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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Social media influencers’ days may be over thanks to AI

In a world where virtual fashion models are finding success, AI companies are going to be the ones holding the power

While Shudu is the world’s first virtual model, she isn’t the only computer-generated influencer on Instagram. Credit: @shudu.gram instagram page
While Shudu is the world’s first virtual model, she isn’t the only computer-generated influencer on Instagram. Credit: @shudu.gram instagram page

We have all probably heard complaints by many marketers and businesses about the eyebrow-raising fees that many social media influencers demand.

A while back, a client of mine asked us to arrange the visit of a social influencer to his headquarters where she would document it on her SnapChat and Instagram accounts, and hopefully help him increase the number of followers he has on his facebook. When my office approached her, she asked for $20,000 for a 15-minute visit.

When my client heard about her fee, he wondered if we were in the wrong business. One of my acquaintances often worries how these role models will affect the younger generations.

While many marketers confirm that social media influencers are a trend that is here to stay, an article by the BBC, altered my perspective completely. In fact, I now strongly believe that the social media influencers’ heyday may be coming soon to an end, thanks to artificial intelligence.

The article examines Shudu, a London-based model who rose to fame last year. What many people didn’t know was that Shudu was a computer-generated model and did not even exist in real life! Not only did she garner many followers who admired her dark beauty, but Fenty Beauty, a make-up brand founded by superstar Rihanna, posted an image of the model wearing one of their lipstick shades. That photo went viral and the model gained over 80,000 followers as a result.

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While Shudu is the world’s first virtual model, she isn’t the only computer-generated influencer on Instagram. Another one is Miquela, with over 800,000 followers on her page, and she has been dressed in designer clothing such as Prada and Chanel, and supports many causes such as Black Lives Matter.

Let’s just take a moment to think how much of a game changer that is. You can have an AI company, with a programmer and designer, who will help create these virtual models or personalities, assist them to establish a following, and make money in return. You can have this virtual model support any cause you want, and dress in any designer’s outfit you desire. You can have her in London today, Paris tomorrow, and New York the next day without her having to actually leave or pay for her expensive lifestyle. You can have her live in a mansion, a multi-million penthouse, or live a life on the road all year round, all with a click of a button.

With this, not only will models like Shudu garner a huge following and influence, but you can have a girl of any ethnicity, or religion. The standards of beauty can be easily altered, and a desired lifestyle choice can be created. You can have your virtual personality alter her look such as hairstyle, weight, and even skin tone (such as tanned) with a click of a computer button. You can have the personality respond to all comments on a page and even respond to marketers via email instantly. Everything can be automated. Freaky, is what my brother, the robotic engineer, thought about this concept when we discussed it. But I thought how powerful it is.

There is a power shift right there. AI engineers and programmers will be the real influencers in a very short time. And it’s a matter of time before we see more of the likes of Shudu taking over the Internet.

How can businesses benefit from this? They can big time. Big brands can create their own version of Shudus to market their products and the lifestyles they promote. Big marketing agencies can also create multiple personalities that would advocate and promote their clients’ products and services.

I strongly believe that soon enough we will not need to reach out to real social media influencers to work with us, but we can create our own influencers or collaborate with one that may offer better fees, and be more flexible in terms of marketing.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages her branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi