June 18, 2021
7 min read

Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs): Guide for Your Business

Learn if you need KOLs in your business marketing strategy.

Ben Bitvinskas
Co-founder, Atlasmic
Open Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook profile. How many people are you following? How many of them aren’t your friends, colleagues or relatives? Are there celebrities, rich people, politicians and other individuals whose opinions, insights and posts you pay attention to? If so, then you are already familiar with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). Certain individuals have that status, charisma and recognition which enables them to have many listeners every time they speak. KOL’s are sort of the highest tier of influencers and in this article, we’ll look at who they are and why their opinions matter, and how you can curb their ideas to benefit your business!

Examples of Key Opinion Leaders

It’s not useful enough to just know the theory behind the subject. Practical knowledge and examples should lead the way. Thus, here is a list of people with a huge following (maybe not only on social media). These key opinion leaders are authoritative, very successful and highly respected in their field or even globally.
  • Warren Buffet – investment, finances
  • Gary Vaynerchuk – entrepreneurship mindset
  • Elon Musk – entrepreneurship, the vision of the future, economics
  • Barack Obama – social topics and politics
  • Dwayne Johnson - entertainment
  • Pretty much everyone who has their own Masterclass course
But, there are KOL’s in much smaller niches. These are the key opinion leaders you should seek out. In other words, you need to find influencers in your business field, to increase brand recognition, get more sales and/or generally improve business.

Key Opinion Leaders & Influencer Marketing

Take a look at these two numbers to see why key opinion leaders and influencer marketing matter in business.
Three out of four clients will track their social media to find guides or advice about purchases. Furthermore, they might be persuaded into purchasing something they haven’t known about before. With that being said, a whole 92% of customers will prefer recommendations from individual influencers and/or opinion leaders over brands. This means that if you choose to advertise, doing it through opinion leaders will be more effective. When your organization manages to nail the marketing strategy and picks the best KOL, they can receive a Return on Investment on marketing spending at about 20 to 1, which is almost unheard of.

How to find Key Opinion Leaders in your niche?

Now let’s move on to what’s arguably the most important issue to tackle – finding key opinion leaders for your business. We’ll refer to them as influencers in some cases, but in the context of this article, the meanings of both terms will be the same, unless stated otherwise.
Finding partners, if they don’t reach out to you themselves is quite difficult. You have to be aware of your surroundings as a business, be involved in social and other forms of media to know what’s relevant in your particular field. Use your Instagram business or personal account to browse content. By using the Explore feature you can quickly find Instagram pages and/or personalities that you can relate to. More often than not, businesses will be familiar with some personalities who they either collaborated with in the past or are aware of.
You can also do hashtag and trending topic research on social media to see which individuals are the most sought-after personas. Journalists on established magazines and news sites are always nice to follow. They are usually respected for having an opinion and will have trust amongst their audiences. Plus, their followers will likely be more engaged with their content since they expect it to be top-notch.
Bloggers, vloggers, podcast authors, YouTube, Radio and TV personalities also include a potential list of KOL influencers for your business.
This just further solidifies the claim that you should spend enough time and cash to seek out KOLs and influencers for the marketing of your brand and products. Having almost a 40% lesser chance of customer churn is an incredible luxury that you should definitely value and not ignore.

Pick the best Key Opinion Leader for your brand

Which criteria can help you find the right KOL influencer for your brand? Since there are many individuals with a large following in almost any niche, here are a few criteria that may help you decide:
  • Follower engagement – the more, the better. If they have a million followers but only receive approx. 1,000 likes per post, that’s nothing special and you should look for something more efficient
  • Neutrality – unless your brand is very edgy or has a very concrete allegiance to a certain group, strive to contract socially and politically neutral personalities. People like Donald Trump, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Colin Kaepernick are very influential and have a huge following. With that being said, advertising with them can be very hit-or-miss, because their personalities are so polarizing. There are legions of lovers and haters, meaning that by opening one door, your business will simultaneously be shutting another. Seek neutral people who distance themselves from polarizing topics. That’s just smart business.
  • Involvement – if the KOL is only there to grab cash, don’t do it. Ask them for ideas, allow them to have their own creative freedom and make inputs to refine and make your marketing strategy even stronger.
  • The right niche – don’t try and seek out a person just because they have many followers. Look for someone very specific within your field. Research whether your comparative audiences are similar and only then proceed to sign a contract.

Evaluating the success of Key Opinion Leader marketing campaigns

Once you ink a deal, and the KOL post their ads or appear in your ads, it’s time to measure your success. So, which measures to track? First of all, check the data before the ad campaign begins and measure the median of each metric for at least 7 days after the KOL posts something.
Engagement is the only viable area where you can measure the success of your KOL marketing. Let’s start with clicks, sales, leads & conversions. These are categorized as a direct response to your marketing and indicate that a person was determined to find out more or to commit to a purchase. These are easy to measure. Pretty much every web platform will have insights tools for quick comparisons. For physical sales, you have to wait to hear from your outlets or if you sell in-house, then just wait until day’s end to compare.
Now the second area of metrics for tracking is purely social-media related. They won’t necessarily boost sales but can lead to an increase in brand awareness. In terms of prestige, reputation, customer trust and overall recognition, this is the most important area of data but it has little correlation with sales. Traffic, engagement with posts (e.g. likes, comments, shares, etc.), reach are the most important metrics here. Social media sites have ready-made tools for tracking such data. Facebook, Instagram or pretty much any other social media site can show you neat charts on engagement.
For successful KOL marketing, you have to track both metrics. Otherwise, the analysis might be incomplete and you won’t know the strong and/or weak points of your marketing campaign.

KOLs vs other forms of marketing

As the final piece of advice, we’d like to compare KOL or influencer marketing vs other forms of advertising online and elsewhere. Here’s what others think:
As you can see, the divide is roughly half and half. 45% of people will say that it’s either better or much better, whilst approximately 52% say it’s comparable and/or worse. The idea behind this is the return on investment or ROI. People say that’s it’s mostly comparable or even better, meaning that you can spend with less caution, expecting a solid return.
We can claim that, regardless of circumstances, for small and mid-sized ecommerce businesses, influencer marketing and KOL advertising is the best way to go. You’ll be reaping rewards without having the risk of losing cash.


All in all – Key Opinion Leaders are individuals who have a very authoritative and strong following from audiences online or outside of social media. They can be great brand ambassadors and help advertise your products to boost sales and/or brand prestige. KOL marketing is either comparable or even better than traditional measures which means that you should definitely at least consider it!
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