back to article If you can't understand how Instagram 'influencers' make millions, good luck with these virtual ones doing even better

While the number of so-called "influencers" on Instagram has rocketed a new trend may leave you scratching your head even harder: the arrival of "robot" or "virtual" influencers. What are we talking about? CGI-created characters – some cartoonish, some strikingly realistic – that have their own accounts on the social media …

  1. The Bloke next door

    Why bother with a real job...

    What do you want to be when you grow up son?

    An influencer!

    1. Julz Silver badge

      Re: Why bother with a real job...

      It's always been thus. I would have had a really hard time explaining to my ex-coalminer grandfather what my job in computing actually was and why people would pay me money to do it. Value is what people at any point in time decide it is. A hundred years ago, lumps of coal. Fifty years ago, marshaling bits and bytes. Now, influencing what people buy.

  2. RM Myers Silver badge
    FAIL

    Every time I think people can't get any crazier,

    they do. "There is a sucker born every minute" may have been true in the 1800's, but it is a serious understatement now. Interestingly, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article 10 years ago this month titled "The Internet will set you free". Little did they know that the only thing the internet would free us from would be common sense.

    https://www.chronicle.com/article/the-internet-will-set-you-free/

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Every time I think people can't get any crazier,

      No, it just seems worse now. But newspapers around the turn of the 19th century were just as bad because the demand is always there: people want to believe that wearing that hat/coat/dress makes them more attractive or swallowing that pill will make them stronger/thinner/cured.

      1. Spock2

        Re: Every time I think people can't get any crazier,

        But newspapers around the turn of the 19th century were just as bad

        What, people in the 19th century pushed newspapers into your face every 10 seconds?

        1. david 12

          Re: Every time I think people can't get any crazier,

          >What, people in the 19th century pushed newspapers into your face every 10 seconds?<

          Well they certainly did in the 20th Century. 3 kids on every corner, 4 corners on every intersection, leading down to the main railway station, where more waited. And, as I think about it, I can still hear the voices, crying the name of the evening paper.

    2. HildyJ Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Every time I think people can't get any crazier,

      Not crazier, just differently crazy. We have always had influencers, including animated ones (but CGI is new). Sean Connery single handedly rescued Aston Martin with product placement and it dates back much further through the history of all media.

      As far as gullibility, long before Goop, the term Snake Oil Salesman was termed because a predecessor to the FDA prosecuted someone for peddling mineral oil in a fraudulent manner as snake oil. Note that they considered snake oil (and other panaceas) as fine and people bought them by the boatload.

      The only thing different about internet influencers is that they make me feel old. But I don't want to try whatever they're pushing for old age.

  3. IGotOut Silver badge

    How to be an influencer.

    Have no morals.

    Sell your body

    Sell dodgy gear

    Sell your soul

    Sod anyone that gets in your way of the above.

    So run of the mill marketing.

    1. Big_Boomer Silver badge

      Re: How to be an influencer.

      You missed out lie, cheat, swindle and "Sell your Grandma". Anything to earn some $$$ no matter how illegal, immoral or fattening.

    2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: How to be an influencer.

      I dunno, Techmoan seems to have revived a number of dead formats (I blame the nieche but rising popularity in Minidisc on the man) and whilst he does review stuff that he's paid to do he's not afraid of being critical.

      It's better than the running joke that is Linus Tech Tips and their segways..

      Fire icon because of the Techmoans recent vids on in-flight plane announcements...

      1. anononononono

        Re: How to be an influencer.

        I do like techmoan, he's generally clear on paid promotions too, but I watch mostly for the old tech.

        I was surprised to see some old unopened packs of blank minidiscs I had lying around are worth more now than when I bought them, was a bit of a mini disc fan but then went digital.

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    All I can say is

    Max Headroom for president!

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: All I can say is

      Yes, I'm sticking with good old Max and the blipverts!

  5. Sampler

    On the outset

    This sounds like an easy way to make money, but, I can imagine the team behind these virtual people isn't small and a lot of time is spent on making the accounts appear attractive to people to in turn make them attractive to advertisers, far more time than you could do so yourself.

    Which is a shame, as I do like the sound of pinching out a picture every few days yet making enough to buy a private island.. (said in the middle of ten minute break from what will undoubtedly be another eighteen hour day..)

  6. sabroni Silver badge
    Boffin

    popular music has always been about the image more than the music.

    No. Sneering at popular music has always been about the image more than the music.

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Marketing is getting weird"

    Getting?

  8. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Possible explanation?

    Boredom makes the web go round

    The web go round

    The web go round

    [...]

    (with apologies to "Cabaret")

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Devil

      Re: Possible explanation?

      In a most delightful way?

      Kitten video anyone? I've got one here of some delighfully cute little kittens being pushed into a woodchipper...

  9. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    Yesterday I had the following conversation

    I hope your tea is OK. The kettle seemed like it had boiled and I didn't want to reboil it because it's toxic.

    Huh what?

    It's dangerous to reboil the kettle. I got it from [name I've forgotten] on Instagram. Said influencer is I believe the one she got the thing that sugar is worse than crack cocaine and goji berries are a "superfood". Along with various other bollocks. Oh that's right echinacia cures colds. She knows this because whenever she feels a cold coming on, she takes echinacea and it stops it.

    All I know is that I like fruit teas, but all the ones that are [some nice fruit] plus echinacea taste horrible. Which I guess proves it must be good for you...

    The weird thing is that our company sell our expertise on the Water Regulations - I'm even qualified on the damned things. But apparently some instagram influencer knows better. She, I think, believed me when I told her it was bollocks, but I'm not sure that the doubt still doesn't exist at the back of her mind.

    1. getHandle

      Re: Yesterday I had the following conversation

      Tea made with our kettle reboiled does taste a little different... But I assume that's because it was a cheapo kettle and needs descaling!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yesterday I had the following conversation

        Flavour is enhanced by the tiny bubbles of oxygen that are dissolved in water. Boiling water loses some of that dissolved gas and boiling multiple times makes it worse. It's common advice to not reboil the kettle if you care what tea tastes like. The anonymous influencer is twisting that little knowledge into something more dangerous and the new half-truth is more memorable because it's more scary. But we can all help by remembering to not spread unfounded rumours, pre-warm the teapot and teacups, and pour the milk in first.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Yesterday I had the following conversation

          Pre-warm the teapot - yes! What do you mean you're not using a teapot?!?! Heathen!

          Remove tea cosy from head and place on pot once filled.

          Pre-warm the cups - can't be arsed. I want it to cool down so I can drink it.

          Milk in first - I take mine black. I do it out of habit. But we don't have porcelain cups that can't take the thermal stress anymore, so do whatever. If I don't know how people take it, they get a mug of black tea, and a milk jug.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: and pour the milk in first.

          do I then add my slice of lemon with tea on top, or the other way round?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: and pour the milk in first.

            Oooh, look at you! Bet you drink it with your little pinkie sticking out!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: and pour the milk in first.

              nah, pinkies are reserved for juicy, meatie shakies. Which reminds me...

          2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: and pour the milk in first.

            My friend had the answer to this. Which I really should get round to copying, because it's nice. Buy glut of cheap lemons on market stall, cut into 5mm thick slices, stick in airtight plastic container in freezer.

            Then take out and put in the bottom of the cup and pour your tea over the top. Cools it down, like putting milk in and makes it very lemony.

            1. Martin
              Happy

              Re: and pour the milk in first.

              My mother uses this trick. Not for tea - she adds them to her G&T.

              1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
                Happy

                Re: and pour the milk in first.

                That was the other reason to do it.

                Glug!

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: and pour the milk in first.

            Milk in last!

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Yesterday I had the following conversation

        Supposedly tea shouldn't be made with reboiled water, because it removes some of the oxygen, and that's also why you should pour tea from the pot at a great height into the mug. I've no idea if this is true, I've certainly been unable to taste the difference. But you can taste that nasty scum and bits of scale floating in it when the water's really hard.

        Scale tends to precipitate out of water much more once it's raised above 80°C - hence it's a good idea to rinse your kettle out, to get rid of all the nasty bits. Plus a regular clean with descaler / vinegar.

        Limescale is actually good for you. People living in high limescale areas have slightly lower heart disease than those in soft water ones. The downside is they have worse tea. A terrible fate!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: People living in high limescale areas have slightly lower heart disease

          oh, I thought they'd have it higher, with all that limescale clogging up their arteries and other... pipes ;)

        2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: that's also why you should pour tea from the pot at a great height into the mug

          It has the potential to make it taste better.

    2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: All I know is that I like fruit teas,

      Start a new sub-niche of influencer.

      Call yourself an infuser (if you say it in a way that makes it sounds like "influencer", people will wonder what you put in your "fruit teas").

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And if that makes no sense to you

    sooner rather than later those virtual influencers are likely to start getting thousands of thumb-ups and "meaningful" comments from their virtual followers. Influencers and followers all the way down.

    Then, one day, a human looks up those comments section to find out a plot is being hatched to rid the world of those oppressive non-virts...

  11. heyrick Silver badge

    Marketing is getting weird in 2020

    Everything is getting weird in 2020.

  12. DS999

    I think it would be hilarious

    If all the "influencers" who are not famous in any other way than being an influencer are replaced by CGI. It is understandable why you would want a music star with a hundred million followers to push your product, but it makes no sense when some random person who happens to post something that becomes a meme and gains a million followers can make a career out of Instagram or Twitter.

    I predict Donald Trump will be willing to shill for anyone and anything willing to pay him around the third week of January, thus completing his downfall to cheap carnival huckster.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I think it would be hilarious

      I predict Donald Trump will be willing to shill for anyone and anything willing to pay him around the third week of January

      According to the International Labor Organization, in 2000–2011 wages in American prisons ranged between $0.23 and $1.15 an hour. (Wikipedia)

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: I think it would be hilarious

      "I predict Donald Trump will be willing to shill for anyone and anything willing to pay him around the third week of January, thus completing his downfall to cheap carnival huckster."

      He's already done steaks. I guess the next thing is for him to put his name on a grill.

      1. DS999

        Re: I think it would be hilarious

        Not talking about Trump brand products, I think he's just going to shill for whoever like he did for Goya beans after their CEO praised him.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    by jumping on board social trends like #BlackLivesMatters

    you had one job

  14. chrisc18104

    Is it me or does ‘influencer’ and ‘influenza’ sound too similar? Are we seeing the peak of a social media ‘pandemic’?

  15. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    a fake person can earn more than an actual person doing daily work

    Um... are we forgetting Donald Duck?

  16. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
    Alien

    Well done!

    Really, it doesn't matter what any of us think - if there's a way to part folks with their money, somebody will do it and do it well.

    I've seen 'young' folk talk about being paid to do unboxing videos by whoever supplied the tat - kids toys!!!

    May not earn them an island hideaway but sure beats some of our jobs for a way to earn a quid.

    I'll wear a mask for $50 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------^^^

  17. one crazy media

    Inflencers

    Influencers can only influence dummies who can't, won't, and lazy people.

    No problems here. No social media account, not a single one! Life is good without the dumb opinions.

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