The Rise of Synthfluencers
From brand ambassadorships in the Asia-Pacific region to the West’s biggest livestreaming communities, virtual influencers are stepping up as opinion leaders. With more than half of American Gen Z Instagram users anticipating to find fashion or beauty inspiration from them this year, expect their success to accelerate avatar trends and motivate the everyday social media user to play with online identity and new avatar tools.
Formerly a niche space on Japanese YouTube in the mid-2010s, VTubing – where livestreamers and vloggers embody a digital avatar with motion capture technology – was Twitch’s fifth most popular content category in 2022, boosting VTuber Ironmouse to cross the 1.5 million subscriber threshold in May 2023.
VTubers’ gains in the creatorsphere are promoting the relatability of synthfluencers – a boon to brand relations. Many audiences, particularly in Asia, understand and appreciate that virtual influencers and VTubers are synthfluencers explicitly crafted to interact with them on behalf of a brand. This puts these creators in the interesting position of being perceived as above inauthenticity – unlike real people.
Take Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, which in 2022 invited social media users to help craft its latest virtual influencer, Noah. On microblogging site Weibo, where the project has amassed more than 65 million views, 21,000 users voted on Noah’s personality and physical appearance. To celebrate his launch, Noah collaborated with Tommy Hilfiger on an e-commerce livestream.
But how can your business act on this pop culture trend? The first stop for people exploring virtual personas for themselves will be face filters and avatars on existing platforms. Consider catering for the intrigued consumer cohort with digital objects for their online style discovery.