What are KOLs? All you need to know about Key opinion leaders

August 14, 2019
6 min
Avery Schrader
Founder & CEO of Modash.io
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What is a KOL? Sometimes they are called influencers, sometimes thought leaders. KOL stands for Key Opinion Leader and is someone on the web who has the ability to lead and sway opinions. 

Examples of KOLs in marketing might be Niel Patel, Gary Vaynerchuk or Seth Godin. But Key opinion leaders can also have followings that don’t break into the millions. They just have a strong influence over opinion in a given niche or community. 

Your mayor is likely a key opinion leader in your town. The president is a KOL in your country and your boss is a KOL at work. Context is key.To many people, instagram influencers are KOLs.

Why are KOLs important to marketers?

Opinion leaders are extremely good at swaying public perception, influencing groups of people and driving people to action. 

This is often like rocket fuel for marketing teams. 

If you’re trying to sell a complicated software engineering tool, having the endorsement and promotion from a famous engineer could extend your reach and give you credibility amongst engineers. If used properly, Key opinion leaders can be used strategically to build great inbound traffic, conversions and grow your business.

What’s better abouts KOLs and influencers than traditional digital ads?

In 2016, ad blocking tools were already being used by over 25% of desktop users. The popularity of Ad-blocking tools has grown every year since. 

KOLs are followed consensually by users and the products they endorse are not invasive ads. They can’t be blocked by ad blocking tools and they reach an audience passionate about the person sharing the product. 

Outside of immunity to ad blocking, KOLs and influencer allow for longer form and content (videos, blogs, etc) than programmatic ads do. They also have a greater creative potential. There is only so much you can do with Google adwords, but there is an infinite amount of creative ideas to be had when partnering with KOLs.  

60-70% of content businesses create goes unused. On the modern web, content is flooding the web at an overwhelming pace. Businesses are spending millions of dollars on content that gets no eyeballs. 

They bring the audience, have fewer restrictions and are natural creatives. They know how to activate an audience, they know how to sell your product.

Are influencer’s and key opinion leaders the same thing?

They can be. Influencer’s are typically seen to be characterized as anyone with a large, legitimate social media following. Key opinion leaders often share this characteristic, but often times they fall somewhere a bit different. 

A key opinion leader in neurology for example, might not have a huge social media following. 

Roberta Bondar is a great example. While she was the first ever Neurologist to go into space, and Canada’s first female astronaut and even has an entire observatory named after her. 

She only has a handful of Twitter followers.

But if she was to speak on the topic of neurology, you can be sure people in her industry would listen. That is a leading opinion and she is a KOL. 

Many KOLs do have a large social media following, but others are often found speaking at highly specific conferences, cited in scientific research or on at the political forefront.

How to find KOLs?

Using a tool like Modash it’s simple and straightforward to find social media influencers. Instagram influencers and Twitch streamers are especially easy to find with our tool. KOLs are sometimes diamonds in the rough, so to speak. 

You will often hear about their bestselling book, a blog which has a cult-like following. They might be the producer behind a hit new experimental record or the CEO of a large company. 

They are the masters at work, the people who have mastered a craft and dared to express their art or science. Finding them is about getting to the source. Ask the people they might be reaching:

“Who has the most educational or inspirational content, in your industry?”

That, is your guiding light to finding KOLS. 

In short, the acronym KOL stands for Key opinion leader. A personal with a leading opinion that often sways or influences a mass of people. A highly respected individual in a given topic. 

They can be a great resource for marketers who want to build their brand credibility, awareness or leverage star power amongst influencer KOLs.

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