Key Opinion Leaders (aka KOL): What Your Marketing Campaigns Are Missing

How can Key Opinion Leaders boost your marketing campaigns? Discover the world of KOL and influencer marketing and how it can impact your business.

Aana Leech
min read
Key Opinion Leaders (aka KOL): What Your Marketing Campaigns Are Missing
Table of contents:

We all know the power of word of mouth. When it comes to making decisions or purchasing something online, word of mouth can be a key deciding factor. Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to find recommendations and word of mouth from a trusted source.Many people look online to find reviews and recommendations from voices they trust. These voices are commonly being referred to as Key Opinion Leaders (also known as KOL). And key opinion leaders could be exactly what your marketing campaigns need to take them to the next level. [lwptoc min="2" depth="1" hierarchical="1" numeration="decimalnested" numerationSuffix="dot" title="Table of Contents" toggle="0" labelShow="show" labelHide="hide" hideItems="0" smoothScroll="0" smoothScrollOffset="24" width="auto" float="center" titleFontSize="120%" itemsFontSize="110%" colorScheme="inherit" backgroundColor="#ffffff" wrapNoindex="0" skipHeadingLevel="" skipHeadingText="*Find the best Instagram brand ambassadors for your business" containerClass=""]

What is a key opinion leader (aka KOL)?

Key opinion leaders are either individuals or organizations that are recognized for being experts in their fields, providing recommendations and opinions that are trusted by others. Their status as experts means they are generally listened to and respected by people within certain interest groups and are often called upon to voice their opinions because of their expertise.

Where do key opinion leaders come from?

Key opinion leaders could be celebrities, journalists, doctors, academics, politicians and others. Anybody can really be a key opinion leader.They are recognized within and outside of their communities as thought leaders and experts. They’re the kind of people who are interviewed for news stories when an expert opinion or a sound bite is needed. In a more formal setting, they might even be called on to give evidence in court or to an inquiry.If someone is already a well-known figure, such as a television personality, it can be easier to become recognized as a key opinion leader. Sometimes it can be a case of being in the right place at the right time, being involved in a trending topic or event which then puts them on someone’s radar. For others, it might take time to become recognized as a key opinion leader, developing influence over time.

What do key opinion leaders do?

Key opinion leaders typically hold down specific jobs and/or careers, and it’s their experience within their respective industries that then leads them to become opinion leaders.Whether through their social media channels or by appearing on other public-facing platforms, they become more recognizable and respected, and people start to trust their opinions. 92% of consumers say they are more likely to trust their peers over advertising, and that’s where key opinion leaders can be effective. Providing recommendations and opinions for a professional perspective, they can help supply the personal element that many people look for when it comes to making decisions.

Recommended Reading: B2B Influencer Marketing: Your 2021 Guide To Success [+ 3 Examples]

What’s the difference between key opinion leaders and influencers?

At this point, you might be thinking ‘isn’t that what an influencer does?’. The truth is, there are some similarities between key opinion leaders and influencers. A person could be classed as both, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who is a key opinion leader is also an influencer. Some of the key differences between KOLs and influencers include:

Not all KOLs are active on social media

One key thing to note is that key opinion leaders have been around for a long time, predating the internet. They were the people advising royalty and writing books, scientists and others. KOLs don’t have to have or maintain a social media presence to have an influence, although many do - it is 2021 after all!For an influencer, however, having a social media presence is a must. It’s how they make the majority of their income. They are often seen as key opinion leaders by their followers, especially if they have a niche such as fashion, fitness or tech.

KOLs are rarely paid to voice their opinion

A typical KOL isn’t generally paid to voice their opinion about a brand or product, especially in the case of professionals such as doctors or lawyers. That isn’t to say that a KOL might not work for a brand from time to time. Influencers make some of their income from brand partnerships and sponsorships, where they are paid to try and talk about different products and services. For influencers who promote a lot of brands at once, their opinions can start to lose their credibility.

With KOLs, their credibility comes from their expertise, not the number of followers they have

The more followers an influencer has, the more of an influence they are perceived to have, with the ability to reach a wide audience with their content and opinions. A KOL builds their credibility through their reputation, and it’s their expertise and achievements that earn them that influence.Over time, a key opinion leader can be a significant influencer, developing a huge online presence that can spread their influence even wider. A significant influence and high number of social followers can be a winning combination, one that could benefit your business in many ways.

What are the benefits of key opinion leaders for marketing?

Key opinion leaders can be the key to your marketing campaign’s success. If you want to reach a specific audience segment or connect with people in a certain location, then partnering with a KOL whose values are aligned with your own, could be the key to success. Some of the benefits of working with key opinions leaders for your marketing campaign include:

They can help you connect with your target audience

Teaming up with a KOL for your marketing campaign can help connect your business to a ready-made audience, benefiting from the KOL’s existing community. While you could pay to advertise on social media to reach your audience segment, working with someone who already has the trust of that audience could produce much better results, as well as better value for money. Studies have shown that influencer marketing generates $6.50 for every dollar spent, which could provide incredible returns for your business.

They can help boost sales

As discussed earlier, consumers are more likely to trust recommendations from their peers, which includes KOLs. If a KOL recommends your product or business, you could likely expect a sales boost as a result of their recommendation. If you can work with a KOL to launch a product or even collaborate on a product together, you could expect to generate interest through their community.

They could help grow your brand

Having an influencer or KOL draw attention to your brand or business can help it grow. It’s not unheard of for an influencer to highlight a small, unknown business and generate significant brand awareness overnight. Using their wide-reaching networks, it can prove to be a more effective way of advertising than traditional marketing efforts.

How to find key opinion leaders

You know that KOLs are out there, but how do you find them? Some of the best tips for finding KOLs include:

  • Perform searches using keywords related to your brand or product on social media. Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are three examples of platforms where you can find KOLs easily. They will have content that’s been highly viewed and may have verified platforms too (accounts with a blue tick).
  • Make note of names featured in news articles for areas related to your topic. You can then look up whether they have a social media presence to gauge the impact they can have on your campaign.
  • Research their activities carefully and get to know the platforms they use. This can help ensure you meet your campaign objectives and reach audiences in the right places.

How to manage key opinion leaders

Working with key opinion leaders can be uncharted territory for your business, but having an understanding of how to manage KOLs can help you stand the best chance of success.

Research working with influencers

Before engaging with a KOL, you should do your research into how to work with them first. From working with Twitter influencers for the first time to using brand ambassadors on Instagram, some initial research will ensure you get your collaboration off to the best start.

Focus on developing effective relationships

To ensure the best outcome for your business, it pays to develop effective relationships with KOLs. You should choose KOLs who have an interest in your product or brand and see the benefits of a partnership. You can reach out over email or through their social media, and even progress to in-person meetings if appropriate and feasible.

Agree on terms and expectations

When working with KOLs, it’s important that terms and expectations are agreed upfront, including fees, deliverables, etc. With a clear understanding and even a contract in place, you run less of a risk of the partnership failing to deliver. Remember to honor your agreements too, and pay any fees due fully and on time.

How to measure the success of your key opinion leader programs

There are different ways you can measure the success of your key opinion leader programs, including:

Social Reach & Engagment

Monitoring increases in interest related to your brand can help measure the success of your campaign. You should monitor increases in your reach, impressions number of followers, engagement in the form of mentions and comments, and direct traffic to your pages.

Social Actions Taken

This is where you can measure the actions taken as a result of your campaign activity. This could be in the form of link clicks, downloads, leads, sales and conversion. These should be aligned to your campaign objectives as the best way to see if your campaign was successful or not. Using key opinion leaders to boost your marketing campaigns can produce some incredible results for your business. From Popular Pays can help connect your business to the right key opinion leaders to help you get more from your marketing. As a platform that helps you identify and reach out to KOLs, develop content and strategies, and evaluate, it can take the uncertainty out of KOL marketing with a guided service. Is it time your business experienced KOL marketing? Get started with From Popular Pays and take your next marketing campaign to a new level.

Aana Leech
Aana is the former Head of Product Brands of Popular Pays

Related Articles

Mastering Creator Collaborations: Essential Strategies for Effective Marketing
A Guide: Should a brand ask for lifetime usage rights to influencer content?
9 Ways Brands Can Tap into Generative AI
Streamlined influencer and creator management
Our all-in-one platform simplifies influencer marketing and content creation, helping your brand increase ROI and drive business impact.
Book a Demo