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5 min read | October 20, 2018

Kols vs influencers: what they are & what differentiates them

With the arrival of new methods and strategies in the world of online marketing, we’ve also seen brand new definitions and terminologies appear.

The concept of an influencer is nothing new, but “KOLs” are perhaps a bit more unknown. In order to differentiate between the two concepts and avoid any confusion that may arise, in terms of what each profile does, we’re going to dedicate this article to explaining as accurately as possible the distinctive features and differences between KOLs and influencers.

What are KOLs? – Key Opinion Leaders

KOL is an acronym for Key Opinion Leader and can be defined as someone who’s considered a connoisseur of a certain topic and whose opinions are respected by their public, thanks to their trajectory and the reputation they’ve built for themselves.

For that reason, KOLs have gained the status of experts and are recognised as referential people within their fields. Their achievements and skills are well-known, giving them an aura of authority.

In that respect, these profiles can be very valuable for carrying out marketing actions, since they’ve already gained respect from their community and their opinions are always going to attract attention and be credible.

“KOL is an acronym for Key Opinion Leader and can be defined as someone who’s considered a connoisseur of a certain topic and whose opinions are respected by their public”

Key opinion leader vs influencer: what differentiates them?

Since both KOLs and influencers collaborate with brands to recommend products or services, it’s important to define on what occasions these two different profiles tend to be used:

  • The main difference is that influencers are native to social media platforms, since that’s where the very concept of an influencer was developed. KOLs, on the other hand, have parallel professions, such as journalists, entrepreneurs, writers or politicians.

A KOL can, of course, have a big presence on social media or have a blog or Youtube channel, but these don’t tend to be their main means of communication, nor do they necessarily post very frequently.

  • KOLs don’t tend to recommend products related to their professions in exchange for economic compensation. There do exist, however, examples of KOLs collaborating with brands in exchange for a service. For example: Matías Prats with Línea Directa, Rafa Nadal with KIA, or George Clooney with Nespresso…

Influencers may also recommend products without receiving anything in exchange, although this is not such a common occurrence.

In the case of receiving economic compensation in return for their recommendations, the brands with which these influencers collaborate tend to have a much more hands on approach with the content that’s being published.

  • Another fundamental difference between influencers and Key Opinion Leaders is the motivation which drives their audiences to follow them.

For influencers, having a community of followers is the most important thing, and it’s for that very reason that they only recommend quality products and services to their followers. The originality and quality of the content they post directly determines their impact and number of followers, which their credibility and identity as an influencer depends on.

KOLs, on the other hand, don’t make a living off of these types of actions, but regard them rather as complementary to their day-to-day activities.

How to incorporate KOLs in your marketing strategy

Incorporating KOLs into marketing strategies is extremely beneficial if a brand wishes to change the public’s perception and associate itself with values such as loyalty, sincerity, and trust, which are characteristics that define Key Opinion Leaders.

For that reason, KOL marketing is directly linked to branding actions, rather than sales objectives. If you want your KOL marketing strategy to be effective, it’s important to choose the right figure to lead your campaign.

Related reading: Everything you need to know before launching an influencer marketing campaign

Just because someone has gained the title of expert within a certain field, doesn’t mean they’re the right person to represent your brand. A special connection between a KOL and a brand is essential, particularly if you don’t want them to “cheat”.

So, what characteristics should you look out for when searching for the perfect KOL for your marketing strategy?

  • As well as authority and popularity, the ideal KOL must embody other important features, such as a good personality, charisma, communication skills and the ability to be a role model that people can identify with.
  • It’s also particularly important that their actions and mannerisms are in tune with those of the brand.

“It’s also particularly important that a KOL’s actions and mannerisms are in tune with those of the brand.”

Why you should work with a KOL

The benefits of influencer marketing are undeniable, but working with KOLs is a step further:

  • Confidence and experience are decisive factors when considering a product recommendation. Since KOLs are mainly implicated in branding actions, all of the benefits are therefore associated with the brand and not a product.
  • Their background and the credibility that they transmit is the best accessory for a brand, making it stand out next to the competition.
  • By identifying your brand with values such as solidarity, security, competency and confidence, you are laying the foundations for success with future marketing actions.

Still don’t know where to start? Get in touch and we’ll give you a hand!

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