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Influencer marketing is here to stay. And from the likes of it, so is the metaverse. With more and more brands and celebrities entering the space, it seems inevitable that the two worlds are set to collide. While influencer marketing has long been dictated and dominated by individuals who hold a certain ideal of beauty, enhanced by the magnitude of photo editing skills available in the market - all of that might just be reframed as the realm enters the metaverse.
In a conversation with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, Tessa Conrad of TBWA\ said that with the rise of the metaverse, there will be a lot more room for “regular people” to rise up and become influencers. But this is not to say what we have learnt through influencer marketing should be left to the physical realm only.
“Influencer marketing in the metaverse is likely to expand upon a lot of the principles, which have worked so far in the physical and social worlds for content creators,” added Conrad. These include a clear purpose for followers to interact, a sharp tone of voice, being either super relatable or aspirational, and of course, very good self-awareness.
However, a new set of people can redefine what influencer marketing means in this new world as many influencers are created by first-mover advantage and by being early adopters who really can understand the platform and communities. "With the metaverse offering so many new touchpoints, it’s a chance for new influencers to rise," explained Conrad. “This comes in part from a new set of focuses for people to be experts around - see what’s already happening as it relates to crypto, NFTs, DAOs, and the like - but also from a greater ability for people to stake a claim and grow influence in a new world as it’s being built from the ground up,” she said.
Nonetheless, influencers and content creators in the real world aren't giving up their thrones without a fight. According to a recent report by IZEA Worldwide which studied over a thousand US internet users aged for 18 to over 60, 72% of influencers say they are considering or are already making money in the metaverse. Around 60% of social media influencers see themselves as creators in virtual worlds. The report also found that 90% of influencers and 72% of social media users in the US also support the idea of brand sponsorships in virtual world games, and nearly 73% of all respondents who have played virtual world games have seen sponsorships in those games, and 42.2% remember the brand names.
You don’t need to be “yourself”
With so many different types of “skins” available and opportunities for individuals to recreate their personas, the metaverse opens up doors for people to decide what they want to look like, what their passion points are and the likes.
Wendy Yanan Wang, key opinion leader marketing campaign lead, APAC at Media.Monks added that this breakdown of what ideals of beauty and the typical influencer might go hand in hand with the zeitgeist of the current leading generation's (gen-z) norm and values. “In the past years, we have seen the change from stereotypical beauty standards move towards a more inclusive and positive body image. This will definitely still be very much relevant and remain regardless of the uprising trend of the metaverse,” said Wang.
While this idea of ordinary people rising to celebrity-hood might seem appealing to some, Conrad said that we don’t have to wait for the metaverse to make that a reality. “The idea of influencers needing to look a certain way is already, thankfully, pretty dead. This can be especially seen with the rise of Tik Tok - where people of all different types are telling interesting stories, being funny, being vulnerable - and being loved,” said Conrad, adding that brands should well note that audiences no longer want influencers to be lookalike or just traditional celebs.
“We all want to be able to see ourselves in the people we admire, to be properly represented,” said Conrad. So whether you’re yourself as you appear in the real world, or a virtual influencer version of yourself or someone you can’t yet imagine - what will matter is how your content and behaviour shows up and the type of community you want to contribute to and build.
“You can see a lot of how influencer marketing will likely rise in the metaverse, by seeing how the pseudonymous culture of Reddit has given fame to people - purely by a username,” said Conrad. On Reddit, there’s product experts, sleuths, TV fanatics and more - all who aren’t known by their real name and personality, but instead by the quality of content they post. This will become more of the norm in the metaverse as people can choose more selectively how they show up.
Currently, there is already a huge conversation around virtual influencers' appearance and how it differs from the physical influencer of today, added Zoe Cocker, head of innovation & Yahoo Creative Studios ANZ. Virtual influencers are stretching the capability, and capacity, for how humans show up in the digital space. “From low to high poly discussions through to ‘unreal’ features and functions - an influencer manufactured in the digital space means that the look and design is only limited by your imagination. As such the current constructs of influencers will be transformed,” Cocker said.
So if influencers in the metaverse aren’t going to be subscribing to Barbie-doll standards of classic beauty, what will they look like?
Catherine Henry, SVP Growth, metaverse innovation strategy at Media.Monks added said that on the contrary, what virtual Influencers like Lil Miquela have taught us with their popularity is the power of relatability. For example, Lil Miquela is popular because she is not only ethnically ambiguous - she could be a blend of nearly any race or ethnicity, but also has distinctive boyish qualities.
“She even a big gap between her teeth! While she is somewhat unusual, she is also universal, giving her a fiercely loyal fan base around the world with some 3.5 million followers. So virtual influencers can open up new possibilities for fans to see themselves represented in media, and for brands to connect with wider audiences,” said Henry.
(Photo courtesy: 123RF)
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