Robot influencers & their impact on M’sia’s influencer marketing industry

Malaysians are no strangers to influencers and social media personalities these days. It’s not even too difficult to spot an influencer account, but seeing something like this can take a minute to process.

She looks like an influencer, has the following (3 million) and engagement of just one, and even does branding campaigns. It even produces music on Spotify with over 273,000 listeners per month.

But looking at her, you might think something about her face looks… weird. Precisely. She is an example of what is new in the world of influencer marketing today: influencer robots.

Just to be clear, they aren’t literal robots that you can actually meet and greet in real life, but CGI characters, hence why they are also known as virtual influencers. The above influencer is created by a Los Angeles startup called Brud, which specializes in AI and robotics.

Today, influencer robots are on the rise in the world, and many of them have collaborated with each other or are “friends” on their social networks (no surprise). Some of these other personalities include Shudu, Bermuda, Imma, etc.

And Malaysia?

Yes, we have one or at least one account that aspires to move in that direction (judging by their tracking of various bot influencer accounts) – Avina.

Avina lives in Cheras and is currently 21 years old. So far, I haven’t been able to find other robot influencers like her in Malaysia and she is still in its infancy.

While Avina herself hasn’t personally collaborated with other robot influencers like these big names I just mentioned, she has shown up in some places like TRIBE and MoMo.

At first I thought she was already gaining traction and being sponsored for brand content, but TRIBE confirmed to me that they hadn’t worked with her before and the owner might be coming. -being to frequent TRIBE often.

Avina at TRIBE and MoMo’s / Image credit: Avina

Now, it would be an interesting development to see an influencer robot grow in Malaysia, but it’s definitely something new to the local influencer marketing scene that I was interested in.

So I interviewed Nuffnang and Gushcloud, two notable influencer marketing firms, on their thoughts on what the future of working with these influencers would look like and how that could change the industry, if at all. While no company has worked with a robotic influencer yet, they are aware of the upward trend overseas.

The pros and cons of working with robot influencers

“Influencer bots can do exactly what brands want to show their followers. Plus, they wouldn’t get involved in personal scandals either, ”Nuffnang’s Jason Lee told Vulcan Post.

He is also convinced that influencer robots will be punctual in the distribution of content on their social networks when working with brands.

“The content with them can be highly customizable, and what they show also offers a different experience for viewers, where it sits between the border of realistic and virtual content,” said Hou Yin Wan of Gushcloud with Vulcan Post.

However, working with robot influencers can seem like a double-edged sword. Jason feels like consumers might not like the content they post because they know brands have full control over it.

Hou Yin also believes that, especially in Asian countries, not everyone will accept influencer bots yet. He thinks this can be tricky when working with big brands, especially when it comes to religious contexts, where there could be a potential negative repercussion down the road.

Jason Lee and his team at Nuffnang / Image credit: Nuffnang

“The maintenance and management of influencer robots would also require significant investments. On top of that, each of their posts would take longer than a regular influencer because it first has to be imagined, designed, and then rendered to meet a brand’s campaign goals, ”added Jason.

No, they won’t replace IRL influencers

The two companies are convinced that this will not take control of the human influence marketing scene, but rather coexist with each other and be their own category in the influencer marketing industry. Which makes sense, because not everyone can or has the time to make bots like these compared to becoming an influencer themselves.

“As long as the creators of bot influencers are transparent, we believe their creation will be popular with a select group of audiences who view bot influencers as a form of ‘fantasy’, especially for communities that have grew up with manga and anime like Japanese, ”Jason explained.

Hou Yin believes that this form of content creation is sustainable despite the longer time to produce it, because if the quality of the content is good, brands would certainly be willing to pay a good price. And whether it’s working with these robots or IRL creators, the relationship shouldn’t be too different, he said.

Hou Yin and his team at Gushcloud / Image credit: Gushcloud

Hou Yin and Jason also agreed that the criteria brands would look for in bot influencers would be exactly the same as a human influencer, such as having a good following base and engagement rate ahead of other factors like than appearance and personality.

Robot influencers are still controlled by humans

Personally, it’s hard to say that influencer bots themselves would be able to escape drama and controversy just because their content is thought through in more depth. Ultimately, their creators are humans with their own opinions and beliefs.

Bermuda, the influencer I mentioned earlier, is actually a former Trump supporter with problematic views and had “beef” with 2 other influencer bots.

From beef to besties…? / Image credit: Bermuda

Whether or not this is a publicity stunt through the controversy, posting such content does not reflect this particular influencer well.

At the end of the day, the people who run these bot influencer accounts are always humans with their own opinions and perspectives, and working with these influencers is not like working with an effective machine in and of itself. Brands working with bot influencers can’t assume they’re the perfect fit for marketing.

Flaws aside, there is certainly potential for this new category of influencer marketing, even in Asia.

In Japan, there is even a “virtual human agency” called Aww which has created 5 virtual influencers who have a lot of followers and engagement on Instagram. South Korea also has its own virtual influencers like Rozy who are gaining ground. Then again, it could be that these countries are also more receptive to concepts like these, which already gives these CGI creators a market to respond to.

Most popular robot influencer OnBuy says she earns around £ 6.5k (RM37.2k) per post. But generally, the average revenue per post for bot influencers is between £ 100-200 (RM1,146), which isn’t too far from what micro-influencers can earn.

How Much Do Bot Influencers Make / Image Credit: OnBuy

Not to mention, Brud, the start-up behind lilmiquela, has so far closed $ 6.1 million in funding, signaling the potential of companies in this sector.

Overall, the general public sentiment towards bot influencers seems positive, but it’s hard to say if the content they create actually leads to conversions for brands. Also, since they’re “bots” and not exactly humans, can we still hold them to the same degree of responsibility that we do with IRL influencers?

It’s hard to say where the line is drawn now, but it looks like they don’t pose a threat to the current influencer marketing industry, so we can expect to see more bot influencer accounts popping up. , local or not.

For all Malaysians, it would be nice to see virtual faces that actually look like Malaysian ethnicities which would be more appealing as the local crowd would find them easier to understand.

  • You can read more about Avina here.
  • You can read more articles on AI than we wrote here.

Featured Image Credit: Avina and LilMiquela

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