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The Key Differences Between Influencers & Key Opinion Leaders or KOLs for Digital Marketing Campaigns. 

It’s very important to understand the defining differences between running digital campaigns with influencers versus Key Opinion Leaders, or ‘KOLs’, as they are also known. Bundling them together is not ideal and would lead to diminished impact if approached in the same manner.

Influencers are all about building brand love and relevance at scale by leveraging informative and entertaining content that is very aligned with a typically integrated marketing campaign. Storytelling is very much at the core and given that many have achieved celebrity-like status at scale, they work well when you want to reach anyone and everyone.

KOLs, on the other hand, are all about thought leadership, and what they do is go deep into insightful and highly educational content that seeks to impart actionable and important knowledge to the intended target audience(s). This is about being more surgically precise rather than the general purpose approach used during influencer marketing campaigns.

In my experience, Influencers usually have much larger audiences and reach a broad cross-section of demographics and psychographics, at scale. Basically, in the most general sense, they have mass appeal that resonates with diverse target audience(s) and consumer segments. Influencers go far and wide from a digital marketing perspective.

KOLs, on the other hand, typically have much smaller audiences than Influencers but they are usually the most ‘serious’ members of society from a professional and personal perspective. Hence, for KOLs, the thought leadership angle is very much at the core of their content, even if audience sizes can often be quite small. However, using KOLs unlocks a laser-like focus when it comes to reaching desirable premium target audiences. The 1% so to speak.

To further illustrate the fundamental difference between the audience makeup of an Influencer and a KOL, have a look at mine from the screen grab of my Linkedin Analytics. As you will note, the audience roles are all senior positions from a professional perspective like founders and C-Level leadership. This clearly illustrates that depending on the product or service being marketed it’s not always about the sheer number of followers that matters but it can also be about the ‘premium’ nature of the audience being reached.

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