Virtual influencers taking over Instagram

A new wave of online personalities known as virtual influencers are taking over our Instagram feeds.

While we won’t be seeing robots roaming our streets, you can find them online – either promoting the latest fashion trends or vlogging their digital lives.

These virtual influencers are without fault – their hair and makeup are impeccable, they can sing, dance and are free from career-ending scandals. But what exactly are they?

What are virtual influencers?

Virtual influencers are completely fictional computer generated (CGI) ‘people’ that are created and managed via software by companies across the globe.

These hyper-realistic influencers usually build a following through social media where they post about their “lives” and talk with their fans – with Meta even verifying 35 virtual influencers on Instagram.

They can either be brand representatives to help promote a company’s services or products or they can collaborate with brands – like their human counterparts.

How do virtual influencers work?

Brands across the globe are using virtual influencers as a new marketing solution to reach new audiences.

Sidus Studio X, the creators of South Korean virtual influencer Rozy, said after her launch in 2020 that “big companies and creators wanted to use Rozy as a model”.

“This year, we expect to easily reach over two billion Korean won (about $A1.52 million) in profit, just with Rozy,” Baik Seung-yup, the CEO of Sidus Studio X told CNN.

Once Rozy’s popularity soared, Studio X secured more sponsorships with media companies and luxury brands including Hermes and Chanel.

However, while the collaboration works similar to human influencers, their virtual rivals take far less time and labour to produce content and will be forever young – with most of them between the ages of 16 to mid-twenties.

Most popular virtual influencers

1. Lil Miquela – 3 million Instagram followers

Miquela Sousa, otherwise known as Lil Miquela, is a self-described 19-year-old robot living in Los Angeles who has collaborated with top fashion brands Dior and Prada, and worked with supermodel Bella Hadid for a Calvin Klein campaign.

The Brazilian-American robot was created by a start-up based in LA called Brud, who work in robotics and artificial intelligence.

She has released a single, ‘Not Mine’ in 2017, and was listed as one of Time’s most influential people back in 2018.

2. Lu do Magalu – 5.9 million Instagram followers

The Brazilian-based virtual influencer is the brainchild of e-commerce website, Magazine Luiza.

She is the virtual spokesman for Brazilian retail company Magalu and uses her social media to promote reviews, product advice, unboxing videos and updates about the brand.

The company created her back in 2003 and she’s currently the most-followed virtual influencer of 2022.

3. Knox Frost – 634K Instagram followers

The 21-year-old male virtual influencer is from Atlanta and was created by social media marketing company Influential.

The self-proclaimed “universal adaptor” uses his platform to promote and advocate for social issues, collaborating with the World Health Organisation to spread awareness about the coronavirus.

A representative for Influential told Buzzfeed Knox’s partnership was to make sure people stayed healthy and donate to the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

“While Knox Frost may be a virtual human, he’s making a real world impact during this time of need,” they said.

4. Blawko – 140K Instagram followers

Ronald F Blawko, otherwise known as Blawko, was also created by LA start-up Brud.

He’s a self-described “young robot sex symbol” who is known for his numerous tattoos and street style.

The virtual influencer has his own YouTube channel and is also in an on/off relationship with fellow robot, Bermuda.

5. Imma – 406K Instagram followers

Imma is the first virtual fashion influencer and model created by company Aww Inc. in Tokyo, Japan.

Known for her signature short pink bob and high fashion style, she has collaborated with luxury brands such as Nike, Puma, Dior and Valentino.

She was also selected by Japan Economics Entertainment for the ‘New 100 Talent to Watch’ and has graced the cover of Grazia magazine.

Originally published as Virtual influencers rivalling human Instagram models