A virtual influencer is a fictitious character designed by 3D computer software to resemble and behave like human beings. They are given personalities by their creator to influence brand awareness and sales of company products and merchandise via social media platforms. Virtual influencers are also known as virtual models and CGI influencers.
Who are the most popular virtual influencers?
We will use Instagram as the gauge to measure which virtual influencers have the most followers. Instagram is the preferred social media platform of 3D creators as it does not have the same post cost as a video content provider such as Tik Tok.
- Lu or Magazine Luiza has 4.7 million followers on Instagram which are reserved only for Brazil. Created in 2009 Magazine Luiza or Magalu aired a YouTube promotion for iBlogTV. Although this video has only had minimal views it was the genesis of Lu that has seen her following grow massively to the point where she is the most popular and visible virtual character in the world. Collectively Lu has approximately 21 million social media followers. This is broken down to 14 million Facebook likes, 4.7 million Instagram followers, 2 million YouTube subscribers and a million followers on Twitter and Tik Tok.
- Lil Miquela is a freckle-faced Brazilian-American that has 2.9 million Instagram followers. She also goes by the name Miquela Sousa and is a virtual model that has worked in collaboration with fashion labels such as Prada, Dior and Calvin Klein. Not only a virtual model Lil Miquela has ventured into the music recording industry with a single titled Not Mine. They call her Instagram followers "Miquelites". Adding to her Instagram following are 2.5 million Tik Tok devotees.
- Barbie was created by Mattel Inc. on March 9, 1959, as a blonde-haired adult figured 29 cm doll. Barbie's Instagram followers number 1.8 million which is small compared to her 14.5 million Facebook Likes and 10 million YouTube subscribers. Added to this are 300,000 Twitter followers.
Who Follows Virtual Influencers?
A recent study by HyperAuditor indicated that 25% of virtual influencers are followed by females aged 18 - 24. The next demographic are females aged 25 - 34 at 20% with males aged 25 - 34 making up 15% of virtual influencers. An interesting statistic is the 14% of virtual influencer followers who are aged 13 - 17 which is double the amount human influencers.
Over the past 6 months, we have seen virtual influencers' negative growth increase to 48% which is up from 30% in the previous period. This is not to say that their popularity is dwindling but rather the content they are posting or lack of content does not warrant engagement. Take Tik Tok for example. For a human influencer, it is easy for them to post a 20-second video. But for a virtual influencer, the creator needs resources, time and money to produce a similar video. This is why only 31% of virtual influencers hold Tik Tok accounts.
How Much Money Do Virtual Influencers Make?
In 2020 brands spent $8 billion dollars on real and virtual influencers. This is expected to rise to $15 billion dollars in 2022. With the advent of COVID-19 which has seen the public profile restricted to real influencers, their virtual friends are capturing a lot of attention. And, they are expected to take a bigger slice of the brands spend going forward.
The appeal of virtual influencers is that they never age, they can be in multiple places at once, can be controlled and are relatively cheap to work with except on Tik Tok which requires a lot of animation video work and is expensive to produce.
Lil Miquela commands about $8500 per post. Over the course of the year, Lil Miquela is expected to earn $11.5 million for the creators.