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AI social media influencers on the rise in Singapore

Image courtesy: Lifestyle Asia

Influencer marketing is a significant and fast-growing section of the digital marketing industry. The big agency networks have their players, and there are hundreds of independent outfits. The industry is said to be valued at US$8 billion, and before COVID-19 came along, was forecast to double in the next two years.

The future of retail marketing is also digital and with the circumstances brought by the pandemic, the future is now. In the face of lockdown measures, companies have dug deep into their reserves of creativity and adapted their strategies to the current business situation. They also had to tap their tech partners to adapt. And the result has been a marked shift towards the virtual direction and using advanced tech such as AI.

With more than a billion people all over the world and around 4.6 million people in Singapore on social media, it is tough to stand out from the crowd. The number of virtual influencers on the market is likely still in its double digits compared to real human influencers, but they have already begun competing with human influencers for partnerships with brands. However, advertising is constantly evolving. Just a decade ago, the notion of paying individuals with a high follower count on social media to post a picture was probably deemed as ridiculous as virtual influencers. As the influencer industry becomes more diversified, the ways that brands advertise to their consumers are likely to evolve.

With real influencers still limited by social distancing mandates and travel restrictions, AI avatars are looking increasingly like viable options for creating editorial imagery that is not confined to four walls or a nation’s borders. It is in such a context that the rise of virtual influencers seems ever more imminent. They do not get sick, for one, nor do they age, in line with the importance of sustainability and business-friendly regimes.

Until fairly recently, virtual influencers were few and far between and uncommon in Singapore. There has, since, been a rise of virtual versions of these influencers in Singapore as of late, as more Singaporean-based marketing campaigns start featuring them. This does not seem unusual, especially with the rise in popularity of influencers and influencer marketing. Various agencies say that half of the Singaporeans between the ages of 16 and 24 place more trust in what their role models and peers say on social media platforms than what they hear and learn offline. The ability for social media users to interact with each other on a common platform makes it extremely effective for attracting a larger targeted market. Businesses are now fully aware of the power of influencer marketing channels.

On the other hand, there is a silver lining for human influencers, Singaporeans do not seem to have much trust in their virtual counterparts. A research survey found that with 1,111 Singaporeans, 60% stated that virtual influencers did not influence them at all. On the other hand, 64% felt that human influencers had some level of influence over them.

As previously reported by OpenGov Asia, the Singapore Ministry of Finance (MoF) is already acknowledging the growing fact that many Singaporeans now obtain information via online platforms and social media, especially the younger generation. A few years ago, the MoF partnered with social media influencers to disseminate information for Budget 2018. Other than raising awareness of younger Singaporeans towards the national budget, the campaign also aims at boosting youth participation in the Budget process by encouraging them to attend public feedback sessions. This new tech represents a new wave of social media marketers, also known as virtual influencers.

While some audiences might prefer genuine human connections, others might be more fond of digital influencers. Hence, it is likely to end up becoming an issue of costs and benefits, and the personalities that emerge triumphantly must meet the expectations of both brands and consumers.

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