KOL: What Are KOLs in Marketing, and How Can You Use Them in Your Campaigns?

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Do you remember the days when Oprah had her 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 key opinion leaders that they trust and adore – like celebrities, TV stars, radio hosts, famous writers, and so on.

Why are these celebrities referred to as key opinion leaders (or KOL), and how can you work with them to successfully grow your sales and marketing efforts? Read this post to find out.

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What are KOLs (key opinion leaders)?

Individuals like Oprah Winfrey who have an influential power over those that follow them are referred to as key opinion leaders (or KOL).

But 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 offer a brand a variety of benefits. A brand can reach its target audience in an authentically and powerful way– through the key 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.

A key 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 popularize making video content. And he showed how it was possible to practice KOL marketing 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. They saw the potential in using an opinion leader to promote their products.  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 key opinion leaders? Great question.

Here is a list of some of the things that these 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 millennials who are into cameras. If so, you could potentially get millions of views by partnering with someone like Casey Neistat on YouTube. Given his prominent status as a KOL, 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 which will only further propel you as a key opinion leader. Keeping your content relevant and marketed to individuals is a great KOL marketing technique.

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 and KOL marketing 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 products? Get more followers to your 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 KOL strategy. How are you going to meet those goals you outlined in step number one? How can being a key opinion leader help you achieve your goals? What mediums should they use? How are you engaging KOLs? 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 and target key opinion leaders. The simplest way is to search for them on Google or 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, to search for you. When you use their advanced search with various parameters, like location and numbers of followers on each channel, finding the best key opinion leaders to work with is a breeze. Then, you can build a team of KOLs to partner with you.

Screenshot of GRIN influencer finding feature

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 key opinion leader that you are working with as well. Try to maximize all their channels so that they feel inclined to continue to work with you as time goes on. You want the KOL to see the benefits of working with you, as opposed to working alone.

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 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 and building out your KOL marketing plan. 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 KOL marketing 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. You can use the information to make any necessary improvements to your campaigns that your KOL can implement to maximize the 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. You want to make strategic choices when building your KOL marketing 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.

Using KOLs is a great way to improve your business’s marketing plan. It is important to keep in mind that these key opinion leaders can be utilized in many ways. Take some time to research and find one that works best with your company values or goals through organic searches or with help from influencer marketing software. Get started and see how a KOL can help improve your business.

Frequently Asked Questions

A KOL is a “key opinion leader”, meaning a person whose opinion holds sway over a large number of the population. KOLs can be a well-respected individual, expert in a particular field, or influencer.

Some examples of key opinion leaders include Oprah Winfrey, Gordon Ramsey, and Arianna Huffington. However, KOLs will vary usually depending on the field of expertise they specialize in. For example, healthcare KOLs will usually include doctors, healthcare professionals, and scientists, while culinary KOLs will include influencer foodies, chefs, and restauranteurs.

A KOL can be an influencer, while an influencer can’t necessarily be a key opinion leader. People trust KOLs because of their expertise and authority in a particular field. While influencers can have a significant number of followers, they don’t necessarily have to be experts on any particular subject. Their followers could enjoy seeing an influencer’s content purely on the basis of entertainment.

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