Key opinion leaders or KOLs are those leaders whose strong and credible social status empowers them able to influence and persuade the key decisions of their audiences. The recommendations and opinions of KOLs are listened to and followed by the people for example political figures, celebrities, or columnists have the power of influencing the opinions of other people.
Hence, key opinion leaders are the individuals who use their expertise in their respective fields, as a word-of-mouth recommendation or a voice, to connect, convince and convert people. When someone looks forward to stepping into any particular area or buying any product, these key opinion leaders play a significant role in pulling in them and influencing their opinions.
What or Who is a Key Opinion Leader?
Definition – Key opinion leaders or KOLs are defined as the leaders who are considered experts in a particular niche or field which enables them to influence the opinions, perceptions, or decisions of the people. Their recommendations and opinions are trusted by the masses as well as the niche audiences.
Key Opinion Leaders are not people leading a group or organization. They are called so because of their expertise and long-time experience in a particular field. Even their most minor decisions could make a big impression.
For example, a key opinion leader in the medical field is typically a respected medical expert who can have an impact on the communication of new pharmaceutical research and the development of medicines.
They contribute to the drug life cycle at various stages, from discovery and research to patient access and marketing. They can assist in understanding the disease area and the potential therapeutic features of a product, guiding the design of a clinical trial, and advocating for the patient’s unmet needs.
Role of key opinion leaders
As per a recent study, more than 90% of consumers say that they are more likely to trust the opinions of their peers or industry experts over advertising. – Here the role of a KOL comes into existence.
KOLs have expertise in a specific subject matter, plus they might also hold down specific jobs and/or careers in the associated industry that make them opinion leaders who provide recommendations, suggestions, or opinions to influence the decisions of others.
Such leaders might appear on different public-facing platforms or social media channels that optimize their market recognition and respect which ultimately make them more powerful and credible in influencing others.
Companies that target, engage with, and maintain meaningful relationships with highly regarded KOLs can gain advantages such as increased visibility and increased revenue post-market authorization.
Where do key opinion leaders come from?
KOLs come from a wide range of fields as they can be academicians, politicians, celebrities, doctors, journalists, scientists, psychologists, sports stars, etc.
So, it can be said that anyone can be a key opinion leader if he or she is having the expertise and credibility.
KOLs may come from within and outside of their communities as experts or thought leaders. Such people are also invited for TV, radio, or print interviews.
In addition to this, people who are at the right place at the right time might also be used as KOLs for example someone who is trending on the social circuit might also be used by a business for shaping the opinions of its audiences.
Difference between Key Opinion Leaders and Influencers
Key opinion leaders have been influencing people before the inception of digital marketing or social media platforms. So, the term influencer marketing today is used for the social media influencers who are nothing but the KOLs after the social media boom.
Often, key opinion leaders are misunderstood to be influencers. Well, they have some similarities, but they cannot be the same individuals. Here are some points that make them differ from influencers-
1. Engagement on social media
KOLs are generally not super-active on social media, proving their statements accurate. In contrast, on the other hand, influencers need to be active regularly on social media to make their livelihood.
KOLs are generally seen on social media expressing their views regarding any topic, but influencers have to make sure that their posts are structured to allure their followers.
2. Promotional behavior
KOLs rarely or never promote any content anywhere, be it social media or the traditional market. People just listen to their advice, and following this advice is solely upon them. They are not paid for their speeches or statements.
Influencers make their money by promoting content and captivating their followers through their posts. For example, a tip or simple information from Rakesh Jhunjhunwala can result in inflation or deflation of the BSE and NSE. In contrast, influencers like Huda Kattan would be on a contract for promoting even a little lipstick.
A key opinion leader gains all the credits through experience, achievements, and long-time efforts. The success of the individual or organization is dependent primarily on time.
Adversely, an influencer depends upon followers. The success of an influencer is directly proportional to the number of followers.
4. Time Spent on their respective work
Influencers spend most of their time online spreading knowledge about any topic or promoting any content. In contrast, key opinion leaders have to pay their field trying to expertise themselves in that field.
Occasionally, some KOLs need to practice good communicating skills, whereas influencers usually have already mastered them.
5. Versatility in work
Influencers have chances of several skills since they have to work online and many times, they have to complete all their themselves. For that, they might have to be adroit in multiple areas.
Conversely, key opinion leaders just increase their knowledge in only their area of interest and do not look forward to master other skills, or else, it becomes a hindrance in the previous field.
Benefits of Opinion Leader Marketing
When it comes to marketing, companies look forward to key opinion leaders as channels of media among others or strategize their business. The companies and these leaders work very closely for marketing any product.
The key motive behind using KOLs as marketing leaders is that people are genuinely interested in taking up their advice and think the KOLs know about the products personally.
Some of the benefits of using KOLs for your branding or marketing campaign are-
1. Helps brands or businesses to connect with their target audiences
Using a KOL for a brand helps in connecting with a ready-made audience, and hence the brand will get benefits from the existing community of that key opinion leader. As per a recent study, digital KOL marketing or influencer marketing helps a brand in generating $6.50 for every dollar spent.
2. Optimizes sales
Consumers like to opt for products or services that are recommended by peers or industry experts that include key opinion leaders. So, using KOLs for your marketing or advertising will ensure a sales boost for your brand. You may also generate interest from their community.
3. Ensures brand growth
When key opinion leaders pull attention to your brand, they optimize your brand growth in a more trustworthy and productive manner. KOLs have wide-reaching networks that can be quite fruitful for optimizing a brand’s growth.
How to find Key Opinion Leaders 0r KOLs?
Different ways that can help you find key opinion leaders are-
- Observation and referral to find out an influential member of a specific community
- Literature searches to find prominent thought leaders by going through publications in the specific area required and editorial boards of niche magazines
- Research of the list of speakers at renowned conferences in the specific niche
- Find out social media influencers in your field
Making & Measuring a KOL Partnership Plan
Some of the key steps that you need to follow while making a partnership plan with a key opinion leader are-
- First, you need to connect and engage with your chosen KOLs and got them on board
- Then you should formalize an implementation plan about their interactions with your brand. It should include all the details about the activities that are supposed to career out along with objectives and result measuring metrics
- Different activities that a key opinion leader might perform are Article writing, Lectures, Content review, Press Conferences, Advisory boards, Education, Scientific studies, etc
- For measuring the success of KOL programs, you may check some metrics like Social Reach & Engagement or Social Actions Taken, etc to measure the success of key opinion leader programs
Examples of well-Known Key Opinion Leaders KOLs
Some of the most popular key opinion leaders are-
1. Arianna Huffington
Most popular as the founder of The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington has become well known as a business thought leader who worked as a president and editorial manager of the publication for a very long time of 11 years.
2. Seth Godin
Popular as the godfather of modern marketing, Seth Godin has written more than 18 books and has even been drafted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame.
3. Reid Hoffman
Most prominently known as the co-founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman is additionally an investor and an author. Reid Hoffman has also made it to the Forbes 2019 list of billionaires where he positioned #1349.
4. Kate Bellingham
Kate Bellingham rose to popularity as moderator of “Tomorrow’s World” – the BBC science show, somewhere in the range of 1990 and 1994. She was well adept in electrical engineering that assisted her with setting up credibility in the field and acquire a lot of remarkable positions in entertainment and media.
5. Carson Tate
Carson Tate is a business mentor who is popular for her skill in improving productivity. As the founder and managing partner of Working Simply, she fills in as a consultant and mentors executives at Fortune 500 companies.
Whether trained or done by way of popularity, trust and expertise are the keys to KOL marketing. KOLs illustrious image among their fields and their credibility ultimately impact their purchasing decisions. From daily life accessories to health products to gaming, key opinion leaders acting as influencers play a vital role in brands looking to add some spices to their marketing policies.
The one thing that the popular KOLs have in common is their statements and voices are recognized very much due to their expertise in their specialized areas. Thus, it proves that the key opinion leaders play a significant role in any field with specialized knowledge and expertise.
What are your thoughts about the effectiveness of key opinion leaders in optimizing branding and marketing campaigns?
If you liked this article, we bet that you will love the Marketing91 Academy, which provides you free access to 10+ marketing courses and 100s of Case studies.