Malaysians are no stranger to influencers and social media personalities these days. Finding an influencer account isn't all that difficult, but it can take a minute to show you something like this.
She looks like an influencer, has the following (3 million) and the engagement of one, and even runs branded campaigns. She even produces music on Spotify with over 273,000 monthly listeners.
But when you look at her, you might think that something on her face is … off. Exactly. She is an example of what's new in the world of influencer marketing today – robotic influencers.
Just so we can be clear about this, these are not literal robots that you can meet and greet in real life, but CGI characters, which is why they are also known as virtual influencers. The aforementioned influencer was created by an LA startup called Brud that specializes in AI and robotics.
Now robot influencers are on the rise around the world and many of them have collaborated with each other or are "friends" on their social media (no surprise). Some of these other personalities are Shudu, Bermuda, Imma, etc.
What about Malaysia?
Yes, we have one, or at least one, account that wants to go in this direction (as measured by following different robot influencer accounts) – Avina.
Avina lives in Cheras and is currently 21 years old. So far I haven't been able to find any other robot influencer like her in Malaysia and she is still in its infancy.
While Avina herself hasn't personally worked with other robot influencers like the big names just mentioned, she has envisioned going to certain places like TRIBE and MoMo.
At first I thought it was already gaining traction and being sponsored for branded content, but TRIBE confirmed to me that they had not worked with her before and the owner may have only visited TRIBE often.
Avina at TRIBE and MoMo / Photo credits: Avina
Well it would be an interesting development to see a robotic influencer grow in Malaysia, but this is definitely something new to the local influencer marketing scene that I was curious about.
So I interviewed Nuffnang and Gushcloud, two well-known influencer marketing companies, about their thoughts on what the future of working with these influencers would be and how, if anything, it could transform the industry. While no company has yet to work with a robot influencer, they are aware of the rising trend overseas.
The pros and cons of working with robot influencers
“Robot influencers can do exactly what brands want their followers to do. Besides, they wouldn't get involved in personal scandals, ”Nuffnang's Jason Lee told Vulcan Post.
He's also confident that when working with brands, robot influencers will deliver content on their social media on time.
"Content with them can be highly customizable, and what they show also gives viewers a different experience as it strikes the line between realistic and virtual content," Gushcloud's Hou Yin Wan shared with Vulcan Post.
However, working with robotic influencers may seem like a double-edged sword. Jason suspects that consumers may not appreciate the content they post because they know brands are in full control of it.
Hou Yin also believes that, especially in Asian countries, not everyone accepts robot influencers in this way. He believes that big brands can be difficult to work with, especially when it comes to religious contexts that can have potential negative effects.
Jason Lee and his team at Nuffnang / Photo credit: Nuffnang
“The maintenance and management of robotic influencers would also require significant investments. Additionally, each of their posts would be more time consuming than a regular influencer as it would have to be drafted, drafted, and then rendered to meet a brand's campaign goals, ”added Jason.
No, they will not replace IRL influencers
Both companies are confident that this is not going to take over the human influencer marketing scene, but rather that they will coexist with each other and be their own category in the influencer marketing industry. That makes sense, because not everyone can and has the time to build such robots instead of becoming an influencer themselves.
“As long as the developers of robot influencers are transparent, we believe their creation will be popular with a select group of viewers who see robot influencers as a form of 'imagination'. consider it, especially for communities that grew up with manga and anime like the Japanese, ”explained Jason.
Hou Yin believes that this form of content creation is sustainable despite the longer production time, because if the quality of the content is good, brands are definitely willing to pay a good price. And whether it works with these robots or IRL developers, the relationship shouldn't be too different, he said.
Hou Yin and his team at Gushcloud / Photo credit: Gushcloud
Both Hou Yin and Jason agreed that the criteria brands would look for in robotic influencers are exactly the same as they are for human influencers, e.g. B. Having a good base of followers and engagement rates ahead of other factors such as appearance and personality.
Robot influencers are still controlled by humans
Personally, it's hard to say that robotic influencers themselves would be able to stay away from drama and controversy just because their content is more thoroughly thought out. Ultimately, their creators are people with their own views and beliefs.
Bermuda, the influencer I mentioned earlier, is actually an ex-Trump supporter with problematic views and had “beef” with two other robot influencers.
From beef to the besties …? / Photo credit: Bermuda
Whether or not this was all a controversial publicity stunt, posting such content doesn't reflect that particular influencer well.
Ultimately, the people who run these robot influencer accounts are still people with their own opinions and perspectives, and working with these influencers is not the same as working with an efficient machine in and of itself. Brands that work with robotic influencers cannot assume that they are the perfect solution for marketing.
Flaws aside, there is definitely potential for this new category of influencer marketing, even in Asia.
In Japan there is even a "Virtual Human Agency" called Aww that has created 5 virtual influencers who have a huge following and commitment on Instagram. South Korea also has its own virtual influencers like Rozy that are gaining traction. On the other hand, it could be that these nations are also more receptive to such concepts, which already offers these CGI developers a market to address.
According to OnBuy, the most popular robot influencer, Lilmiquela makes around £ 6.5,000 (RM 37.2,000) per post. In general, however, the average earnings per post for robot influencers is between £ 100 and £ 200 (RM572-1,146), which is not too far from what micro-influencers can make.
How Much Do Robot Influencers Make / Photo Credit: OnBuy
Not to mention, Brud, the startup behind lilmiquela, has raised $ 6.1 million in funding to date, signaling the potential for companies in this industry.
Overall, the general public sentiment towards robot influencers seems positive, but it's hard to tell if the content they create actually translates into conversions for brands. Because they are "robots" rather than humans, can we still hold them accountable in the same way we do with IRL influencers?
It's hard to tell where the line is being drawn now, but it does not seem that they pose a threat to the current influencer marketing industry. Hence, we can expect more robot influencer accounts to pop up, whether local or not.
For all Malaysians it would be nice to see some virtual faces that actually resemble ethnicities in Malaysia which would be more attractive as the local crowd can find them more reliable.
- You can find out more about Avina here.
- More AI-related articles that we wrote here can be found here.
Selected image source: Avina and LilMiquela