Af­ter a his­tory of get­ting in­spired from other so­cial net­works to per­fect its ser­vice [mainly Snapchat-in­spired sto­ries and Twit­ter-in­spired polls], In­sta­gram is ready to take on video-shar­ing gi­ant Youtube with its lat­est fea­ture: IGTV. Of­fi­cially an­nounced on June 20, IGTV al­lows users to up­load longer-form videos up to one hour in length to the plat­form, with far larger pos­si­bil­i­ties than In­sta­gram’s stan­dard 1-minute video post limit. On the tech­ni­cal side, the fea­ture is ac­ces­si­ble di­rectly from its added top right icon on the In­sta­gram home screen, and users can view up­loaded videos by swip­ing through them just like they would do with sto­ries. “We’re evolv­ing with the times; these days, peo­ple are watch­ing less TV and more dig­i­tal video. By 2021, mo­bile video will ac­count for 78% of to­tal mo­bile data traf­fic,” the In­sta­gram Busi­ness blog read “We’ve also learned that younger au­di­ences are spend­ing more time with am­a­teur con­tent cre­ators and less time with pro­fes­sion­als.” Through these longer videos, In­sta­gram hope to cater for the needs of the ever-evolv­ing online com­mu­nity and al­low deeper story telling for both in­di­vid­u­als and brands. Busi­ness wise, IGTV can be used by brands to weave stronger con­nec­tions with po­ten­tial cus­tomers by of­fer­ing them a glimpse into wider di­men­sions their ser­vices without be­ing con­fined to a cer­tain type of con­tent or re­stric­tive length.

Are ‘Vir­tual In­flu­encers’ the next big thing on In­sta­gram?

Af­ter in­flu­encers took over In­sta­gram and dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing strate­gies over the past few years, it looks like the new wave of in­flu­encers no longer even have to be hu­man [yes, you read that right!]. Com­puter-gen­er­ated mod­els are to­tally a thing at this point in so­cial media, and here are the lead­ing names to watch who have started it all:

t -JM .JRVFMB <!MJMNJRVFMB> af­ter ini­tially ris­ing to fame in April 2016, this dig­i­tal sim­u­la­tion mainly af­ter peo­ple be­gan won­der­ing whether she is a real per­son or a mar­ket­ing stunt. So far, Lil Miquela has amassed over 1.3 mil­lion fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram, re­leased songs, launched cloth­ing/jew­elry lines, at­tracted brand col­lab­o­ra­tions and even ap­peared on the cov­ers of some mag­a­zines. All of this is just a small over­view of how im­pact­ful [and lu­cra­tive] a vir­tual in­flu­encer can be. Ear­lier this year, Lil Miquela’s cre­ator mys­tery was re­vealed af­ter La-based startup Brud, led by Trevor Mcfredries outed it­self as the ac­tual com­pany be­hind her [or shall we say it?], rack­ing up mil­lions from from Sil­i­con Val­ley in­vestors be­cause of it.

t 4IVEV <TIVEV HSBN> More re­cently, a new vir­tual in­flu­encer called Shudu emerged on the scene and cur­rently boasts 128k fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram. Look­ing a bit more re­al­is­tic than Lil Miquela, the vir­tual su­per­model was cre­ated by Bri­tish pho­tog­ra­pher Cameron-james Wil­son. “With Shudu, peo­ple are very im­pressed with the level of re­al­ism, which hasn’t re­ally been seen be­fore,” Wil­son told JWT In­tel­li­gence in an in­ter­view. Shudu is also get­ting at­ten­tion from brands such as Ri­hanna’s Fenty Beauty has been even re­ply­ing to fans just like a hu­man would.

The phe­nom­e­non of vir­tual in­flu­encers echoes our grow­ing fas­ci­na­tion with the un­real af­ter years of us­ing so­cial media and In­sta­gram in par­tic­u­lar, as right­fully pointed out by JWT In­tel­li­gence, which re­cently ex­plored the trend in its “Un­re­al­ity” trend re­port that re­flected on how peo­ple are turn­ing to the un­known to search for a new form of truth/mean­ing.

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