Ready for a Chatbot Version of Your Favorite Instagram Influencers?

Apr 26, 2024
Ready for a Chatbot Version of Your Favorite Instagram Influencers?
Instagram is testing a program that offers its top influencers the ability to interact with their followers over direct messages using a chatbot.
Being an influencer can be a lot of work. Instagram thinks A.I. can lend a big hand.

Instagram is pitching popular influencers on a program that relies on artificial intelligence to interact with fans, the latest example of how Meta, Instagram’s parent company, is trying to expand the technology across its products.

The program, which is in its early stages of testing and known as “Creator A.I.,” would allow influencers to chat with fans through direct messages on the social network and potentially through Instagram comments in the future, according to five people briefed on the company’s plans. The program will essentially be a chatbot that mimics the “voice” of the Instagram influencer to respond to fans, the people said.

Most of the messages would be sent automatically and would at least initially disclose that they were A.I.-generated, according to two of the people.

The goal, according to the people, is to give creators with large followings the ability to better connect with fans while decreasing the amount of work required to personally respond to large numbers of messages and comments. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were asked to sign nondisclosure agreements as part of the program.

Eva Chen, Instagram’s director of fashion partnerships, recently pitched creators on the effort and the platform has also been briefing agencies on it, according to three of the people involved in the talks. It is unclear if the program will be widely released.

Creators can select the data Meta uses to copy the way they speak, including their previous Instagram posts, direct messages, comments, and audio from Reels and Instagram Stories, two of the people said. Influencers can also dictate specific responses to certain questions, one person said.

A spokesman for Meta declined to comment.

Meta has aggressively pushed to incorporate artificial intelligence into all corners of the company’s business, from improving its advertising systems to building A.I. assistants into smart glasses and other hardware projects. Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s chief executive, has said he believes artificial intelligence will become an “increasingly important driver of opportunity” for people, businesses and the economy as a whole.

Mr. Zuckerberg has also envisioned a world in which people will have omnipresent A.I. assistants to help them carry out daily tasks and other forms of work. Meta has spent billions of dollars redesigning the company’s systems to improve its development of the technology, racing to compete with companies like Google, Microsoft and OpenAI.

And Meta has been spending millions of dollars to court influencers to its social networks, including Instagram and Facebook, after years of neglecting to do so. Mr. Zuckerberg has said he wants to “build the best platform for millions of creators to make a living.”

Some influencers have recently received invitations to a May event in New York, where Meta said it planned to demonstrate some of the company’s new and experimental A.I. products, according to two of the people familiar with Meta’s plans.

The Creator A.I. program expands on Meta’s earlier efforts to incorporate a cast of A.I. avatars built using the likenesses of celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Mr. Beast. In that program, Meta created entirely new characters named “Billie” or “Zach” on Instagram and Facebook — which were depicted with the faces of participating celebrities — that could interact with fans.

Some creators have been hesitant about the notion of automating their interactions with their followers, saying that it could put words in their mouth that they don’t agree with. Others have balked at the notion that a chatbot could replicate the substance of the interactions they have with fans. Many influencers have found success by interacting with people who crave more authentic and direct connections with the online personalities they follow.

Still, there is some precedent for the program. A number of creators already rely on outside agencies and tools used to help respond to messages they receive across their Instagram and Facebook accounts. One such company, School of Bots, sells an A.I. chatbot program to influencers who want to automate direct message discussions with their followers.

It does not yet appear that Meta’s first batch of A.I.-powered avatars has been a breakout hit. While Billie, the character inspired by Ms. Jenner, has 193,000 followers on Instagram, the comments on a recent video from the account were largely bemused. “This is so stupid,” one commenter said, garnering more than 12,700 Likes. “I wonder how Kyndall feels about this robot impersonating her,” said another, misspelling the star’s name.

And still another: “why ya’ll wanna text a robot?”

Source: nytimes