Don’t call me « Influencer », I’m a « KOL »!

Influencers, Instagramers, Youtubers, Streamers, TikTokers, Brand ambassadors, Celebrities, Bloggers, Talents, Content Creators (or just Creators), … please stop calling them that way! You’re not a Boomer. Start calling them Key Opinion Leaders or KOL.

« Instagramer », « Youtuber », « Streamer » or « TikToker » is for… boomers.

Digital influencers often start growing their audience on a single platform (like Instagram for instance). The first influencers were very strong on one platform, for example Twitter, Facebook, or Youtube at the start, or also on blogs. That’s why, when we started our first Influencer Marketing campaigns with my team at Kolsquare in 2012 (at that time we were launching Brand and Celebrities), every marketer was talking about Youtubers or Bloggers.

Same phenomenon when new platforms like Instagram, Snap or TikTok exploded in the late 2010’s, we started to talk about « Instagramers », « SnapChaters », or « TikTokers ».

So boomers use this kind of word, but it’s not accurate anymore.

It’s been a while since influencers realized that their potential audience was not only on one platform but on several, and that it was really risky to bet everything on only one platform. So today most influencers have an account on several platforms:

  • A multi-platform influencer can explore new creative options: each platform has its own advantages and formats
  • Being on several platform allows to embrace market evolutions: platforms are waging war against each others, and every thing is moving so fast that digital marketers have to be able to adapt on a daily basis
  • Brands are launching cross platform campaigns, and thus are not only looking for Instagramers or Youtubers only: they want to activate a media with all his/her potential power, and more recently brands are reducing the volume of collaborations to focus on more long-term cross-platform partnerships with selected influencers.
  • Influencers cannot afford to depend only on one platform: there is no day without an unexplained influencer ban from a platform (especially Instagram, regularly cleaning fake accounts and bots, sometimes making mistakes), and no one can forget that TikTok was almost banned in the US in 2020, and finally banned in India overnight.

« Creators » is too limited to express the real power of influencers!

Platforms like Facebook (now Meta) started to call influencers « Creators » a few years ago, soon joined by all major platforms. If you take their perspective, it’s legitimate. Platforms are delivering the pipe (algorithms, data, audiences), and influencers the flow (contents) … so for platforms, influencers are mainly content creators.

But are influencers really only content creators? A content creator creates content, as a copywriter or a video maker do for example. Is a copywriter or video maker an influencer? No, because they need to have an audience, engagement, and … influence.

So, using the word « Creator » or « Content Creator » is missing the whole influence part of the job.

« Influencer » is often misused, and associated to excesses of influencer marketing

The word « Influencer » has long been associated to lots of negative practices.

When we think about « Influencers » we naturally think about:

  • fake influencers,
  • buying followers,
  • buying likes and comments,
  • pods (to cheat on platform algorithms)
  • dropshipping,
  • scams,
  • manipulation,
  • easy (and unjustified) money,
  • unauthentic collaborations with brands,
  • Dubaï excesses,
  • lots of scandals,

In Europe, most of these excesses are unfortunately linked to « influencers » coming from Reality TV programs. They are a minority among millions of influencers in the world, but their misconduct tarnished the image of influencers, making this term negative in the public opinion. It’s now time to move on.

The KOL is the 3.0 version of the digital influencer

Influencers are dead, long live KOLs, for Key Opinion Leaders!

This is how we can sum up the emergence of a new generation of influencers, true opinion leaders on social networks and in real life, who have understood everything about the codes of successful influencer marketing. They don’t do it just for the money, they prioritize meaning; authenticity is their priority, no fake; they are as demanding of brands as they are of themselves.

The KOL is the archetypal modern marketer. He is what marketing should always be: authentic, credible and inspiring. Still little known in Europe, the term Key Opinion Leader reigns supreme in the land of influencer marketing: China. Sometimes mistakenly thought of as a synonym for the influencer, it is in fact its natural successor: the key opinion leader is version 3.0 of the digital influencer.

A KOL is a champion of influence. His « power » acts on the Internet, but also in real life. A KOL does not just make pretty content, with sometimes clumsy product placements. A KOL is inspiring, he carries a message that is carefully listened to by his/her community and masters all the codes that make influencer marketing the most attractive and promising lever of the marketing mix. Finally, he/she simply meets the new requirements of the market.

Consumer mistrust

Influencer marketing has already established itself as an essential element in the sales strategy of most B2C companies, and is even beginning to spread into the B2B sphere. But a crisis of confidence is brewing in this market, which is still in the early stages of its potential and is only just beginning to be structured. Trust in the platforms, in the brands, in the influencers.

Recently, the succession of controversies about fake followers has accentuated the doubts of stakeholders, and above all the mistrust of consumers. Brands now make sure they work with « real » influencers, who are not only inspiring but above all who do not betray their community and who engage them, which is not the case for all.

A KOL does not buy fake subscribers to artificially grow their community and engagement rate: the hunt for fake is well and truly on in 2022 and will continue in 2023. Only the KOLs will escape unscathed.

This is where Key Opinion Leaders prove their superiority: they are, in essence, influencers who preserve the bond of trust with their community and carefully choose their partnerships because they make sense.

What counts above all is the reaction of their subscribers, who return it well because they are seen as true preachers. So money is far from being the only driver for KOLs.

And it works.

In China, a forerunner in influencer marketing, KOL Marketing is predominant in Sales. Western social networks (led by Meta, Snap, Twitch and Pinterest) have understood this, as they are increasingly offering s-commerce (social commerce) features for online purchases in order to position themselves on this promising market.

True trend-setters in influence marketing, the KOL tidal wave is already here.

So why don’t we stop using the term « Influencer », and use « Key Opinion Leader » or « KOL » instead?

About Kolsquare:

Kolsquare is Europe’s #1 Influencer Marketing platform, enabling brands to scale their performance around authentic collaborations with Key Opinion Leaders (K.O.L). Our technology allows professionals to identify the best K.O.L profiles, manage their campaigns from A to Z, measure their results, and compare their performance to best practices. Kolsquare offers hundreds of clients (Coca-Cola, Netflix, Publicis, Sézane, Sephora, El Corte Ingles, Kiko Milano, etc.) the latest Big Data, AI and Machine Learning technologies to activate inspiring and authentic partnerships with +3M K.O.Ls (Key Opinion Leaders) of +5000 followers in 180 countries on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.

Publié dans: Influence

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