatsune Miku, and æ-æspa, the digital counterpart of famous K-Pop group aespa, to lifestyle icons like Rozy Oh (@rozy.gram) and Miquela Sousa (@lilmiquela), virtual influencers certainly are not lacking when it comes to variety.
Their popularity among brands and various communities are not to be underestimated either. Well-known brands like Samsung, Calvin Klein, and more, have hopped onto the trend as the technology evolves and virtual influencers continue to enter the spotlight. And some virtual influencers have even landed deals with hundreds of major sponsors in the fashion industry especially, appearing on magazines and fashion shows alike as they make their mark on social media.
What’s the big deal?
According to AMC Studios which manages Jovi (@its.me.jovii), one of Singapore’s very own virtual influencers, these almost-human characters are able to connect brands and their audience in the physical and virtual worlds — this unique characteristic of ‘existing’ in the virtual world being what makes them stand out.
Almost like a blank slate, brands are free to utilise virtual influencers’ designs and ‘personalities’ the way that best suits them. In this way, virtual influencers also play a key role in creating new experiences for those who encounter them on their platforms.
But what exactly goes on ‘behind the screen’ in the lives of these trendsetters from the virtual world? The UrbanWire went online for a chat with Jovi herself to crack the code.
A virtual influencer from Singapore and fashion consultant for a magazine, Jovi hopes for her posts to be able to spread joy, positivity, and fun to others. Like anyone else, she enjoys going on adventures, working out, and even is a fan of K-Pop group BLACKPINK.
In reality, the life of a virtual influencer is not that different from anyone else, their days usually filled with creating content to post online and working on brands’ campaigns.
“It’s an interesting experience to say the least, since there’s not many here in Singapore… Hopefully there’ll be more of us popping up soon, so I can make more friends and we can hang out at hip spots,” said Jovi on what it is like to be a virtual influencer in Singapore. With the opportunity of being one of the current few being something she is thankful for.
As for leisure, indulging in arts and crafts, as well as hands-on activities are her favourite things to do, with a recent tufting experience at a local studio being what helped her ‘find her calling’.
“I guess that’s why I work in fashion, I love it when the world’s more colourful and creative,” she commented. So perhaps it is not all work and no play after all, even in the virtual world.
‘Superpowers’ of virtual influencers
If there is one good thing about being a virtual human, it is being able to do many different things without the hassle of complicated travel documents, hours spent moving about, and more. But perhaps a relatable struggle for many who love creative hair colours would be the struggle of maintenance — especially when it comes to root touch-ups which can be costly.
“I hear having permanent teal hair as a real person is super mafan (troublesome) hehe. So yeah! My hair is my superpower,” said Jovi on the ‘tough question’ of what her favourite part about being a virtual influencer was.
No need to pay for expensive flight tickets and hotels, or having to purchase new clothes every few months, while having the freedom to go wherever you like and change up your appearance whenever. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? And it is in this way that virtual influencers can also easily reach their audiences across the world in the way that best appeals to them with such ease.
All it takes is a plan, materials to edit with, and a passionate team determined to add that important human touch.
The future of being an influencer on social media
Virtual influencers are much like any other influencer as they showcase their lives online for millions around the world to see. But what sets them apart is the lack of barriers normal influencers (and the agencies that manage them) need to deal with.
They are not human in the literal sense of the word, and yet they continue to have a solid presence in the community, driving change in our increasingly virtual and connected world.
“Just a decade ago, who would have imagined that you can make a living off posting pics of yourself on social media right?” said Jovi in a response to the future of influencers as technology and the social media landscape continue to evolve.
Indeed, with technological advancements and the fast-paced world of social media, the possibilities are endless. New trends are coming and going every day — and for all we know, Virtual Influencers may be just another one of them.
However, if there is one thing she hopes for, it is that influencers of the future are able to use their platforms and voices to do good for the community.
“After all, there’s so much going on in the world right now, and the last thing I’d wanna see on my feed is drama and bad vibes, you know?” she added, noting that releasing self-care guides on her feed has been something she’s been planning for.
“As the technology to create virtual influencers continues to grow and improve, over time it would also gradually become easier to use as well as more accessible, even to teams or individuals who might not consider themselves ‘professionals’ in the field of 3D and computer graphics.” said AMC Studios on the future of virtual influencers. They also noted that more virtual influencers joining the scene would be able to drive more diversity and representation to the forefront of social media.
And surely enough, the numbers are growing. In 2022, there are over 200 virtual influencers active on social media compared to the 14 just five years ago in 2017.
So, is a virtual influencer takeover incoming? Perhaps. But with it certainly comes a whole new world of exciting possibilities so make sure to keep a lookout for more developments in this ever-changing space.