In 2018, the
Instagram and social media worlds experienced a novel trend with the rise of
several AI models such as Shudu and Lil Miquela.
Those in the
e-commerce field have long known that AI can help businesses optimize their
marketing strategies on the back-end. For example, AI and machine learning
models have been known to improve predictions of organic CTR from advertisements.
However, with such strange newcomers as Shudu and Miquela to the social media scene, new questions have also risen.
What can you learn from having AI as the face of your marketing, rather than as dry tools of statistical analysis?
Also, can other industries outside of the beauty and fashion world benefit from these models?
Who are these AI Insta Models?
First, neither of these digital models are truly AI, but companies like Betaworks believe that digital models with AI are the next big thing. It’s worth analyzing these digital models now, as a precursor to what we might gain from real AI models in the future. Both AIs use marketing tactics like tagging brands and items in their Instagram posts, and adding affiliate links to their bios.
Shudu Gram (157k
followers) is a model and influencer who was revealed to be the experimental
work of photographer Cameron-James Wilson. She is known to “hang out” with
flesh-and-blood celebrities and even recently attended the EEBAFTAs in February
2019. Her “agency,” the Diigitals, also represents/creates other models,
including Margot and Zhi, who joined her in August 2018 as Balmain
representatives. She is also connected to Fenty Beauty and Tiffany, and has
appeared in such magazines as Vogue and Cosmopolitan.
Miquela Sousa (@lilmiquela)
Miquela Sousa (aka Lil Miquela; 1.5 million followers) claims to be a sentient robot model living in Los Angeles, but is purported to be Brud’s CGI project. Her friends also include corporeal celebrities, as well as her own group of fellow-CGI influencers, Blawko (@blawko22) and Bermuda (@bermudaisbae), reportedly made by the same creators (Brud). She is a proponent of the #blacklivesmatter movement and a supporter of the LGBTQ community and Justice for Youth. Brands such as Balenciaga, Prada, Coach, and OUAI have been known to collaborate with this AI instagram model.
Here’s How Instagram Gets You More for Your PPC Budget:
The great thing
about Facebook and Instagram ads is that they are tailored to the target
Ads will be shown
to a user based on their information and their online behavior. For example, a
young woman in her early 20s who regularly checks into fitness clubs in LA on
Facebook may see an ad for a California-based athleisure clothing company on
posts, and the newer IGTV all create opportunities to stir excitement with
announcements, contests, and more. The hashtags lead users to visual posts that
capture their attention with aesthetically pleasing “people,” products, and
concepts (i.e. vacations, luxury homes, etc.). Then, the text further intrigues
them with keywords and emotional marketing, and tagged items that are linked
straight to the brand or product seal the deal. “Links in bio” also improve a website’s CTR, especially
when posted on influencer’s accounts.
Both the larger
influencers with massive followings and micro influencers who represent niche
markets present a huge opportunity for e-commerce businesses. A call to action
in their bio or on their posts, combined with other tactics, can increase your
CTR by up to 250%. However, keep in mind that
these calls to action can negatively impact your follower’s perception of your
brand and products, and therefore your CTR, if you spam it on every single
You can keep track
of your click-through rate on links for a limited period of time through your
Instagram Insights, located at the top right of your account page (graph icon).
Using an analytics tool, you can then determine what people did after clicking
You can also further analyze your data from your Instagram and website to respond with posts that are better tailored for your audience by using tools like Convert.
How AI Instagram Models Can Improve Your Ad CTR:
While there are no
currently available statistics for the CTR trends of brands such as Fenty
Beauty and Balmain after their partnerships with models like Shudu, we can extrapolate based on their success.
introduced three new models in late 2018 and Lil Miquela has gained half a
million new followers since mid 2018. We also know that Lil Miquela and Brud
received millions of dollars in investments
from Silicon Valley. So clearly, they are successful.
We also know that
the number of Americans who use Instagram has risen by 13.1% since 2017, and that since
Instagram Stories was introduced, businesses have reported 15 – 25% more click-throughs from
links posted on their stories.
We will touch on
this later in the section about ethical concerns, but AI powered models are not
real humans. They can successfully portray “proficiency” in a field that they
haven’t dabbled in.
As an example, Lil
Miquela switched tracks to tease her followers with snippets from her “music
recording” sessions, even though no prior mention of singing had ever been made
on her Instagram account.
This is the reason
why each AI driven model is a great blank canvas for endorsements from
businesses with vastly varied backgrounds.
In short, you can easily reach different types of audiences through your AI influencer’s following and up the awareness of your brand.
The approach has the benefit of the trust that influencers and micro influencers engender in their followers, with the convenience of not having to look for someone who is already an expert at what you do!
people can be drawn to these models based on the controversies that surround
them. Shudu has raised many questions concerning race and authenticity, whereas
Miquela’s creators orchestrated a fake “hacking” from Miquela’s now-friend
Bermuda. This hacking drama and resulting friendship has been likened to the
Kardashian’s created “drama,” which has also experienced success as a marketing
While these models presently collaborate with fashion and beauty products, we can easily see how they can translate into other industries as well. Home decoration and design, as well as technology and tech accessories (e.g. phones, tablets) already employ advertisements on Instagram, and could conceivably profit from a partnership with these models.
Before you dive
head first into recruiting one of these models for your next social media
campaign, you should also consider the possible backlash. Shudu and Miquela
receive criticism from those who claim they are taking jobs from
flesh-and-blood women of color. Shudu’s creator, Wilson, is said to be
overstepping boundaries as a white male. Both models, as well as other AI
Instagram models, are also often mistaken as “real” women, and thus raise
concerns with unhealthy body image issues.
Supporters of these
AI models argue that these models are no different from mannequins, and that
all posts on Instagram are already fabricated. Shudu and Miquela’s bio on their
Instagram pages also have a disclaimer in which they are revealed to be digital
The Federal Trade Commission has also jumped into the conversation. They believe that these models should be beholden to the same rules applicable to human social influencers who endorse brands or products.
These are uncharted
territories, and we are predicting the response and effects of models who don’t
However, such a reality is fast approaching, and models like Shudu and Miquela are the precursors. If we take advantage of the current opportunities, then we can better anticipate the marketing strategies of the future as well. At the very least, we know that they are the faces of some very successful marketing campaigns and “modeling agencies,” both capable of increasing your CTR.