What are KOLs in Marketing

Brandon Brown

Brandon Brown

Do you remember the days when Oprah had her own show and would give products away to her audience? How much do you think they paid her to advertise their stuff? How many millions of people were influenced by the show. and then purchased those products from those companies on their own?

A lot.

Oprah didn’t invent this type of promotion.

For centuries, regular consumers have been relying on the recommendations and opinions of people that they trust and adore - like celebrities, TV stars, radio hosts, famous writers, and so on.

What are these celebrities called, and how can you work with them to successfully grow your sales and marketing efforts? Read this post to find out.

What is a KOL?

What we’re talking about is called a key opinion leader (or KOL).

Wait, what are KOLs?

A KOL is an authority figure on a certain topic. Someone who has built an audience around that topic and who has a loyal following.

Working with KOLs can actually offer a brand a variety of benefits. A brand can reach their target audience in an authentic and powerful way - through the opinion leader’s content.

KOLs vs Influencers

The terms KOL and influencer are often thought to be interchangeable, and get mixed up a lot. In reality, an influencer is anybody with a certain amount of followers (usually at least 1k), who creates content and has a loyal following.

An opinion leader has the same influence and audience as the influencer but with a twist - they usually have a much more targeted audience.

For example, the camera and photo industry uses and respects the term KOL much more than influencer because they only use people on social media who have built a very specific audience that the big camera companies want to target.

One of the best examples of a key opinion leader is the famous YouTuber Casey Neistat. The man had millions of YouTube subscribers before anyone even knew what YouTube was..

Ok, maybe some people did.

He was the first person to really popularize making video content. And he showed how it was possible without having to go to film school or work for a large video production company.

This is why Cannon frequently uses Casey to promote their cameras. Here is a video he did called, “The Best Camera Money Can Buy” for the Cannon EO5 700D. The video received over 3.3 million views, 4k comments, and over 40,000 likes on YouTube.

KOLs vs Influencers

Benefits of working with KOLS

What are the benefits of working with one of these awesome influential and opinionated people? Great question.

Here is a list of some of the things that key opinion leaders can help you do better:

1. Target the right audience

KOLs can help you get in touch with the right audience. Let’s say that you are looking to influence the 18-25 year old millenials who are into cameras. If so, you could potentially get millions of views by partnering with someone like Casey Neistat on YouTube. He may be a better, more effective choice rather than using any other marketing channel, like Facebook ads, PPC, or inbound marketing.

2. Make more sales

KOLs can help you get a lot of sales in a very short time. They can help improve your sales long-term as well. Working on campaigns and having thought leaders create content featuring your products (using a catchy hashtag) can create an immediate boost in sales. In the long term, those posts and campaigns will be revisited by more people, and you will see an ongoing increase in sales.

3. Increase your reach

Companies often pay top dollar to reach a lot of people using social media ads and PPC. But the more effective way to market your products is to target a specific audience (the ideal audience that would like to buy your product).

This is what the KOLs are best suited for. They can help you reach the best audience for your brand and create the most relevant and effective campaign to get the most sales.

Key Principles for KOLs

1. Set your goals

Before you start reaching out to KOLs, it’s important to identify your own goals. Are you looking to increase your brand reach? Sell more product? Get more followers to your own social handles? All of the above?

Your campaign will be different depending on your answer.

Remember, your goal should be both short term and long term. What long term goals do you want to achieve? These could be SEO link building, long-term increased awareness for your brand, building long-term relationships, and so on. Keep these in mind as well.

2. Plan your strategy

The next step is to plan your strategy. How are you going to meet those goals you outlined in step number one? How can KOLs help you achieve your goals? What mediums should they use? How many posts should they create? Should one post be a written article and another a video?

These are all important things to plan before starting your campaign.

3. Find KOLs

It’s never been easier to find KOLs. The simplest way is to search for them on Google or on the various social media channels.

For example, if you are looking for a KOL who does video content, you can go to YouTube and type in some related keywords. You will for sure find hundreds of key opinion leaders on the subject.

An even better way is to use a tool like Grin, which automates the search for you. You can use their advanced search with various parameters, like location and numbers of followers in each channel, to find the best people to work with. Then, you can build a team of KOLs to partner with you.

Find KOLs

Source: Grin

4. Create and distribute content

The next step in your campaign is to come up with creative and compelling content that the KOL’s audience will want to engage with.

You need to think of the best way to bring value to the opinion leader that you are working with as well. Try to maximize all their channels.

For example, have the KOL publish content on their Instagram that then leads the viewer to their YouTube video or their vlog. That way you are bringing them traffic as well as engagement.

5. Build ongoing relationships

KOL marketing requires a focused strategy, creativity, and investment on an ongoing basis. If you want to maximize your campaigns. you have to pick people who will really represent your brand. And bring them value so that they will continue to work with you.

The more exposure you get to the same audience the better.

KOL marketing strategies

Working with KOLs

There are a few key things to keep in mind when working with KOLs. First, make sure to streamline payments and get all the right forms you need. Grin is perfect for this as they automate the entire payment process for you.

Another important part of your strategy should be to analyze every single campaign in terms of the engagement (likes, followers, comments, views), and compare the results of each post. The more you analyze, the more you will be able to learn and tweak your campaigns to get maximum results.


Working with KOLs can bring an incredible boost to your marketing efforts. Here are a few takeaways that you should keep in mind as you set out on this exciting journey:

1. Be as authentic as possible to your brand and your message. Only choose KOLs whose message fits yours and whose style fits your brand. Don’t work with someone just because they have a huge following. Make sure that all content and messaging are authentic to your brand.
2. Spread your net far and wide and try to work with a variety of KOLs in different mediums, content forms, and social networks.
3. Study what works by looking up examples of previous KOL campaigns in your industry to make your campaign even better.
4. Build long-term relationships with KOLs to maximize your results and build a network of brand ambassadors for your business.
5. Have fun, and don’t be afraid to step out of the box. Let the KOLs get creative with how they represent your brand.

Brandon Brown

Brandon Brown

Brandon Brown is the CEO of Grin, an influencer marketing software solution for brands. Grin’s software helps customers identify, recruit & activate the world’s most engaging influencers. Prior to Grin Brandon led marketing for the #1 energy drink market in the world, Los Angeles & Orange County, at Red Bull North America. He is an expert in consumer marketing and has extensive experience working with the worlds largest brands to reach consumers through influencers, athletes, musicians and artists.

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