• Konekc PR

KOL vs Influencer: What Makes them Different?




The use of social media as a marketing tool has given birth to influencers. Before the era of social media, we knew the similar concept as KOL or Key Opinion Leader. KOL is originally developed from a theory called two-step flow communication which was introduced for the first time in the mid of 20th century. Meanwhile, influencer is basically a new term, it was just added to the dictionary in 2019. Even though the original word “Influence” has been used since the 18th century, “Influencer” did not get recognition as a noun that describes a job title until the existence of Instagram. Now, as the number of KOL and influencers increase, the line between both of them becomes blurry. People sometimes could not differentiate which one is which.


Both of them do seem kind of similar yet also quite different at the same time. They seem similar in terms of their aim, persuading. However, if we see closely, they are actually different in several things. Hence, the questions remain “Are they similar or different? If they are actually different, what makes them different?”. As a new brand owner, you might also be confused on which service between KOL or influencers fits the goals of your business. So now, let’s try to get rid of this confusion. Below are some points that may enlighten you on this matter.


1. How They Do Their Work and Gain Popularity.

In the previous article, we have learned that KOL can be anyone who is an expert in all kinds of fields. They can be professors, film experts, doctors, or even pharmacists. These people have their own actual job that they do full-time daily. For example, a professor, his full time job will be a teacher at a university, besides also conducting research on his specialized field. These people gain popularity through media such as television programs by spreading their knowledge to all types of audiences, especially those who are intrigued by their area of expertise.

Meanwhile, influencers are like artists. Their job is basically related to creativity. They are skillful in content creation, they know how to blog as well as vlog. They are familiar with photography and image editing. Along with those brilliant skills, they are also persuasive. They help brands grow by promoting their products on social media. So, we can conclude that they do their job like a freelancer, which is obviously opposite to KOL. Also, since they commonly exist on social media, thus they gain their popularity on it rather than other kinds of media.

2. How Active They are on Social Media.

Though they are known from television, internet, newspaper, or radio broadcast, it doesn’t mean that KOL does not exist on social media. Some of them have the account, unexpectedly, with a greater number of followers. Yes, a KOL who is popular on television and other common media will be big on social media. However, their time online is limited since we know that they have a full-time offline career as well as life, unless they are in a contract to help market certain brands that are related to their area of expertise.

Oppositely, influencers spend most of their time online on social media. Their job requires them to stay online daily even when they are not in a collaboration with brands because besides brand promotion, they also do self-branding by engaging their audiences with the update of their daily life or routine. Hence, you may see their organic contents alongside the promotional ones.

3. How Influential They are.

Since we know that both KOL and influencers have their own way of working and gaining their popularity, we may assume that their influence is also different in terms of level and effectiveness.

KOL influences their audiences through their knowledge or expertise. Meanwhile, influencers use their brilliant communication skills. Judging from those two aspects, it seems like KOL will be more influential than influencers in some cases because people tend to believe more in fact and knowledge nowadays. However, it doesn’t mean that persuasive communication technique fails in making someone influential. It's just that knowledge seems more powerful. Despite those aspects, in the end, it still depends on their own audiences or followers.


So, what about now? Have you grasped the difference between both of them? If so, which between both would fit your business goals for now if you decided to use their services?