KOL Influencer Marketing: Why Is It Important For Brands?
KOLs or Key Opinion Leaders are the driving force of the Chinese influencer marketing landscape. Research shows that the top advertisers in China spend around 20% to 30% of their advertising budget on key opinion leaders as they drive significant results.
And now this marketing strategy is making waves in the USA. KOLs play a crucial role in influencer marketing campaigns. Data shows 74% of consumers agree that word-of-mouth marketing greatly influences their purchase decisions. This is why brands are now looking to expand profits with KOL influencer marketing campaigns.
Brands are reaching out to renowned KOLs like Gordon Ramsay, Joe Rogan, George Clooney, Rafael Nadal, and more on social media to uplift the image of their products.
Seeing how one statement from Warren Buffett influences people to invest their hard-earned money in a specific share, key opinion leaders have quite the influential power. People trust his business knowledge and leadership in the investment sector and follow him as a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) of the business world.
If you stick to the end of this article, you will learn more about what KOL is and how you can leverage them for your brand.
What is KOL and what do they do?
KOL stands for Key Opinion Leaders with expertise in their professional fields. They can be working professionals, respected for their knowledge in what they do, like doctors, medical experts, authors, journalists, academicians, writers, or even scientists. People believe them for their proficiency and command over a subject.
For example, Seth Godin is a marketing mogul followed by millions. Next, we have Michelle Phan who is trusted by over 2 million people for her expertise in beauty and makeup. Similarly, there’s Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferriss, Arianna Huffington, and more inspiring people with their entrepreneurial success.
These key opinion leaders have established a credibility for themselves among the community, giving them an authentic voice for carrying out marketing actions.
The KOLs, however, are often confused with influencers as they too can promote products and services, but there’s a few aspects that set them apart. Let’s explore!
KOLs vs Influencers What is the difference?
Now, when ‘influencer’ has become a buzzword among marketers and brands, it might be a little confusing for you whether a KOL can be an influencer or vice versa.
The difference between influencers and KOLs is the level of expertise they possess.
Influencers - bloggers, celebrities, social media influencers, or even YouTube content creators - earn a living by promoting products and recommending their followers on social media to purchase them. Brands reach out to influencers for paid promotion campaigns where the influencers try the product and give an honest review to the audience.
Whereas KOLs are professionals in a particular field. They do not necessarily create content or collaborate with brands to make a living. KOLs have achieved followers based on their hard work and success over the years. And brands leverage the influential voice of KOLs to talk about their products. They connect with these key opinion leaders to share authentic product reviews with their target audience.
Example: Gordon Ramsay x Triscuit
Gordon Ramsay, the food connoisseur known for his chef skills all over the world, partnered with Triscuit in 2023. The snack company collaborated with Ramsay to pique people’s interest in their snacks and encourage his 14.9 million followers to try the product.
Let’s take a look at other aspects that make KOL different from influencers:
- Larger audience base (upto millions)
- Have authentic followers gained by giving expert opinions on a subject
- More relevant to brands because of added credibility and authenticity
- Able to create more personalized content for brands
- Active on traditional media like news channels, newspapers, conferences and some social media platforms like YouTube
- Not professional content creators. Collaboration with them requires photoshoots and content briefs
- Dynamic audience base dispensing upon their content
- Create online content for various brands and on multiple topics to gain followers
- Have an understanding of content creation and engaging followers
- Familiar with brand promotion
- Active on social media channels like Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Facebook
- Professional content creators so they have their own equipment to create content
Influencers, with their authentic content and honest reviews, have gained an authoritative status among the social media users. People rely on them for recommending the best products. So they now have the ability to become KOLs over time. Influencers can upgrade themselves to KOLs by boosting their authenticity and expertise in a niche.
And as brands you can help your influencers become KOLs. Here’s how:
1. Encourage your influencers to highlight their qualifications in social media bio to put extra weight on their recommendations.
2. Organize influencer incubators to help creators maximize their skills and expertise to build a loyal audience base.
3. Ask influencers to stick to their niche and share resonating content with the audience so that they can see the creators as experts in a field.
What is KOL marketing and how to use KOLs as influencers?
KOL influencer marketing means leveraging the expertise of the opinion leaders to promote your brand. But how to incorporate KOLs in your influencer marketing campaigns? Here’s how:
- Leverage KOL advertising to uplift the image of your brand. Key opinion leaders have respectful public images that can tie your brand’s name to values like loyalty, sincerity, and credibility.
- Make KOLs the face of your brand rather than using them just for product promotions. Opinion leaders should be the face that people associate your brand to. For example, George Clooney has been endorsing Nespresso for over a decade, and people now think of him when they think of the brand.
- Link KOL marketing to your branding actions and not for sales. The large audiences of KOLs make them perfect for running awareness and engagement campaigns instead of using them for sales objectives.
Certainly, KOLs are an excellent choice for maximizing returns on your influencer marketing campaigns. But, they are tough to acquire. KOLs care about their audience and do not promote a brand they don’t believe in. So to get them onboard, you need to have a rock-solid pitch.
Here are a few tips on how to craft your pitch:
- Create a personalised pitch instead of mass messaging.
- Create a detailed proposal explaining to them the benefits of the collaboration.
- Make a valuable and reasonable offer.
- Tell them how your brand is authentic and can benefit their audience.
- Convey why you want their expertise for your brand.
6 Benefits of working with KOLs for influencer marketing campaigns
Now, you know that brands turn to KOLs for endorsements, but why? It is because they:
1) Create a positive image of your brand
A thought leader's statement becomes a topic for people to talk about. Which builds credibility and generates buzz for your brand.
2) Build a loyal customer base
Once your brand is endorsed by a thought leader their loyal followers have a greater chance of becoming your loyal customers.
3) Give you a competitive advantage
Recommendation by a key opinion leader can drive the audience towards your brand instead of the competitors.
4) Create buzz for your brand
They can generate a positive buzz for your brand, hence driving traffic towards you.
5) Help you target your ideal audience
KOLs have a hyper-niche audience based on their field of expertise. Which means they are already interested in the subject. Hence, resulting in a higher ROI because you get to target a narrower niche audience who is more likely to buy your product.
How to set up a successful KOL marketing campaign?
Setting up a successful KOL campaign requires a lot of initial planning before actually running it. For the campaign to be effective, you need to be in sync with your campaign strategy.
Refer to this step-by-step guide on how to create an effective KOL marketing strategy:
Step 1: Identify your goal for the campaign
Having a set goal, whether it is brand awareness, sales or generating online traffic, etc, at the start of the campaign makes it easier to measure the campaign performance. A set goal acts as a benchmark that you want to achieve which helps in directing your campaign in the right direction.
Note: The KOL campaigns are best for generating brand awareness and establishing trust with your audience.
For the campaign to be successful, you need to design strategic goals. Here’s how:
- Set long-term goals so that you get the maximum results out of the campaign
- Set goals that are achievable
- Set goals that are clear and easily measurable
- Set relevant goals that align with your brand's vision and mission
Step 2: Formulate a plan
You need a planned strategy before diving into the campaign. An organized plan keeps you on track and ensures colossal results.
Here’s a checklist of things to consider while planning your KOL marketing strategy:
- Define the characteristics of your ideal KOL and their target audience
- Note any specific events or features you want to promote through this campaign
- Craft a clear message that you want to deliver
- Decide the number of KOLs you will require
- Decide where you will find your KOL influencer
Step 3: Choose the right KOL for your brand
Once you have the objective and plan in order, you can begin finding the right KOL who matches your brand voice. Whoever you choose will decide the result of your campaign, so pick wisely.
Here’s a list of criteria to help you decide the right KOL for your brand:
- Their authenticity and expertise in the field
- The number of followers they have on social media
- The platform that they’re most active on
- Their personality and interest in your brand
- Their ability to create a bond between you and the audience
- Other brands that they might be working with (if any)
Step 4: Establish communication with the KOL
Now that you have chosen your KOL influencer, it’s time to reach out to them. KOLs are pretty rigid when it comes to brand promotions, so make sure that you have a few backup options.
Here are a few tips on what you should include in your pitch:
- Contact them directly on social media platforms or send an email
- Let them know why you’re interested in their work
- Share what you are offering to them in return for endorsements
- Introduce your brand and paint an elegant picture
- Share your collaboration expectations and ask them theirs
- Avoid sounding salesy in your pitch
Step 5: Settle the terms of the campaign
Once the KOL agrees to your pitch, it’s time to share the terms of the campaign. Be thorough with this step to avoid any future disputes.
Consider the below checklist for crafting the terms of the KOL contract:
- Content creation process and key guidelines
- Content expectations and compensations
- DOs and DON'Ts of content creation
- Campaign duration
- Your outcome expectations
- Partnership disclosure agreement
Step 6: Run the campaign
After both the parties have agreed and signed the contract, now it’s time to run your KOL campaign!
To run a successful influencer campaign make sure to:
- Brief your KOL about the product
- Check the content before posting
- Promote the content on several platforms (social media, websites, online ads)
- Create educational content that is understandable by the audience
- Trust the KOL on their experience
- Use an automated platform to manage and maximize the effectiveness
Step 7: Measure the performance of your campaign
Running the campaign is not enough. You need to analyze the progress of your campaign to know if it’s working.
Here’s how you can measure the effectiveness of your campaign:
- Use an automated platform to measure the ROI
- Track the content created by your KOL
- Keep a tab on their performance
- Check how the audience is reacting to the KOL’s content
- Identify areas for improvement and take note for future reference
Types Of KOL Collaborations
Working with a KOL depends on your campaign’s objective. More so, is the opinion leader relevant to your brand.
Here are some key points for you to keep in mind when collaborating with a KOL:
- Leverage the knowledge of your KOL to educate the audience about your brand and product.
- Make sure that your KOL has your target audience as followers.
- Pick a KOL who is relevant to your brand. Like if you are a beauty brand then go for a KOL in the same field.
- Check whether the reach and engagement rates of the KOL are in sync with your requirements.
1) Online advertisements
Advertisements usually run for longer periods and reach a larger audience. So, if your objective is to create brand awareness then KOL advertisements are an evergreen choice.
2)Live interviews with the audience
You can conduct live video or audio interviews with the key opinion leader and get the audience to ask questions.
3) How-to guides
Guides are perfect if you’re collaborating with a blogger. They can publish detailed how-to guides mentioning your product.
4) Product videos
Videos of your KOL using your product will encourage your audience to trust their choice.
5) Brand mentions
You can ask your KOL to mention your brand in posts, speeches, or interviews to generate curiosity in the audience.
6) Guest blogging
Maybe you can ask a KOL blogger to guest blog on your website in return for a backlink.
7) Product seeding
Product seeding allows you to send free products to your chosen KOL to try them out and share their opinion with the audience.
How to find the right KOLs for your campaign?
There are several ways to find the right KOL for your influencer marketing campaign. You need to pick someone who fits your brand voice and will help you achieve your campaign goals.
Here’s how you can find the best KOL for your campaign
1) Automated influencer marketing platforms like affable.ai
There are multiple influencer marketing platforms available for you to discover KOL influencers from their database without losing your precious time, manage conversations with them and measure ROI/
affable.ai has a database of over 7M+ influencers. You can use more than 20 filters to search for the right influencers and KOLs based on their interests, demographics, target audience, and engagement rate.
2) Search trending industry hashtags on Instagram or Twitter
You can search for hashtags that are related to your industry on social media and go through each profile manually to pick the right KOL. This process, however, is manual and time-consuming.
3) Search for relevant keywords on YouTube
If you’re looking to collaborate with a YouTube KOL then use related keywords to find who is considered as an expert in your industry.
4) Read industry news to find experts in the field
Popular KOLs make headlines now and then. You can figure out which KOL is right for you by reading news articles featuring them.
5) Search for KOLs that have your target audience
Your target audience should match the audience your KOL has so that you can easily target them in your campaign. You can use the target audience filter on affable.ai’s influencer marketing platform to search for thought leaders with your target market.
Relevance of KOL marketing strategy in the coming future
According to Social SEO, KOL is the fastest growing method to acquire online customers. With so much content available on the internet, consumers trust thought leaders. Therefore, KOL marketing is the perfect way to showcase your product as an expert’s choice.
The rising popularity and demand of key opinion leaders are pushing brands to invest more in this marketing strategy. 67% of marketers promote their content with the help of influencer KOLs. It is the perfect time to set up your KOL strategy and look for relevant KOLs in your industry.
Frequently Asked Question:
1. What is KOL?
A KOL is a person that holds influence in a community. KOLs, with their expertise and knowledge in a particular field, have the power to influence the decisions of millions of people.
2. What does KOL stand for in social media?
KOL stands for Key Opinion Leader in marketing.
3. Is the KOL the same as an influencer?
KOLs are different from social media influencers based on their audience base, level of influence, credibility, content creation process, and more. KOLs can become influencers and promote products for brands and influencers too can rise to the level of KOLs with expertise and authentic content.
4. What is an example of a KOL influencer?
Many KOLs or key opinion leaders today create influential content to entice their audience to buy a particular product. Gordon Ramsay, Gary Vaynerchuk, Michelle Phan, Arianna Huffington, are a few examples.
5. What is KOL in influencer marketing?
In influencer marketing, KOLs are the most influential people on social media. The KOLs are people who accumulate a certain level of knowledge in a particular field, creating fans along the way. These fans trust the leaders for their expertise in that field. With millions of followers, these KOLs often hold the status of a celebrity.
This blog has been updated on 18 August, 2023 with the latest information.