rom the Italian countryside to a streetwear store in Los Angeles, virtual influencers can go anywhere and do anything. Today, for my newest virtual friend Puff Puff, that includes the cold weather of the Arctic Circle, where Puff Puff invited me to join him for an interview.
Despite his appearance, Puff Puff is much more than your average penguin. With an impressive 2 million followers and counting on TikTok, Puff Puff uses his transmedia social media presence to spread positivity and affirmations to his fans the world over.
For some, it may be tempting to try and discount a virtual influencer like Puff Puff, but his impact, growth, and connection with fans eclipses that of many. Puff Puff thrives in creating a consistent, simple, safe, and positive media channel in which fans love to tune in. If there’s anything the internet needs more of, it’s cute animals and positive messages. Puff Puff fulfills these interests for millions.
Let’s turn to Puff Puff to talk about his newfound fame, where he draws inspiration for his TikTok videos, and the role positivity plays in his life.
[Christopher] Hey Puff Puff! It’s great to meet you. Where are we, exactly? It’s pretty cold out here!
[Puff Puff] Hi Christopher! We are in Antarctica, near where I was born.
Nice! Is your family around? Your parents?
I’m staying with my cousins. My mom is back home in California, where we live now. My dad is on vacation somewhere, I think...
Hmm. Well, as a budding star on TikTok, what do you think of the platform? Any inside tips for people just getting started?
It’s amazing. You can be creative and find people who like what you make. If you want to be a TikToker, ask yourself what kind of videos you wish were on your FYP. I wanted to see more positive videos so that’s what I made. It turns out I wasn’t alone!
2 million followers on TikTok is a lot for a baby penguin. How do you handle your newfound fame?
I would rather have 1 friend than 1 billion followers. So I try to treat everyone who likes my videos as a friend, and I hope they feel the same about me.
I love that! Did you ever expect to become this popular online?
No! I was not popular at school. This is new and strange for me. But I’m having fun meeting new people around the world.
You often respond to comments on your TikTok videos. What first inspired you to start interacting with your fans?
It’s natural! When I see a sweet comment, I try to respond. It’s impossible to reply to them all, but I do my best. I’m amazed how many wonderful people are on TikTok.
What inspires you to create new videos?
A couple years ago, I was having a horrible day. In the middle of crying, my best friend hugged me and promised me it would be okay. It was simple and perfect. I try to share that same feeling with anyone out there who needs it like I did.
It seems like you’ve been through some tough times in your life. What makes you stay positive and keep moving forward?
My belief that people are amazing. If I wake up, try my hardest, and be kind, I think people out there will notice and be kind back. That’s all I need to be happy.
Do you have any tips for people who are experiencing hardship right now?
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Relax your shoulders. Unclench your jaw. Smile. Now, zoom out to the bigger picture. Today is a bummer. Maybe tomorrow will be a bummer, too. And that’s ok. Because the future is bright. Hang in there.
Let's say one of your top fans is out there reading this right now, what would you want them to hear?
Whenever you want a hug, I will be here. But one day you will outgrow me. You will move on to someone or something more exciting. And I will be so proud of you. To have played a role in your life is my greatest honor.
Can you share any advice for other virtual influencers just getting their start?
I don’t like calling myself an “influencer.” I would say to anyone who wants to reach a lot of people on social media that you should try to figure out what humans need that you can give them. If your goal is just to influence them, I don’t think they will want to follow you. But if you make them laugh or teach them stuff or something like that, then people will want more and more from you.
That’s great advice. Are there any other virtual characters or celebrities you would like to meet one day?
Oh yes! I watch a lot of Noodle and Bun and Qai Qai. Of course, the classics like Minnie Mouse, Barbie, and Miquela. I think Janky, Guggimon, and FN Meka are for older kids, but they seem cool. And there are many more I would love to meet!
I’ll see if I can make some intros! What do you think the digital experiences of tomorrow might look like?
Everything that can happen will happen eventually. I’m excited to feel more real and get closer with everyone out there. It’s impossible to talk with everyone who messages me, but I think it will soon be possible.
What can we expect to see from Puff Puff next? Any exciting videos or content in the works?
I really want to tell the story of how I became a TikTok creator. Maybe it will be a movie or TV show one day! People ask me for a plushie, so I’m excited to make one soon.
What's your favorite affirmation?
“I choose love!”
Finally, I love to ask each guest this one question: Who are you, Puff Puff?
I am your friend, if you want me as one. I will celebrate you on your best days. And comfort you on your worst days. I got you.
Thank you, Puff Puff! It was great speaking with you.
So fun! Thank you!