Consumers have been relying on personal recommendations and advice from trusted friends, family, and key opinion leaders (KOL) – like celebrities and chefs – for their buying decisions for years. 

In fact, a recent study showed that nearly 75% of consumers say that word-of-mouth plays a key part in their purchasing decisions. With recommendations playing such a critical role in the buying process, why wouldn’t you want to work with people like KOLs to endorse your brand and products?

But before you jump into it, there are a few things you need to know first.

Read on to learn exactly what KOLs are, how you can benefit from working with them, and where you can find them!

What is a key opinion leader (KOL)?

Key opinion leaders (KOL) are experts or authority figures in their respective fields or industries, so their knowledge is generally well-respected. This helps them build up a loyal and targeted following who trust and listen to their opinions and recommendations. 

An example of a KOL is licensed beauty aestheticians. There’s a massive number of beauty and skincare brands out there. Getting them endorsed by beauty aestheticians can be very valuable.

But why? 

Beauty aestheticians specialize in pharmaceutical skin care treatments. Because of their expertise, you trust and depend on their advice. So if you had a skin condition, like eczema, they might recommend a specific kind of lotion to help you treat it. And you likely won’t think twice about their advice!

What do key opinion leaders do?

People become opinion leaders by gaining expertise in their fields – meaning many of them have jobs outside of being influencers. They make a name for themselves by gaining recognition through their work. 

KOLs exist in many different industries, especially ones that rely on endorsements from experts for success. They can be: 

  • Athletes
  • Celebrities
  • Academics
  • Chefs
  • Columnists
  • Dentists

As you can see, KOLs can be quite broad in their expertise!

What’s the difference between KOLs and influencers?

Many businesses use the terms “key opinion leaders” and “influencers” interchangeably. That’s because both groups of people have the power to influence an audience, and are seen as experts in their fields, industries, or categories. 

But while there are a lot of similarities between them, they have two core differences.

First, influencers have a massive presence on social media. They spend a lot of time on different platforms, and build up an audience through storytelling and compelling content. Their followers are often engaged and invested in the lives they lead.

KOLs, on the other hand, may or may not be as popular as influencers. While some of them end up becoming macro- or mega-influencers, many of them also work full-time and spend little to no time on social media. So rather than using social media as their core communication platform, they gain an audience because of their work and experience in their fields or industries. 

Second, some influencers might look to KOLs for their opinions and advice. KOLs have gained expertise from the work they do, and influencers may lack the same experience. This means that influencers might be influenced by what they learn from KOLs. 

Even though there are differences between KOLs and influencers, you’ll find some overlap too.

There are influencers who promote products or services that align with what they do, and are seen as KOLs. 

Take Gordan Ramsay for instance. He’s a world-renowned chef. If he promotes a specific line of cooking ware, he’s endorsing products that are extremely relevant to his field of expertise, so his opinions and recommendations are trusted by his audience. 

What are the benefits of KOL marketing?

So why should you work with opinion leaders? Here are some benefits you can expect!

1. You’ll target a relevant audience

Because KOLs are experts in specific fields, they have a niche following. So by identifying and working with the right KOLs, you’ll be able to reach a targeted audience.

For example, if you have a fitness brand, you’ll want to work with a KOL like Kayla Itsines. She’s a personal trainer and co-founder of Sweat, and is seen as a fitness expert. By partnering up with her, you’ll reach an audience that’s interested in working out.

2. You’ll generate more sales

Because KOLs are established experts, their recommendations and opinions carry a lot of weight. Any endorsements from them will give your brand credibility. 

McKinsey divides word-of-mouth into two categories: low-impact and high-impact recommendations.

Low-impact recommendations are recommendations from people you might not necessarily view as credible, like strangers.

High-impact recommendations are recommendations from trusted sources, like KOLs or friends and family members. 

Compared to low-impact recommendations, high-impact recommendations are up to 50 times more likely to generate a conversion. So working with KOLs can really boost your sales!

After all, you’re more likely to trust a person with professional qualifications and industry experience over someone you’ve just met on a bus. 

3. You’ll reach a wider audience

Targeting your ideal audience through traditional ads can be difficult and costly. By working with the right KOLs, you’ll be able to reach a niche following who’s not only relevant, but also interested in what your brand has to offer. You’ll likely reach potential customers you might’ve missed out on if you used traditional ads too!

How to find KOLs

Now that you know what the benefits of key opinion leaders are, you’re probably eager to start working with them. But where do you find them? 

There are several ways to find KOLs. You can try a quick search on Google to see if there are blog articles with lists of opinion leaders in your industry. You might not find the right ones straight away, but it’s a great starting point for your search.

Another way to find them is to use the search functionality on social media. Try typing in relevant hashtags or keywords that are used in your industry. You’ll need to scroll through the profiles to find ones who have a larger, engaged following and suit your brand. 

Once you find KOLs you want to work with, check whether they’re using other hashtags or keywords you might’ve missed and add them to your search.

You can also follow popular media publications in your industry. You’ll need to look for any mentions or features of KOLs and make note of them. 

But the most effective way to find KOLs is to use influencer marketing platforms like Instead of spending time scrolling through profiles and endless search results, you can use advanced filters to search by location, follower size, categories, and more. You’ll be able to find KOLs to work with in no time!

How to measure the success of your KOL programs

Once you find the key opinion leaders you want to work with, you need a clear strategy for measuring the success of your KOL programs. 

There are many ways to track your KPIs and ROI, but it all boils down to what your goal is. Are you trying to raise brand awareness? Generate sales? Create content? 

For brand awareness KOL programs, you’ll want to measure metrics like impressions, reach, and engagements. 

While for conversion based programs, you’ll want to measure metrics like ROAS, conversions, customer acquisition costs (CAC). 

Having a clear plan for measuring your success will help you optimize your future KOL programs!

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