TikTok AI avatars: how to maintain trust in the future of influencer

There’s no doubt that AI is here to stay (and we’ve only tipped our toe into its true potential). With influencers, AI tools are already becoming a part of our daily ritual… more on this later.

One of the newest AI integrations to emerge is coming directly from one of the most authentic social platforms

Yep, you guessed it, TikTok. 

They have introduced Symphony Digital Avatars and AI Dubbing as part of their generative AI tools, which are designed to help simplify and scale content creation.

So what does this mean?

AI is everywhere, and there’s no denying its impact. Brands are leveraging its power in their marketing strategies, and when it’s used well, it’s fundamental to High-Performance. If you’re in marketing, AI is your friend, not your foe (as long as you know how to use it properly).

But as AI is used more frequently to sell products and is becoming more advanced, the lines can blur between digital and reality. So, how do brands remain authentic and keep integrity in their influencer marketing when AI is involved? 

Annalie Coia, Influencer Account Director at Brainlabs, shares her thoughts on these new TikTok tools and recommends 5 strategies brands can use to maintain consumer trust.

What are the TikTok AI avatars?

Imagine human-like digital copies of influencers showing up on your For You page. This is what TikTok digital Avatars will be.

But isn’t that the same as a virtual influencer? Online creators like the virtual Lil Miquela have had a cult social media following since 2016. But while virtual influencers are sometimes AI-generated, they are still their own characters with their own personalities, whereas AI avatars are based on real people. And while this may all sound a bit Uncanny Valley, the technology is already well-refined.

TikTok offers different levels of personalization. 

Stock Avatars are pre-built avatars. They are made using actors that are licensed for commercial use. They allow brands to add a ‘human’ touch to their content where a model wouldn’t otherwise be used. 

Custom Avatars allow influencers or brand spokespeople to create AI copies of themselves. The avatars are diverse in background and nationality and can speak over 30 languages to help reach audiences around the world. 

If you’re using an AI avatar in English, the AI Dubbing tool detects the video’s original language, then can transcribe and translate this in over 10 available languages. 

Now, brands can create multilingual videos and work with creators from varying backgrounds to help localize their campaigns and build out ultra-niche, ultra-targeted strategies. As you can imagine, these tools offer exciting opportunities to expand global reach, optimize ad revenue and, ultimately, massively bolster a campaign’s success.

TikTok announced the news on the platform with this video, using an AI avatar of Global Head of Operations, Adrienne Lahens. At first glance, it’s hard to spot the difference.

We’ve never seen anything like this before. This marks a new massive wave of AI content on social, and brands need to be prepared for it. 

How can brands stay authentic on social through the rise of AI? 

So now the big question. 

Should brands be getting on board with this new level of AI in influencer? 

From our perspective, if they don’t, they’ll be left behind.

In a world where AI is rapidly advancing, (whether we like it or not), brands need to move with this new wave of AI influencers whilst still maintaining a level of authenticity to ensure audiences are still engaged. 

How do we integrate AI tools, specifically AI avatars, and bring integrity to influencer content?

After all, influencer marketing became one of the highest-performing marketing strategies (when done right) because of its undeniable authenticity.

One thing to note is that each AI video is clearly labeled as such, so there’s no mistaking it for human content. But already, there are concerns that this isn’t enough. 

Annalie says, “Influencer marketing is typically such a human industry, and we focus on authenticity. This is very new. We need to test this with our clients and make sure that we’re still taking a human approach and that content is authentic.”

With our Brainlabs High-Performance tech, proprietary social listening tools, and our Brainlabbers’ first-hand experience of AI, we’ve prepared five measures that brands can implement to ensure AI content still builds trust with their audience.

  1. Know your audience

This seems obvious, but brands need to understand who they’re selling to. Virtual influencers aren’t for everyone, and AI avatars will be the same. There are many industries that AI avatars could work for, but equally many that may not. By talking to the experts (us!), we can advise whether your audience is likely to be intrigued or creeped out by the idea.

  1. Craft authentic conversations

Trust is integral in any influencer marketing, but even more so when the human side is taken away. Brands shouldn’t be too rigid with briefs and should allow influencers to take creative control. We recommend influencers write or co-write their scripts for AI avatars to achieve maximum authenticity. Be transparent about this too and show your viewers the behind-the-scenes of this process. There is opportunity here to build out more real content around the process that goes with avatars. And remember, influencers are influencers for a reason – they know their audience and what will resonate with them.

  1. Tap into trends

Content must be made by the right influencer, in the right place, and at the right time to make an impact. Utilizing our robot friends in more ways than one can help you build out strategies that put you in the perfect niches for your product or service. We use our proprietary tech tools, like our own Bytesights 2.0, to explore niche markets, find creators who align with each brand, analyze their performance, and tap into trending topics before they peak.

In our recent campaign with a global luxury beauty brand, we used Bytesights 2.0 to find creators and optimize performance creator ads. This reduced the cost per view by 66% and increased the engagement rate rise by 340%. Now imagine doing this with the added tool of AI avatars. When AI is mastered correctly, the possibilities are endless.

  1. Optimize your budget

To create AI avatars, influencers must sign over their image. This will come with a hefty price tag. AI avatars may save money long-term, but the initial costs of rates and license fees for this type of content will be significant. We recommend brands use a combination of real and AI influencer marketing to make this strategy more cost-effective. Want to find out how you can stretch budgets even further? Take a look at our article, How to win in influencer marketing without breaking the bank

  1. Harness human creativity

AI is an incredible tool, but it should be treated as such – a tool. To use AI effectively, you must engage human creativity, talent, and experience, especially when it comes to AI avatars. 

AI is here to stay and brands need to be incorporating it into their processes. We happen to already know a lot about this (you can read our full AI report on it here) and we work with AI daily to bolster our strategies.

Take our Sentiment Analysis Tool, for example. This tool uses AI to understand more than your usual data metrics. It measures conversations, brand perceptions, and behaviors to understand exactly what users are interested in and how they feel. 

The results speak for themselves…

We collaborated with ACCA to change Gen Z’s perception of accounting. We carried out a Sentiment Analysis study on Instagram and found that accounting was perceived as a career for older white men. Not cool.

By working with influencers with Accountancy qualifications and career-focused channels, we aimed to show the reality of the career with behind-the-scenes content, live chats, and advice sharing. We engaged with Gen Z by showing them authentic content they could trust.

The campaign generated 1M views, and we saw a clear difference in perception: a 26% increase in brand favorability and a 39% increase in brand recall from our pre- and post-sentiment analysis.

The Sentiment Analysis Tool is key to understanding consumer behavior, but it wouldn’t be possible without our Brainlabbers’ skills and expertise.

Are AI avatars the next big thing?

Only time will tell.

But one thing is for sure: AI is everywhere and it’s growth is not slowing down. Brands should know how to use AI to increase productivity and customer engagement and maximize ROI.

If you’re unsure if TikTok’s digital avatars are a good fit for your brand or want to know how to optimize AI in your marketing strategy, talk to us. Our Brainlabbers are constantly testing new High-Performance solutions to integrate into the wonderful (and still emerging) world of AI.

Don’t get left behind.