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Virtual Influencers: A New Dimension of Marketing or a Threat to Authenticity?

Virtual reality is gradually integrating into our lives, and one of the latest phenomena in the realm of social media is virtual influencers. They constitute a blend of artificial intelligence and human creativity, acting as intermediaries in the relationships between companies and consumers. However, is their popularity a herald of a new era of marketing, or a warning signal for authenticity in the influencer world?

One of the most well-known cases is Miquela, considered the world’s first virtual influencer. The idea of creating virtual avatars is not new – the first attempts emerged in Japan in the 1990s. The breakthrough came in 2007 when the musical star Hatsune Miku entered the stage, not only singing but also participating in marketing campaigns and performing as a hologram at concerts. Soon after, virtual YouTubers, known as vtubers, also emerged. One of the most popular is Kizuna AI, who has gathered over 3 million followers and engages in various marketing activities.

In Poland, the first attempts to create virtual influencers took place in 2018. One example is Sara Kosmos, who built her small community on Instagram by sharing daily stories from her life and engaging in advertising campaigns. Despite the growing global interest, the Polish market for virtual influencers still remains stagnant. Experts point to the conservative nature of European culture, which may hinder the development of this trend. Alongside their increasing popularity, concerns about the authenticity and integrity of virtual influencers also exist. Despite their engagement in various social and marketing activities, their actions may be the result of manipulation by their creators or even corporations. It is worth considering whether virtual influencers truly meet market needs. Although the financial sector may be interested in their utilization, their effectiveness in other sectors, such as the cosmetics or tourism industry, may be limited.

Nevertheless, the growing popularity of virtual influencers has led more and more companies to take interest in them as a marketing tool. There are even special websites dedicated solely to virtual influencers. However, the issue of authenticity and trust remains. Do virtual influencers truly have something to convey, or are they merely artificial creations designed solely for profit? As summarized by doctoral student Maria Łukomska in her publication “The Artificial Human on the Internet. Who are Virtual Influencers?”, the topic of virtual influencers is complex and requires further research. Their growing popularity may be both an expression of technological progress and a threat to the authenticity and integrity of actions on social media. All of this makes the topic of virtual influencers still open to discussion and requires deeper analysis to understand the full extent of their influence and potential in today’s world of marketing and social communication.

As technology and creativity evolve, virtual influencers are becoming increasingly common in the landscape of social media. Their role as trendsetters and brand promoters will expand, and the boundary between human influencers and their virtual counterparts will become increasingly fluid. However, with this evolution come new challenges and questions regarding ethics and authenticity. Can virtual influencers truly build trust and loyalty with their audience? Will their actions reflect values and beliefs, or will they merely be an expression of corporate marketing strategy? Therefore, while virtual influencers open up new possibilities in marketing, it is important for us to maintain a healthy skepticism and critical approach to this trend. Only through continuous research, discussions, and monitoring of the impact of virtual influencers can we best harness their potential, while also ensuring the authenticity and integrity of our actions in the world of social media.

Sources: 

Influencer Marketing. Potencjał cyfrowych twórców w kształtowaniu relacji konsumentów z markami. Łaszkiewicz, A. (2022). Łódź: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego. https://www.press.uni.lodz.pl/wul/catalog/book/40

Sztuczny człowiek w internecie. Kim są wirtualni influencerzy?. Łukomska, M. (2022). Annales Universitatis Paedagogicae Cracoviensis, Studia De Cultura, 14(2), 63–75. https://doi.org/10.24917/20837275.14.2.4

Influencer marketing: w roli głównej człowiek, postać wirtualna czy cyfrowy klon? W H. Mruk & A. Sawicki (red.) Mruk-Tomczak, D. (2022). Marketing. Koncepcje i doświadczenia (s. 272–293). https://www.marketingsilesia.pl/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Marketing.-Koncepcje-i-doswiadczenia-2022-1.pdf

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Karolina Wierzba
Bio:
I am a dedicated researcher fascinated by the intersection of marketing, psychology, and public relations. My academic journey began with a Bachelor of Communication Science at the University of Amsterdam, attracted by its global reputation in communication studies. My interest in this field stems from a belief in the pivotal role of effective communication in achieving success across various domains. I am intrigued by the evolving landscape of new media marketing and PR techniques. Currently, I am pursuing a Master degree in management at the Warsaw School of Economics, where I continue to explore and deepen my understanding of marketing, psychology, and PR. I aim to contribute meaningful insights to these fields and leverage effective communication strategies for organizational success.
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