Published 04 August 2016 Category: Digital, Marketing

How to use “social influencers” to your advantage: Identifying influencers and their value

Why incorporating KOLs in your budget pays off for small companies


It’s hard to believe that Instagram launched under six years ago, as the splash it has made in the marketing industry has been dramatic. Instagram now has over 300 million accounts, which means that top brands are leveraging this platform, alongside Facebook and YouTube, to promote their business. Many businesses, from leading fashion brands to trendy restaurants, enlist the help of KOLs (key opinion leaders) or social influencers to do clever indirect, social marketing. In many studies, influencer marketing ROI surpasses traditional online advertising and reigns in more customers.

Here’s how it works: enlisted KOLS or bloggers wear and style certain products (whether it’s athletic gear or a smart watch), dine at specific destinations and frequent certain venues, all while hashtagging and informing their expansive and loyal followers of their latest find. This is all done in a seemingly organic way, encouraging a natural form of advertising!

What “makes” someone a KOL or social influencer?

As the name suggests, a KOL or key opinion leader is a person – think blogger, photographer, stylist or socialite – who has influence over others. This can affect their fan base in terms of purchasing decisions, lifestyle choices and day to day business.

The labeling of a KOL has changed with the advent of social media platforms, as it’s not just limited to celebrities anymore. There are plenty of self-made Instagrammers and bloggers now, who all have proclaimed influence over their fan base. Because many of these KOLs are “normal”, their outreach can have an evangelical effect, as followers may trust and follow the KOL’s lifestyle choices.

Some metrics that make someone a social influencer or KOL are: the number of followers the person has, whether they’re recognizable in their industry, their niche (i.e. food, nature, street art) the quality of their posts and their consistency.

Working with social influencers is rewarding because their effect is measurable almost immediately. The likes and comments are all visible to the public. It’s also a targeted form of marketing. If you’re, say, a small organic skincare company buying a digital banner online or a page in a magazine, you can only hope your targeted demographic is reached. But if you work with seeding your product to, health and fitness social influencers, the likelihood of reaching your core group is higher.

Brands like Lululemon and Daniel Wellington are built on their devoted number of followers, and companies big and small are spending money on influencer marketing, shifting money from traditional ad and marketing spend to going digital. Think of it as the modern, (paid-for), word-of-mouth type of marketing!

So how do you identify KOLs for your small company to work with? Here are some tips:

1.     Pick quality over quantity – don’t just look at the number of followers!  

Social media often turns everything into a measurable popularity contest, so it’s important to distinguish quality over quantity. Try working with smaller scale influencers, or ones who have less followers but more engagement with their devoted fan base.

It can be helpful for companies to establish and target different tiers of influencers based on the reach (i.e. top tier being influencers with over 500k followers) to work with and having a quota for each tier.

2.     Target your demographic appropriately – make sure the KOL you choose matches the lifestyle IRL (in real life). 

Again, say you’re a small organic skincare company. You wouldn’t want to enlist influencers known for being party animals or gluttonous foodies. Instead, limit your search to young, health conscious and active influencers who will also have the appropriate group of followers. It’s easy on Instagram to pick appropriate influencers who abide by your company’s image. This can be easily searchable through hashtags or even handle names.

3.     Pick influencers that are open to providing social media analytics and having their pictures circulated. 

Many experienced social influencers are open to providing the details of each post and are happy to supply the brand with additional photos that can be leveraged on the company’s Facebook / social media account. It’s important to work with influencers that understand their professional responsibilities and are willing to work with the company on specifics.