Artificial Intelligence. For many of us, it is a concept long relegated to the realm of science fiction, a fantasy of sentient computers and androids, “more human than human,” as the famous movie quote goes. The real world applications for AI are not this flashy. Nonetheless, AI is revolutionizing many an industry, quietly impacting our lives in unassuming ways.  One such industry is that of influencer marketing. But in an industry predicated on authenticity and making genuine connections what is the role of AI?

 

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But in an industry predicated on authenticity and making genuine connections what is the role of AI?

Will it prove to be the next step or an assault on the foundations of the industry is built upon? 

 

Well as with most things, the answer is probably a little bit of both.

The Advent of AI in Influencer Marketing

At a glance, the more fantastical depictions of artificial intelligence on the silver screen may seem to have little in common with the more practical real world applications of the discipline. But at its core, AI is about the ability to process data at incredible speeds. And every possible application of the technology hinges on this ability. So what do these applications look like in influencer marketing? Well, for starters, analytics. 

Using analytics has allowed digital marketers to sift through large chunks of data in order to better spot emerging trends and track influence. Critical indicators like cost per engagement, conversion rates, and engagement rates can all be measured and tracked over time, allowing marketers more insight than ever into who their campaigns are reaching and how they are being impacted. This information allows for more targeted strategies to be implemented in the future. 

But where analytics really crosses into the realm of AI is the rendering of predictive models. For example, Google analytics new predictive audience feature analyses data in order to suggest an audience most likely to purchase. For brands looking to expand their target audience, information like this can be invaluable. 

 

How AI Is Being Used In Today’s Influencer Landscape

Beyond helping brands target their audience, AI is also being used by influencer marketing agencies to help brands connect with specific influencers. In today’s landscape, forming partnerships with the right influencer is everything. With the help of AI powered platforms, these agencies can identify which influencers are posting content that most aligns with their clients image. With less time spent having to search and vet influencers, marketing agencies are free to dedicate more time to content creation and strategy on behalf of their clients. 

And while using artificial intelligence to power marketing strategies and target new audiences may seem like a counterproductive way to build authentic connections, certain AI powered platforms are actually helping to safeguard the authenticity on which influencer marketing thrives. By analyzing massive amounts of user-generated content and comments, brands can use AI to determine  which influencers are the real deal and which have used bots to artificially scale their follower count. 

This kind of proactive analysis is helping to create an environment in which genuine content rises to the top, along with the influencers and brands responsible for it. It is also helping brands to ensure that the content they produced is directed towards the users who it will impact the most. 

 

The Rise of Artificial Influencers

However, beyond just its technical applications, the rapid rate at which AI is being instituted in the influencer industry raises a bevy of interesting questions. None more poignant than the question of whether authentic content can come from an artificial influencer. 

There are currently a handful of virtual influencer start-ups out there, companies that specialize in creating influencers who exist only within the boundaries of the digital world. And while the people behind virtual influencers like Lil Miquela are very much flesh and blood, their presence in the industry is raising eyebrows. 

Business Insider recently reported how, due to the pandemic, there has been increased interest from brands in virtual influencers. These ambassadors, unlike their physical counterparts, weren’t hamstrung by the rest of the world grinding to a sudden halt. They were safe in their digital cocoon. And that’s the thing. in a world that grows more digital by the day, just because something doesn’t have a physical counterpart doesn’t necessarily make it any less real. It doesn’t mean that it can’t have an impact. 

But when it comes to influencer marketing, the name of the game is content. And while there might be similarities in the way brands and marketing agencies draw up campaign strategies for both virtual and authentic influencers, ultimately it is the kind of content and relationships real influencers can cultivate that virtual ones can’t replicate. At least for now. 

 

The Future of AI in Influencer Marketing

There is no doubt that AI will play a major role in the future of the influencer marketing industry. Indeed, it already is such an integral part. It’s the programs that sift through massive amounts of data to spot trends and create the predictions that guide our strategies, the algorithms employed by our favorite social media platforms that silently curate content for us behind the scenes, filling our feeds with familiar faces and scenarios. It is helping to make our business decisions faster and more informed, helping us to adapt to the changing climate of digital marketing. 

Maybe one day these technologies will all converge within the shell of a virtual influencer, one that can target specific audiences and demographics, one that can, by way of an algorithm, curate content. After all, we’ve already seen that there is AI out there capable of actually producing art. But for now, AI remains a tool that, like the most traditional of tools, serves to enhance the human element.