In recent months, the metaverse has become a more popular buzzword. Companies are building metaverse platforms and exploring unique ways to engage consumers in these new digital landscapes. Influencer marketing is likely to remain an important tactic for increasing engagement within the metaverse.
An important prelude to full immersion in this space is the gradual rise of virtual influencers-realistic characters CGI artists, digital agencies (and sometimes even artificial intelligence) that create and manage. The best known example is P’tite Miquela, although there are many more.
Some brands accept virtual influencers. They can have a strong audience like real human influences, while with much less risk and cost. After all, virtual influencers don’t have to fly across the country, put them in hotels, feed them, or receive every diem.
However, brands and agencies still need to be careful. They need to understand the legal issues that arise during human campaigns and virtual influence in the metaverse.
In addition to sponsored posts, virtual influencers often create organic social content for themselves. As a result, some have developed a more dangerous personality than others. Like human influencers, companies considering working with virtual influencers need to take a closer look at their past social media activity. In addition, companies should review past discussions of the virtual influencer, ensuring that there is no material that could damage the image.
In addition, if it is easier to manage the behavior of a virtual influencer than a human, it is still wise to include a morality clause in the contracts of virtual influencers. This allows the business to end if the virtual influencer engages in unexpected behavior that damages their reputation.
As brands delve deeper into the metaverse, the spread of virtual influencers is likely to increase. Some brands may create dedicated virtual influencers. When considering this strategy, communication professionals need to consider how virtual influencers can organically gather enough followers to benefit the brand.
Some companies claim to sell “followers” on social media accounts. However, it should be noted that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and several state regulators have shut down most of this activity in recent years.
For example, in a high-profile case against Devumi, LLC, regulators stopped the company from creating thousands of fake accounts and selling them to influencers. Influencers use them to deceptively increase their followers, view counts, and other engagement metrics.
The driving force behind all influencer marketing regulation is the principle that influencers must disclose when they have a material connection to the brands they promote. For example, influencers are required to disclose this information through clear and understandable disclosures, such as #ad or #sponsored. Effective disclosures will continue to be a specific requirement for influencers, human or virtual, creating a niche for brands within metaverse platforms.
Brands should also consider transparency in revealing that the influencer is not a real person. Over the years, Li’l Miquela has posted like a real person.
Today, it is common for virtual influencers to identify themselves as robots or artificial creatures. The FTC has not issued guidance on this issue, but it seems like a safe bet that regulators will expect virtual influencers to reveal that they are not real people. Such information may influence consumers ’perceptions or conclusions about the influencer’s recommendations.
Since the robot can’t taste, how reliable is its opinion on the taste of Brand X’s new snack product? Isn’t that message misleading? For this reason, it is recommended that virtual influencers not only reveal their material connection to a brand, but they are also not real people.
Until new influencer marketing regulations specifically targeted at Metaverse come out, brands must continue to be aware of and apply current Metaverse marketing regulations.
Allison Fitzpatrick as a partner in the Advertising + Marketing Practice Group and Samantha Rothaus as partner of Davis + Gilbert’s Advertising + Marketing practice group