Is the next wave of influencers digital?

Julia Rijssenbeek
May 3, 2018

Is the next wave of influencers digital?

Julia Rijssenbeek
May 3, 2018

Is the next wave of influencers digital?

Julia Rijssenbeek
May 3, 2018
Is the next wave of influencers digital?
Julia Rijssenbeek
Maya Turolla
May 3, 2018
Photo credit: @lilmiquela, Instagram

What happened?

Influencer Lil Miquela has gained a lot of attention on Instagram in a short time (more than 800,000 followers). She is a 20-year-old fashionista and musician, hanging out with and inspiring celebrities, regularly posting social or political issues, currently living in Los Angeles – and she is fake. Miquela is a 3D computer-generated avatar who doesn’t exist in real life. She is a famous example of the rise of digital influencers. Other examples are black supermodel Shudu and the Japanese popstar Hatsune Miku. Last year, Coca-Cola signed a deal with a virtual celebrity ambassador for FIFA 18.

What does this mean?

Chatbots and virtual assistants are joined by these more visible digital characters. The digital sphere is increasingly coming to life and virtual characters are becoming an important part of it. The arrival of these digital personas teaches us that we will accept and even embrace unattainable virtual content as long as it is successful in merging the virtual and the human touch – what is fake and what is real is less important, as long as the avatar has enough authenticity as a character.

What's next?

The rise of digital avatars shows that they have stepped out of their niche and are becoming relatable and inspiring influencers. This unexpected success and the acceptance of this new class of influencers show that the virtual influencer is gaining relevance as a voice in online media and embodies real commercial potential for brands. While human influencers are prone to human mistakes, a virtual influencer can be created flawless and drive affinity in a more secure way, creating an online relationship with consumers. It also creates the possibility for anyone to become an influencer, by creating a virtual one.

About the author
At FreedomLab, Julia Rijssenbeek focuses on our relationship to nature, sustainable and technological transitions in the food system, and the geopolitics of our global food sytems. She is currently working on her PhD in philosophy of technology at Wageningen University, investigating how synthetic biology might alter philosophical ideas about nature and the values we hold, as well as what a bio-based future may bring.
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