If you follow video marketing trends, you might have noticed an increase in animated videos starring anime-style avatars. This content is created by VTubers, and it’s taking content creation by storm.
Top VTubers have millions of followers and earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a month.
According to experts, the industry is on the rise. HyperSense shared that the number of total VTuber subscribers increased by 28 percent in 2019, while the total views of Vtuber content increased by 99 percent.
At first glance, this might not seem like a serious trend. However, marketers and brands like Mattel and KFC are leveraging virtual YouTubers to drive serious engagement.
What exactly are VTubers, and why should you care? Here is what you need to know to become a Vtuber or use this new trend to grow your business.
What Are VTubers?
VTubers (short for virtual YouTubers) are content creators who use animated avatars and stop motion graphics in their videos, rather than their physical likeness. Like most vloggers, they talk to the camera and share their thoughts on a wide range of topics and products.
Some of the top virtual YouTubers include Kaguya Luna, Kizuna AI, The Omega Sisters, and Kiryu Coco.
The trend has exploded in popularity in recent years, with top content creators earning millions of dollars. VTuber Kiryu Coco, for example, earns approximately $134,000 per month.
What Do VTubers Do?
VTubers use animated likenesses to share music videos, gaming tips, impressions, live streams, and even product ads. Many use manga-styled avatars, often with large eyes, small mouths, and brilliant hair colors. Despite being animated, the avatars are often strikingly life-like.
Here’s an example of one of the original VTubers, Kizuna AI.
While the personality, voice, and physical likeness vary by creator, most are high-energy, fun-loving, animated personalities.
VTubers, like other YouTubers, create a wide range of content. Some play video games, model clothing, share their thoughts on political situations, review movies, or even release their own music videos.
Many also partner with brands to promote products and services.
The History of VTubers
In 2011, Japanese YouTuber Ami Yamato created a 3D avatar to share her feelings about moving back to London after spending several years in Tokyo. Her avatar is slightly more subdued than the anime versions many VTubers use, but her avatar is influenced by Japanese culture and graphic novels.
While that first video was more of a journal entry, later videos take on a more humorous angle. For example, Ami imagines herself on a blind date with the Mandalorian in the Star Wars universe, or interviewing Godzilla.
In 2016, the Kizuna AI channel launched and has racked up more than 4 million subscribers. Unlike Ami Yamato, Kizuna AI is a fully AI, fully autonomous digital celebrity. The channel was originally managed by the company Activ8, which later built an entire company for managing the character and created several spin-off versions.
Since then, hundreds of other virtual avatars have launched channels, including more controversial YouTube celebrities, such as Pewdiepie.
VTuber Tech Requirements
The Vtuber videos might look complicated to create, but the format is becoming increasingly accessible thanks to advances in digital technology and software.
Here’s a quick rundown of the tech you’ll need to become a VTuber. You may want additional accessories, like a boom mic or phone holder, but those are not necessary.
- Webcam: Ideally, you’ll want a high-quality webcam, not just a laptop camera. However, as camera technology improves, you may be able to use a standard built-in webcam.
- Microphone: Use a separate microphone to ensure high-quality sound. Blue Yeti and Hyper Ex both sell higher-end microphones for less than $200.
- Mobile phone: If you plan to record videos or edit on the go, you’ll want a smartphone with a high-quality camera and recording capabilities. Alternatively, you can rely on your at-home setup and skip this requirement.
- Avatar creation software: This is editing software that turns your recorded videos into an animation. Different platforms offer a range of features, including shortcuts for specific facial expressions, motion capture, background settings, and more. Popular options include VDraw, VSeeFace, and VMagicMirror.
While you can spend hundreds of dollars (or even thousands of dollars) on high-end tech, you may be able to use the camera and computer you already have.
Before dropping a lot of money on new tech, try out free avatar creation software with your current setup and see how it works. You’ll get a feel for how the software works, and you can always upgrade later.
How Can Marketers Use VTubers?
Marketers can use VTube creators as part of their influencer marketing campaigns. Though the characters are animated, creators often have thousands or even millions of followers. Those large audiences can be used to promote music, fashion lines, movies, and even increase tourism.
For example, popular VTuber Kizuna AI partnered with Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) to promote a “Come to Japan” campaign aimed at attracting US tourists to Japan.
Here are a few other ways to use VTubers in marketing:
- Partner with a popular VTuber to review your product or software: This is ideal for games, apparel, and other products that target younger audiences.
- Pay to have a VTuber show your logo on their stream: For example, on their shirt, coffee mug, or even in the background.
- Partner your own avatar with a well-known VTuber: Popular VTuber Subaru (not the car company) shared their excitement at being reshared by KFC’s Twitter. While this video might not have been sponsored, it was a boost for the brand:
How Can Businesses Use VTubers?
Businesses can use virtual YouTube creators in a number of ways. For example, they can create a brand avatar or partner with popular creators through influencer marketing.
It might sound weird, but it works.
In fact, one of the most popular virtual YouTubers in the world is KFC’s avatar:
In addition to marketing, businesses can use VTubers in other ways. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Create fun or quirky help videos using an avatar.
- Animate customer reviews.
- Use avatars for your employees to create behind-the-scenes videos.
- Create short clips to use in television or social media ads.
- Record a webinar with your VTuber avatar.
- Create shopping videos to showcase your product in a virtual environment.
As a business, VTubers can help you connect with a younger audience. However, don’t think you are just limited to marketing content. Using VTuber technology can make any type of content you create more entertaining.
How to Become a VTuber
Considering becoming a VTuber? You might be surprised to know you don’t need much to get started creating content. Here is a step-by-step process for becoming a VTuber.
- Get your tech set up: Make sure you have a quality camera, microphone, and computer to record and edit your videos. You don’t need to invest thousands of dollars. If you can, start with what you have and then invest in better video equipment as you learn more.
- Choose an avatar software: There are dozens of software platforms available, so I recommend testing a few out before settling on one. A few of the more popular platforms to consider are VRChat, Wakaru, and PrprLive. Many of these offer free versions, though you may need to pay for advanced features.
- Create your avatar: One of the most interesting parts of becoming a VTuber is creating your avatar. Using avatar software, you can create your avatar from scratch or use a sample avatar and change the skin color, eyes, eyelashes, etc. As you design your avatar, think about the long-term goal of your VTube content. Are you targeting teens, adults, or even professional software users? Make sure your avatar is appealing to your target audience. Remember, it doesn’t have to look like you at all.
- Set up your channel: Where will you share your VTube creations? While most VTube content is on YouTube, you can share videos on your website, Instagram, TikTok, or other social media platforms. Consider uploading and hosting videos on YouTube, then sharing those links on other platforms. Make sure to optimize your YouTube channel if that is the route you go.
- Create a content calendar: Once you have your avatar created and your channel set up, decide what type of content you will create. While you don’t need to post new content every day, you should post consistently. What will you talk about? Will you interview experts, play video games, or share your thoughts on industry news? Consider your marketing goals when designing your content calendar.
- Record your first video: Now is your time to shine. Record your first video, convert it to your avatar in your avatar software, and send your video live. Don’t expect overnight success; building a YouTube following can take months.
VTuber Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Does It Cost to Become a VTuber?
If you already have a computer or smartphone, it costs virtually nothing to become a VTuber. All you need is a computer or smartphone and avatar creation software. There are several free or freemium software options to help you get started.
How Much Do VTubers Make?
Like regular YouTubers, the amount VTubers make can vary drastically. The highest-earning creators earn more than $4.8 million annually in Super Chats alone.
Who Are Some Popular VTubers?
Some of the most popular VTubers include Kizuna AI, Yousa, Lil Miquela, KFC, AI Games, and Momo.
Are VTubers All Anime-Style Characters?
No. Although the vast majority use anime or anime-style characters, some like Ai Angel are more realistic. However, since most avatar creation software uses anime styles, creating other style animations may require a mocap suit and more expensive software.
Do I Need a Mocap Suit to Be a VTuber?
No. A motion capture suit can help you create extremely high-end, realistic videos, but it’s not necessary. Most VTuber software platforms allow you to create your avatar and design movements through editing.
How Do VTubers Make Money?
VTubers can earn an income by showing ads on their channel, hosting Super Chats, partnering with businesses or brands to promote their products, or selling their own products or services.
VTubers are taking video marketing to new levels. These animated content creators are becoming celebrities in their own right, with top creators earning millions of dollars and attracting huge groups of followers.
Are they the future of video content creation? Only time will tell. However, brands and marketing professionals should consider adding VTube content to their digital marketing strategies.
Are you considering partnering with VTubers? What is holding you back?