Artificial intelligence (AI) is not only transforming the way we work, learn, and communicate, but also the way we create, consume, and monetize content. One of the most fascinating and lucrative applications of AI is the emergence of virtual influencers: realistic digital avatars that are powered by AI and have their own personalities, preferences, and social media presence. These AI influencers are attracting millions of followers, collaborating with major brands, and generating huge revenues for their creators and partners. In this article, we will explore how AI influencers are making millions with brand partnerships, what are the benefits and challenges of this new phenomenon, and what are the implications for the future of work and careers with AI tools.
What are AI influencers and how do they work?
AI influencers are essentially computer-generated characters that use AI to produce and post content on social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter. They can be designed to look like anyone, from celebrities and models to fictional characters and animals. Some of the most popular AI influencers include:
- Lil Miquela: A 19-year-old Brazilian-American model and singer with over 3 million followers on Instagram. She has collaborated with brands such as Prada, Calvin Klein, Samsung, and Spotify, and has released several songs on streaming platforms. She is created by Brud, a Los Angeles-based company that specializes in artificial intelligence and robotics.
- Shudu: A stunning supermodel who is dubbed as the world’s first digital supermodel. She has over 200,000 followers on Instagram and has appeared in campaigns for Balmain, Fenty Beauty, and Ellesse. She was created by Cameron-James Wilson, a British photographer and digital artist.
- Noonoouri: A cute and quirky fashionista who is based in Paris and loves vegan food, haute couture, and social causes. She has over 400,000 followers on Instagram and has worked with brands such as Dior, Versace, Valentino, and Kim Kardashian. She was created by Joerg Zuber, a German graphic designer and creative director.
- Bermuda: A blonde and sassy influencer who is best friends with Lil Miquela and often engages in online drama with her. She has over 300,000 followers on Instagram and has partnered with brands such as Diesel, Moncler, and YouTube. She is also created by Brud, the same company behind Lil Miquela.
- Imma: A pink-haired Japanese influencer who is passionate about art, culture, and fashion. She has over 300,000 followers on Instagram and has collaborated with brands such as IKEA, Porsche, and Nike. She is created by Aww Inc., a Tokyo-based company that focuses on creating virtual humans and worlds.
These AI influencers use a combination of technologies such as computer vision, natural language processing, deep learning, and generative adversarial networks (GANs) to create realistic and engaging content. GANs are a type of AI model that consists of two competing neural networks: one that generates new images or texts, and one that evaluates them and tries to distinguish them from real ones. By constantly learning from each other, the networks can produce high-quality and diverse outputs that can fool human eyes and ears.
AI influencers can also interact with their fans and followers through comments, messages, and live streams, using natural language generation (NLG) and natural language understanding (NLU) to produce and comprehend natural language. Some AI influencers even have their own voice assistants, such as Lil Miquela’s Speak, that allow users to chat with them and ask them questions.
How are AI influencers making millions with brand partnerships?
Al influencers are becoming increasingly attractive and profitable for brands that want to reach and engage with new and diverse audiences, especially the younger generations that are more tech-savvy and open to digital experiences. According to a report by Business Insider, the global influencer marketing industry is expected to grow from $9.7 billion in 2020 to $13.8 billion in 2021, and AI influencers are poised to take a significant share of this market.
Some of the benefits and advantages of working with AI influencers for brands include:
- Creativity and flexibility: AI influencers can offer unlimited possibilities for creative and customized content that can match any brand’s vision, style, and message. They can also adapt to different scenarios, locations, and contexts, without the limitations of physical, legal, or ethical constraints. For example, Shudu can wear any outfit, pose in any environment, and change her appearance at will, while Imma can travel to any destination, experience any culture, and showcase any product.
- Consistency and reliability: Al influencers can provide consistent and reliable content that can meet any brand’s standards, deadlines, and expectations. They can also avoid the risks and controversies that may arise from working with human influencers, such as scandals, conflicts, or cancellations. For example, Lil Miquela can always deliver high-quality and on-brand content, without the need for travel, makeup, or editing, while Bermuda can always stir up buzz and attention, without the fear of backlash or criticism.
- Authenticity and engagement: AI influencers can create authentic and engaging content that can resonate with their fans and followers, who often view them as role models, friends, or sources of inspiration. They can also interact with their fans and followers in a personalized and conversational way, using natural language and emotions. For example, Noonoouri can share her opinions and passions on various topics, such as veganism, feminism, and sustainability, while Lil Miquela’s Speak can answer questions and provide feedback on music, fashion, and lifestyle.
AI influencers can charge different rates for different types of content and collaborations, depending on their popularity, reach, and relevance. According to a report by The New York Times, Lil Miquela can earn up to $8,500 for a single sponsored post on Instagram, while Shudu can earn up to $10,000 for a single campaign. Some AI influencers can also generate revenue from other sources, such as merchandise, music, or subscriptions.
What are the challenges and implications of AI influencers for the future of work and careers?
Al influencers are not without challenges and implications, both for the creators and the consumers of their content. Some of the issues and questions that arise from this new phenomenon include:
- Ethics and transparency: Al influencers raise ethical and transparency concerns, such as the potential for deception, manipulation, and exploitation of their fans and followers, who may not be aware of their artificial nature or their commercial motives. They also pose challenges to the protection of intellectual property, privacy, and data, as well as the regulation and accountability of their content and actions. For example, who owns the rights and responsibilities of AI influencers and their content? How can AI influencers disclose their identity and affiliations? How can AI influencers protect their fans and followers from fraud and harm?
- Diversity and representation: Al influencers raise diversity and representation issues, such as the potential for bias, discrimination, and stereotyping of their appearance, personality, and culture, which may reflect the preferences and prejudices of their creators and partners. They also pose challenges to the inclusion and empowerment of marginalized and underrepresented groups, as well as the respect and appreciation of human diversity and creativity. For example, who decides the features and traits of AI influencers and their content? How can AI influencers promote diversity and representation? How can AI influencers celebrate and support human talent and expression?
- Skills and competencies: Al influencers raise skills and competencies issues, such as the potential for displacement, competition, and collaboration of human workers and professionals, especially in the creative and media industries. They also pose challenges for the development and adaptation of new and relevant skills and competencies, as well as the recognition and validation of existing and valuable skills and competencies. For example, how can human workers and professionals compete and collaborate with AI influencers and their content? How can human workers and professionals develop and adapt to new and relevant skills and competencies? How can human workers and professionals recognize and validate their existing and valuable skills and competencies?
Al influencers are a new and exciting phenomenon that is reshaping the landscape of content creation, consumption, and monetization. They are making millions with brand partnerships, offering creativity, flexibility, consistency, reliability, authenticity, and engagement. However, they also face challenges and implications, such as ethics, transparency, diversity, representation, skills, and competencies. As AI influencers become more prevalent and influential, we need to be aware of their benefits and risks, and prepare for their impact on the future of work and careers with AI tools.