Key Opinion Leaders Vs. Influencers: Which Is Right For Your Brand?

Key opinion leaders are experts in thier fields

Many marketers have found new marketing methods that involve influencers and KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). These two may have similar influence over their audience, however, they differ in how they operate. The question that bothers many professionals in the field is which of the two suits a specific brand. The article intends to explore the difference between key opinion leaders and influencers and help you decide the right choice for your business. 

Differences Between Kols And Influencers

There is a thin line between Key Opinion leaders(KOLs) and influencer marketers. Both professionals influence people’s perception of a brand and probably make them buy it. Frequently, people will use these two terms interchangeably.

But on the other hand,  KOLs and influencers differ in multiple ways. For one, a KOL works in a small niche and is considered an expert. These professionals are very knowledgable and people follow them for their thought leadership and authority. That is why KOLs are chosen according to the industries and their sphere of expertise. Unlike influencers,  a KOL leader usually has a daily or full-time job. They could be scientists, dentists, designers, or any other profession. 

On the other hand, an influencer has become very popular due to his or her exploits on social media or in his or her field. Influencers are more like brands, they use marketing techniques and social media advertising, which is very rare with key opinion leaders. They often build a community around their brand and may be experts in their fields. These can include people like musicians, athletes, or bloggers.

A KOL often works in a small niche where they know, while an influencer marketer can be in a large niche. One of the most common differences between key opinion leaders and influencers is their online presence. Almost every influencer has at least one social media account where they communicate with their followers, whereas KOLs may not necessarily have an online presence. 

Why Key Opinion Leaders Count

The main advantage that marketers use for their benefit with KOLs is their credibility and reliability among the audience. As they are experts in their field, their opinion is trustworthy for many. Certain types of businesses that promote products in highly competitive niche markets use KOL marketing to beat the competition. By collaborating with key opinion leaders, brands can:

  • Get a broader reach in their target market
  • Gain credibility when an expert recommends them

For example, one of the most common areas where brands leverage KOLs is oral health. Toothpaste companies will often have dentists recommending their products.

KOLs Vs. Influencers: When to Work with KOLS For Your Brand

Sometimes, products can benefit from both Key Opinion Leaders and Influencers as marketing methods. However, there are several instances when you may prefer KOL over an influencer. These include:

You Need Targeted Engagement

Unlike influencers with a broad appeal, KOLs often have a niche audience. For instance, a dentist will have people in their audience interested in knowing about oral health. Because their followers are more engaged, they are likelier to comment, like, and share your posts.

Need an Expert Endorsement

If you are in a niche where expert endorsement will take your brand to the next level, working with KOLs can have significant benefits. Imagine you have a pharmaceutical company. What would be more suitable, a doctor recommending your medicine, or blogger on Instagram or other influencer platforms? Some of the industries strictly require KOL promotion and influencer marketing can even harm their reputation. 

Amplify Word-of-mouth Marketing

According to Semrush, word-of-mouth marketing is more powerful than paid advertising. This is because 90% of people trust a brand recommended to them by other people, including strangers. 88% of people trust a brand more when recommended by a close family member or friend.

People are more likely to trust the words of an expert than an influencer with limited knowledge in the field. When you work with KOLs, you can increase the chances of customers buying your products and services by 50%.

Want to Share Expert Knowledge

An influencer can share entertaining content, and people will react to it. However, they may be unsuitable for sharing expert knowledge such as webinars, Q&A sessions, etc. Therefore, if you want to share expert knowledge, your best bet is to work with a KOL.

Improve Credibility

When consumers are educated by an expert on the benefits of your brand, they are more likely to consider it credible. The fact that you have an expert endorsing your brand will show them that you are also committed to credible and accurate information. This approach often increases and improves brand recognition and reputation. 

Key Opinion Leaders vs. Influencers: When to Use Influencers

Sometimes, Key Opinion Leaders are inappropriate for businesses. They may not be suitable with the audience type or buyer personas. Here are instances when you need to use influencers over KOLs marketing:

Improve Brand Awareness

If your goal is to have your brand appear in people’s feeds and, therefore, a more significant reach, your best bet is working with influencers who may have a more substantial reach than KOLs. This is because influencers often have a broader but more general audience, which can result in a more significant brand awareness.

Increase Social Media Followers

In most cases, social media influencers are often very passionate about what they do. Unlike KOLs, who are motivated by informing, influencers are motivated by financial compensation. Therefore, unless you want to reach a niche audience, influencers can quickly help build your social media following.

Get Feedback on Your Products

If you want product feedback, a social media influencer can quickly help you. Due to their large audience, they will likely have people who respond to their questions on your brand. Furthermore, if your product is intended for a large public, influencers’ broader audience reach can be beneficial for advertising. 

User-generated Content

User-generated content is one of the recent social media trends. As we noted earlier, KOLs are often professionals with day jobs. This means they may need more time to create content for your brand. On the other hand, influencers mostly make money by advertising products. They can create user-generated content that will help your brand grow.

Influencers can creat content for your brand.

Kol Vs. Influencers: Which Is Best For Your Brand?

Now that you understand the differences, you may wonder which is best for you. The first thing to consider is whether your product or service is in a niche that can benefit from KOL expertise. Don’t forget to compare KOL and influencer costs for your promotional purposes. 

Consider also if you want to reach your specific niche. If your answer is yes, consider working with a KOL. But if you want to reach a bigger general audience or need user-generated content, consider working with an influencer.

Benjamin is a writer with over ten years of experience in the content writing field. He holds a Bachelor's degree in  Journalism from Strathmore University. He writes on various niches such as product reviews, self-improvement, and making mone online. You can find him curled on his couch with a self-improvement book when he is not blogging.