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KOLs & Influencer Marketing: Where To Start As A New Brand

In the fast-paced world of e-commerce, where brands vie for attention in a crowded digital marketplace, influencer marketing has emerged as a powerful tool, with a staggering 93% of marketers leveraging the authenticity and reach of key opinion leaders (KOLs) to captivate audiences and drive sales.

With social media now being the centerpiece of business marketing, incredible opportunities are opening up for brands to leverage the popularity of online content creators. Influencer marketing has grown to a $21 billion industry – a figure which makes it impossible to ignore.

The premise is simple. Similar to celebrity endorsements used in television advertising, your brand, product or service is promoted by a content creator who has built a community – whether fans or aficionados. As a brand, you are aligning yourself with that influencer or Key Opinion Leader (KOL) and leveraging off the work they have done to foster trust, credibility and loyalty from their subscribers.

Key Takeaways

  • KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) are influential figures within a specific niche or industry who have a dedicated following and can sway consumer opinions and purchasing decisions.
  • Partnering with KOLs allows brands to tap into their established trust and credibility, leveraging their influence to reach target audiences more effectively than traditional advertising.
  • Successful KOL campaigns involve identifying the right influencers, setting clear goals, and fostering authentic relationships between the brand and the KOL.
  • KOL marketing offers benefits such as increased brand awareness, improved customer engagement, and higher conversion rates.
  • To maximize the impact of KOL partnerships, brands should prioritize long-term collaborations, create engaging content, and track key performance metrics to measure success.

Sounds good – How do I start?

Brand managers can tap into KOLs and Influencers through companies who specialize in this field through Influencer Affiliate Programs. 

The Influencer Affiliate Program will act as third-party matchmakers. Through careful analysis and research, they pinpoint the ideal content creator who holds the audience segment for a brand. Once an influencer or KOL has been identified, the brand pays them to promote, positively review or align themselves with that brand through their online platform.

The most effective Influencer Affiliate programs will enable you to:

  • Give access to millions of influencers across the globe
  • Collaborate with team members and third parties to ‘cast’ the ideal influencer/s for your brand
  • Offer advanced analytical and Influencer reporting tools to ensure you are getting maximum Return on Investment (ROI)
  • Provide actual case studies that demonstrate how other brands have benefited from their Influencer Affiliation services.
  • Hold a database of KOL and influencer profiles from all the major social networks worldwide including but limited to:
    • Instagram
    • TikTok
    • YouTube
    • Weibo
    • Douyin
    • WeChat
    • Red

Key Opinion Leaders vs Influencers

What part do Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) play in affiliation marketing? From a social media marketing perspective, influencers tend to reach a larger and broader audience segment than KOLs 

Despite a smaller following KOLs are usually active in professional networks, specialized media and academic journals. They are seen to be experts in their field, holding more sway and credibility as professionals. With less of a popular following, they could be referred to as ‘micro-influencers’. Rather than have fans, their content is engaged for its perceived credibility and trustworthiness. It is interesting to note, that while KOLs may have lower subscriber numbers, those they do have are more likely to be engaged with the content. It is better to have 100 passionate subscribers who listen to a creator’s content than one million who just scroll through looking at the pictures. 

A report from the South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences into Vietnamese social media marketing trends is worth a read for those interested in taking a deeper dive into the motivations and behavior of social media users through the lens of influencer marketing. 

What makes an influencer?

Whilst there are no set statistics on the amount of followers you need to qualify as an influencer, you need to have enough connections to be able to make an impact to sway your audience’s opinions. In reality, to be defined as an influencer you would be looking to attract at least 5,000 to 10,000 followers. Even with a mere 1,000 followers, people can make around $10 per post on Instagram.

Interestingly, Instagram is on the wane in the popularity stakes. Accounts with fewer than five thousand followers generally see a low engagement rate of around four percent.

TikTok on the other hand has exploded with engagement rates of over ten percent for accounts with over one million followers. For accounts with 1,000 to 5000 followers, the ratio is even higher at 15.04%.

Find your perfect match

Put simply, KOLs will reach audiences on different platforms to influencers. If you are a professional business looking to advertise your services, TikTok and Instagram are likely not your best channels to reach your audience demographic. This is where Influencer Affiliate Programs come to the fore. They will tap into a database of millions of influencers and KOLs to pinpoint the optimal partnership for your brand. If you are a business looking to gain a foothold in your market sector, there is no better place to start!

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