Beyond reality: the rise of the virtual influencer

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In the age of social media, influencers are the big movers and shakers, shaping trends, sparking conversations, and influencing consumer behaviour with every post and endorsement.

These influencers are individuals who have established credibility, authority, and a sizable following in a particular niche or industry. They leverage their expertise, personality, or content creation skills to engage and influence their audience, shaping opinions, behaviours, and purchasing decisions.

Influencers typically share content across various social media platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter, where they amass followers who trust and value their opinions, recommendations, and insights. Brands often collaborate with influencers to reach and engage with their target audience in a more authentic and relatable way, leveraging the influencer's reach and influence to promote products, services, or campaigns. Overall, influencers play a significant role in shaping trends, driving engagement, and facilitating connections within online communities.

Most recently however, within this realm of digital influence, a new phenomenon has emerged, pushing the boundaries of authenticity and blurring the lines between reality and fiction. Enter virtual influencers: entirely fictitious creations brought to life through cutting-edge technology and creative storytelling. These digital avatars, whether impeccably realistic or whimsically animated, have carved out their own space in the digital landscape, captivating audiences with their carefully crafted personas and engaging content. As brands increasingly embrace this latest evolution of influencer marketing, the stage is set for a ground breaking exploration of the power and potential of virtual influencers in shaping the future of social media and marketing.

What are virtual influencers?

Virtual influencers are either computer-generated CGI or animated characters online. There is a range of virtual influencer avatars, some have realistic features, personalities and human-like characteristics but others look more cartoonish. They are created to look similar to humans so that followers online can connect with the character. Virtual influencers live lives on social media.

How do they work?

Behind virtual influencers, there is a team that creates the virtual characters, making it move, look, and talk like a human. Designers, writers, and artists are used to create the digital character.

Virtual influencer's backstories, social media platforms, and overall marketing are managed by the team. The team chooses what the virtual influencers look like, their collaborations, what they wear and how they act.

How do brands benefit?

When working with brands virtual influencers can give brands more control over the collaboration. Brands can control the conception of the collaboration, and the creative process when making the collaborative advert.

Brands collaborating with virtual influencers help expand the brands' target audience and reach a new young audience. Brands are also able to tailor their content, to a specific audience, by collaborating with virtual influencers. Luxury brands have started to work with virtual influencers. Prada is one of the brands that has been doing this for many years.

Who are the main virtual influencers?

Lu do Magalu

Lu do Magalu is a virtual influencer who predominantly makes YouTube videos. She makes unboxing videos, software tip videos, and product review videos. In 2022, Lu do Magalu was the most followed virtual influencer, with more than 14.6 million followers on Facebook, 6 million followers on Instagram, 2.6 million YouTube subscribers, and 1.3 million followers on Twitter and TikTok. Lu do Magalu has 4.8K average likes per post, 0.1% engagement rate and it is estimated she earns $10,054–$16,756 per Instagram post.

Lil Miquela

Lil Miquela is a virtual robot model, singer, and influencer. Miquela has worked with luxury brands like: Prada, Dior and Calvin Klein. Miquela also collaborated with Samsung. In 2020 it was rumoured that Miquela earned $10 million from paid collaborations with brands. Lil Miquela has 3 million Instagram followers, 30,000 Twitter followers, and 2.8 million TikTok followers. Her fans call themselves the “Miquelites”. Miquela gains 53K average likes per post, 462 average comments per post, 1.76% engagement rate and $6,033–$10,055 estimated earnings per post.


The virtual influencer Barbie is a YouTuber who mainly makes vlogs. Barbie has 2.2 million followers on Instagram, 11.1 million subscribers on YouTube, 320,000 followers on Twitter and more than 440,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.

Any Malu

Any Malu is a Brazilian animated virtual influencer who started off as a YouTuber. From YouTube, Any Malu went on to get a TV show powered by Cartoon Network. Any Malu has 1 million followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Any Malu’s YouTube videos have more than 280 million views.


Superplastic created the virtual influencers Janky and Guggimon. Janky is a cartoon stuntman and has 1 million followers on Instagram. Janky has collaborated with: Tinder, Prada and Red Bull.


Noonoouri was created by Joerg Zuber who is the founder of the German company Opium Effect. Noonoouri is a virtual influencer who discusses social causes and supports sustainable fashion. Luxury fashion brands like: Lacoste, Versace, and Bulgari have collaborated with Noonoouri. On Tik Tok, Noonoouri has 29.1K followers, over 175K likes, and 437K followers on Instagram.


B (Bee_nfluencer) is the first virtual influencer that is a bee. The Foundation de France created the virtual bee influencer to help brands raise money to help save bees. B has 230K Instagram followers.


Imma is the first Japanese virtual model with 391K Instagram followers and has worked with brands such as: Burberry, TikTok, Adidas Tokyo and IKEA Japan. The Japan Economics Entertainment chose Imma as one of the “New 100 Talent to Watch”. Imma has 7.6K likes per post, 48 average comments per post, 2.28% engagement rate and $993–$1,655 estimated earning per post.


Bermuda is a ‘robot woman’ virtual influencer, who motivates young entrepreneurs to go for their business goals. Bermuda wants to motivate women to work in the field of robotics. On Spotify, Bermuda released a cover of Under the Bridge by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and wants to have a career in music. Bermuda’s got 21K average likes per post, 284 average comments per post, 7.2% engagement rate and $886.50–$1,477.50 estimated earnings per post.

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Written by Amelie Ng, Intern from Swansea University.