What are KOLs or Influencers?

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What are KOLs or Influencers?

Seems like everywhere we go, people are mentioning KOLs or Influencers. We explore what these terms mean and how it can help our digital marketing strategies. 

Let us explore what these terms means and how they differ when mentioned within the eCommerce context. Further, are there distinctive differences between KOLs and Influencers or are they the same thing just synonyms for each other. 

What are KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders)?

Key Opinion Leader (KOL) can be well-defined as a person who holds considerable authority over a specific topic (field) and whose opinions are highly respectable by others in public. Key Opinion Leaders build this reputation over years of investment in themselves. 

As a result, KOLs have earned an expert status and significant recognition within their respective fields. Their achievements alongside skills are renowned, which offers them that massive authority.

In respect, such profiles are valuable for executing marketing actions, since they already command great respect from a particular audience. The opinions of Key Opinion Leaders would attract attention but also be viewed as credible.

Major Differences Between Key Opinion Leaders and Influencers

Nowadays, both influencers and KOLs work in partnership with brands to offer recommendations for products or services. But it is still significant to define what instances these two diverse profiles tend to be necessary.

1.     Use of Native Social Media Platforms

One significant difference lies in an influencers ability to only serve effectively on native social media platforms, as this is where the very concept was established. In contrast, KOLs have parallel professions, such as entrepreneurs, industry experts, columnists, and more. Some KOLs do have a sizeable online presence as well but do not tend to post as frequently.

2.     Product Recommendations

Another difference is KOLs are not likely to recommend products relating to their expertise in exchange for monetary reward. However, some collaboration of KOLs with brands exist. Examples of KOLs in partnership with brands include Rafa Nadal with KIA.

Influencers may offer product recommendations without receiving any form of compensation, but it is not common. In situations where compensation  is attached, the brand usually has a more hands-on approach to the content being published.

3.     Motivational drive and Audience Outreach

Another essential difference between Key Opinion Leaders and influencers is the motivational drive amongst the audience who follow them. With only the title of an expert relating to specific fields, this does not imply they would provide the right publicity for your brand. Expertise in a field does not necessarily correlate with successful branding. KOLs are not particularly focused on monetizing their followers.

For influencers, the most important thing is having a large number of followers. For this reason alone, it is essential for them to endorse quality products and services to their audience.  Quality and original content will directly impact the credibility of the influencer.

Why You Should Consider Working With A KOL Over An Influencer

The benefits of using this marketing approach for eCommerce sellers or brands are enormous. But working with KOLs takes you a step further by adding the following advantages:

ü  People in general make their choices based on the recommendations from an expert or individuals that are knowledgeable about their field. You can see this daily with sales people in retail shops.  Since KOLs are leaders in their field, their expertise translates to potential sales but also benefits their brand with the perception that the product is one of quality. 

ü  A KOL’s background and credibility can be associated with your product or brand. Their expertise can indirectly be transferred onto your product or brand. 

ü  Brand identification with KOLs brings better value in terms of quality and confidence. This lays a solid foundation for successive marketing actions.

So, what characteristics make a perfect KOL for your brand’s marketing plans?

In addition to expertise and authority within the field, the ideal KOL should also be able to  communicate effectively, be personable, be relatable and a standout role model for your audience to identify with. 


Influencers and KOLs are relevant through their actions and stances towards any brand. Influencers offer a powerful influence on major social media platforms. While Key Opinion Leaders may include some level of social media presence. Identify your audience demographics to help determine your required target market.

Is the average consumer your target? Are your products mainly designed for a particular group that need an expert’s opinion? Let the answers guide your choice in determining whether you need a KOL or an influencer.


If you are looking for KOLs or Influencers, reach out to our team and we can refer you to our many partners – hello(a)zhenhub.com or submit an enquiry here.