What Does KOL Mean? Unveiling KOLs: The Difference Between Internet Celebrities and Key Opinion Leaders

What Does KOL Mean? Unveiling KOLs: The Difference Between Internet Celebrities and Key Opinion Leaders

07 Nov 2023

What Does KOL Mean? Unveiling KOLs: The Difference Between Internet Celebrities and Key Opinion Leaders

In the era before the internet, information dissemination was very “one-way”. The information we were exposed to came mainly from mass media – news was received by reporters, digested, organized and reported, and finally conveyed to the public. But in today’s internet age, information dissemination has become “multi-directional”, like a spider web that interconnects. Individuals and groups can communicate freely. From the public’s perspective, Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) play a particularly important role. Their evaluations published on social media not only attract a lot of fans’ eyeballs, but also influence many people’s consumption decisions. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand why many brand owners and advertisers are striving to find excellent KOLs to achieve advertising effects.

So what does KOL mean in Chinese?

KOL (Key Opinion Leader) literally translates to “key opinion leader”. It refers to influential people on the Internet. They usually open accounts on online social platforms like Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, regularly post content on specific topics, and gradually accumulate a large number of followers. Some KOLs involving consumer goods attract companies to cooperate with them for advertising.

So what conditions should an excellent KOL have? Does high popularity necessarily mean influence? In fact not. Both popularity and influence are important indicators, but they are not necessarily proportional.

A KOL with high popularity may have a lot of fans or followers, but may not be able to influence their consumption decisions. On the contrary, an influential KOL may not be well-known, but his few fans will listen to him.

Evaluating KOL’s Quality and Quantity Indicators

Going further, what factors should marketing professionals consider when evaluating how to select the right KOLs? Based on our team’s accumulated experience, the factors to consider when selecting KOLs are as follows:

First, Qualitative indicators.

We often refer to 4 indicators to judge content affinity:

1. Relevancy

We first look at whether the KOL is a user of the product, whether he/she has relevant content, and whether his/her expertise is related to the industry/product.

2. Look & Style

In this regard, Hong Kong people are quite superficial, and this is very important for consumers. We look at whether the KOL’s appearance and taste on the Internet attract the audience, and whether his/her remarks are positive? Or more emotional and passive? This is critical because appearance and taste relate to whether it matches the brand.

3. Tone & Manner

We look at the KOL’s wording and whether it matches the brand’s needs, and whether the tone can attract the target customer group. Some KOLs online can be frivolous and extreme. If the brand’s target customers are more mature and stable, the match is questionable.

4. Experience & Voice

We look at the KOL’s knowledge about the product and industry, and whether the acceptance by the audience is sufficient. Especially in the field of electronic products, the audience pursues insightful comments from KOLs to save time, effort and money. Therefore, we also look at whether the KOL is an expert and thought leader, which certainly gives them extra points.

Second, Quantitative indicators.

We look at the KOL’s audience influence (Audience Base). The so-called audience influence obviously analyzes more data.

1. Reach

Refers to the potential number of audiences a KOL can reach. For Facebook, look at the number of followers; for Youtube number of subscribers; for personal blogs number of readers or click rate.

2. Engagement Rate

Simply put, can the KOL get closer to the audience. Even for a KOL with a wide reach, it is also necessary to see if the audience will read his information and further interact. Therefore, from the number of likes, comments, shares and other interactions, we can judge the level of interaction between the audience and the KOL.

3. Number of Re-Posts

The above two points focus on the KOL himself. In fact, a successful KOL is like a stone that stirs up thousands of waves – the direct audience exposed to the KOL is limited, but if these people spread the information to friends around them, it creates a ripple effect. Suppose 100 willing sharers each have 100 friends, and each friend is also willing to share, it can possibly reach 1 million people, so this exponential growth effect is significant.

Type 1: High Fit, Low Influence

For KOLs with high fit but low influence, we recommend selecting a few to accurately reach target audiences, but cannot rely on just one, otherwise the overall reach may be weak. Take “Tang Wei” as an example. She is indeed very famous, and her high content affinity is undoubted, but she barely interacts on social media and has few online followers, so her audience influence is very low, which is an exceptional case.

Type 2: Win by “Quantity”

So for KOLs with both low affinity and influence, should we not use them at all? Not necessarily. We can choose multiple KOLs of this type to win by “quantity” and create echo and momentum, so that the audience feels the product is ubiquitous. Usually select 10 to several tens. In addition, we also recommend stockpiling KOLs and inviting them to participate in corporate events and evaluate products when necessary, especially in times of crisis. Since these KOLs are relatively inexpensive, they can play a role.

Type 3: Low Fit, High Influence

For KOLs with low fit but high influence, just a few are sufficient. Their influence can help increase brand awareness. For example, McDonald’s once invited mega influencer “Winnie the Pooh” to promote its new product. Although the fit was not high, his Youtube subscription was over 5 million. Using his influence achieved promotional effect.

Type 4: High Fit, High Influence

Finally, KOLs with both high affinity and high influence are naturally the most suitable. But the number adopted does not need to be too large, as these KOLs generally involve higher costs.

Screening Principles

In addition, we need to employ 4 screening principles:

1. Is the KOL’s fee reasonable

The fees of many KOLs in the market fluctuate, and the increase can be astonishing when they are popular or busy. If the asking price is too high, we have to consider whether the price is reasonable or use other means.

2. KOL’s Cooperation

Whether the KOL is easy to cooperate with, whether he/she can promote the product on time, whether there are any concealments of self-interest or difficulties in cooperation, such as publishing product reviews without prior discussion, etc., should all be considered.

3. KOL’s Image

Avoid KOLs with negative news and scandals as much as possible.

4. KOL’s Commercialization

Finally, some KOLs may have a lot of followers and good fit, but are too commercialized, endorsing too many brands, and may even have endorsed competitors before. This may be slightly inferior in the word-of-mouth era.

Cultivate Brand KOLs

At the beginning, there is no need to hurry to find KOLs. We often suggest that companies compile their own KOL list. Those with low affinity can also be explored for potential to become brand spokespersons. We usually suggest letting KOLs access first-hand information from different industries, providing new product samples for trial use, in order to directly improve affinity. Some companies offer “Best User Awards” to encourage potential KOLs and help them learn about the products, which directly enhances affinity.

So how to increase the influence of KOLs with low influence? We can directly invite them to participate in corporate events to expose them to the company’s audience. We can also place targeted ads on Facebook to increase their influence.

For KOLs that are low in both aspects, we also suggest that companies continue to cultivate them. Because when a crisis occurs, companies can quickly find loyal users to speak for the brand from a third-party perspective, and neutralize and extinguish the fire.

For example, Leon Lai recently held a concert that was unable to start on schedule due to venue issues. But he quickly resolved the crisis within 24 hours. His PR skills, accountability and refunds to the audience are impeccable. But the main reason he was able to quickly defuse the crisis is thanks to his fan club. Although Leon Lai’s affinity and influence are not high, he has a responsive and populous fan club. So the storm was quickly subdued.

“Internet Celebrity” vs. “Key Opinion Leader”

Remember the “Primal Force”? overnight, it went from a news response to the talk of the town, even topping Weibo’s hot search list, turning athlete Fu Yuanhui into an “internet celebrity”. The “Primal Force” prompted netizens to follow suit, and companies wanted to invite Fu to endorse brands.

So what is the difference between “internet celebrity” and the “KOL” that Hong Kongers often mention?

An “internet celebrity” is someone with some fame in a certain field or suddenly became popular due to some event, such as the Japanese artist who recently became an internet celebrity with his “PPAP” song. The simple repetitive lyrics and moves easily went viral online, in addition to various versions, many celebrities also made cover versions. But the heat of this type of “internet celebrity” usually only lasts 1-2 months. Their audience has no commonality, people of all ages may pay attention. Speaking of becoming an “internet celebrity” with a song, you must think of PSY who went globally viral with Gangnam Style a few years ago. Although this catchy song spread like a virus and broke 100 million views in a short time, trends come and go quickly. His subsequent songs failed to attract attention again. Likewise, after the Olympics, Fu Yuanhui’s exposure, attention and discussion also gradually dropped.

KOLs are commonly referred to as “Big Vs” in mainland China, including celebrities and famous people in various fields. In terms of fame, “Big Vs” already have an established image in the public’s mind, while the impression of “internet celebrities” is usually just based on their behavior, expressions or catchphrases. Another focal point is the audience. The audience of “Big Vs” usually has certain age group, gender or interests. If you want to see information about travel and food in Japan, you would pay attention to KOLs who regularly share content in that area. For parenting, beauty, fashion, cooking, there are corresponding KOLs respectively, and one KOL usually focuses on only one field.

The difference between “internet celebrity” and “KOL” is very meaningful for brands investing advertising resources.

If Hong Kong companies want to leverage a trend in the mainland for promotion, they need to accurately invest different resources on “internet celebrities” and “Big Vs”. Sam took the “Primal Force” as an example. He suggested clients add tags in Weibo posts to increase exposure, while collaborating with “Big Vs” related to target audience for promotion. With this simple method, Sam can increase overall brand exposure and achieve widespread dissemination. Therefore, from a business perspective, every brand should carefully consider where to invest advertising resources, rather than blindly “fishing”, so as to resonate with the audience while further enhancing brand image.

Case Sharing: How KOLs are forged today

Today, the influence of internet celebrities is far reaching. When they promote products on their platforms with huge fanbases, it often achieves a multiplier effect, directly stimulating sales. Therefore, advertisers invest billions of dollars every year to sponsor certain Instagram KOLs and YouTube stars, giving rise to the internet celebrity economy.

Precisely because the internet celebrity industry is valuable, specialized courses on “how to become a KOL” have emerged. In recent years, Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College in China has offered an “Internet Celebrity” major focusing on cultivating KOLs. The curriculum covers a wide range, including performance, makeup, public relations etiquette, temperament and image, dance, runway catwalk, etc. The final exam even includes a section on “striking 15 poses in 30 seconds”.

Although such KOL training courses are on the rise, nurturing successful KOLs is not as easy as imagined, and often requires the perfect combination of timing, geography, people and resources.

Take Korean singer PSY for example. Although he skyrocketed to global fame with Gangnam Style in 2014, he actually went through more than a decade of hard work and trials. Coupled with the Korean wave and grasping mass psychology, he achieved his current success.

Although Hong Kong youth aspiring to be KOLs cannot fully replicate PSY’s playbook, it is not entirely uncharted territory if they want to become internet celebrities and earn attractive internet celebrity incomes. The key is to identify creative directions that are popular but not yet prevalent, and develop persistently to attract more and more netizens’ attention. Regularly analyze data and iterate. With this, becoming an outstanding internet celebrity is not out of reach.

The model below provides a set of assessment criteria and guidance for marketing professionals to formulate and measure promotion campaign metrics. Based on different metrics, competitive integrated digital strategies can be formulated. At the same time, this model can also act as a structural framework to help companies determine which digital marketing tools to use in order to achieve marketing objectives more effectively. It also helps decide which data and measurement tools to use to inspect results and make improvements.

(Here the digital engagement model is explained, citing examples to detail how to use this model for digital marketing. It emphasizes choosing an appropriate combination of digital marketing tools based on different target audiences, so as to leverage their respective advantages and produce synergistic effects.)


There are many digital marketing tools. Before selecting, you must identify the product’s target audience. Different tools have varying effects on different audiences. For example, if your audience is people aged 15-25, they may be more heavily influenced by KOLs than other age groups, because the topics they see daily are often KOL-related. So for them, KOLs are an effective digital marketing tool, while other digital marketing tools also have different key target audiences. Of course, digital marketing encourages using different tools to promote the same product or service. Each tool can play a different role, some sharing information directly, some building image, some helping spread your message. Therefore, properly using different tools in combination to promote the same product or service, enabling them to complement each other, is what marketing professionals should focus on.

More Blogs

Featured Articles

In today’s digital business environment, companies are faced with a variety of online marketing options. Google SEO and B2B platforms such as Alibaba International Station and Amazon, although both aimed at enhancing a company’s online visibility and sales performance, have significant differences in strategy, objectives, effectiveness, and data analysis. Differences in Targeting Google SEO focuses on improving a company’s ranking in Google search results through website optimization to attract more organic traffic and enhance brand awareness. In contrast, B2B platforms aim to increase product visibility and sales volume on the platform through internal search optimization, promotional tools, and store hosting services. The focus of Google SEO optimization lies in website structure, high-quality content creation, and precise keyword layout to enhance search engine indexing and ranking. B2B platform SEO, on the other hand, emphasizes providing detailed business information, including product details, pricing, purchasing specifications, and transaction terms, while leveraging platform features such as Alibaba’s one-click mass distribution function to attract the attention of buyers. Sustainability of Effects and Return on Investment The results of Google SEO are long-term, requiring continuous website maintenance and content updates from companies. Once the website achieves a higher ranking in search results, it can bring stable traffic and brand exposure to the company. Compared to this, the effectiveness of B2B platforms depends on platform promotion activities and paid services, such as Alibaba’s P4P services, which usually require additional cost investment. Google SEO accumulates the company’s own traffic and customer resources, helping to build a private traffic pool for the company. B2B platforms, however, are more about building traffic and customer relationships within the platform. Depth and Quantifiability of Data Google SEO provides a wealth of data…

In the fiercely competitive world of e-commerce, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become a key strategy for increasing website visibility and boosting sales figures. For merchants using the Shopify platform, understanding and implementing effective SEO strategies for Shopify sites is crucial. This article will explore how to optimize a Shopify website for SEO and focus on nine key areas of optimization. The essence of SEO is to improve a website’s content and structure to enhance its ranking in search engines, thereby attracting more organic traffic. Shopify, as a feature-rich e-commerce platform, offers many built-in SEO features, such as customizable URLs and automatic site map generation, which greatly facilitate merchants in setting up SEO for their websites. However, despite these basic functionalities, from an SEO expert’s perspective, Shopify’s code architecture is not particularly SEO-friendly in some aspects. Therefore, to achieve SEO optimization for a Shopify website, more detailed attention is required. Keyword Analysis and Selection The first step in SEO is the analysis and selection of keywords. It is recommended to use tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner to identify high-traffic keywords related to your products and integrate them skillfully into product titles, descriptions, and blog content. Landing Page Optimization Landing page optimization is crucial for the SEO of any website, including Shopify sites. Based on SEO keywords, select pages with high relevance and ensure that each product page has unique, descriptive content, including keywords. Also, optimize the URL structure to be concise and keyword-rich, which can greatly improve search engine indexing efficiency. Improving Website Compatibility and Security Compatibility means that the website should display consistently across different devices and platforms. At the same time, improve the website’s loading speed and…

In the digital age, having a website that is easily discoverable by both users and search engines is crucial. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is key to ensuring that your website’s content is properly indexed and ranks well in search results. This article will provide a comprehensive set of SEO strategies to help your website stand out in the competitive online world. Google optimization, as a core part of SEO, is essential for enhancing your website’s performance in search results. Effective Google optimization strategies not only improve visibility but also attract more targeted users. Implementing Google optimization requires a holistic consideration of all aspects of a website, including content quality, technical implementation, and user experience. Successful Google optimization requires ongoing efforts and continuous optimization, as Google’s algorithms are constantly updated, and competitors are also continuously improving their SEO strategies. Therefore, staying abreast of the latest trends in Google optimization and adjusting optimization strategies in a timely manner is crucial for maintaining the competitiveness of your website. Understanding the Working Principle of Search Engines Search engines like Google use automated crawler programs to continuously explore the internet to discover new web pages. Although most websites are automatically indexed after publication, proactive SEO measures can significantly improve your website’s visibility in search results. The core of Google optimization is to understand and adapt to the working principles of Google’s search engine. Google’s crawlers regularly crawl web pages, analyze their content and structure, and then store this information in Google’s index. When users search, Google retrieves the most relevant, highest-quality results from the index based on its complex algorithms. Therefore, an effective Google optimization strategy should focus on improving the crawlability, relevance, and authority…

The Importance of Foreign Trade Website Promotion In the wave of the globalized economy, foreign trade website promotion has become an important way for companies to expand into the international market. Through professional foreign trade website optimization services, companies can build a website that complies with international standards and attracts global customers, thereby enhancing brand influence and market competitiveness. Foreign trade website promotion not only helps enterprises cross geographical boundaries but also, through the power of the internet, spreads the enterprise’s voice to all corners of the world, achieving global brand coverage. Core Value of Foreign Trade Website Services Customized Design: A Window to Display Corporate Image The first step in foreign trade website promotion is customized design. Unlike generic templates, customized design can fully reflect the characteristics and needs of the enterprise, creating a unique website image and serving as a bridge for communication with the international market. This design service ensures that each website is tailored to the uniqueness of the enterprise, allowing it to stand out in fierce market competition. Content Material Guidance: Optimization Strategy in Line with Google Algorithm High-quality content is key to attracting users to a website. Foreign trade website optimization services provide content material guidance to ensure that website content is not only rich and attractive but also complies with Google algorithm rules, improving the website’s ranking in search engines. This guidance helps enterprises create valuable content, attract and retain visitors, and improve visibility in search results through optimization. Keyword Research and Analysis: Covering a Wider Range of Potential Customers Keywords are at the core of SEO optimization. Foreign trade website services provide detailed keyword research and analysis before the website is built,…

The Importance and Strategic Positioning of Foreign Trade SEO Optimization In the wave of digital globalization, for foreign trade enterprises to secure a foothold in the international market, they must make online marketing the core of their business strategy, especially SEO optimization. Foreign trade SEO optimization involves not only customized website optimization for overseas search engines but also enhancing rankings and visibility in search results to attract potential global customers. Such optimization and promotional activities can significantly increase website traffic, raise brand awareness worldwide, and expand a company’s international market share. Definition and Implementation Goals of SEO Optimization SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a method of improving a website’s ranking in the natural search results of search engines through well-designed content and structure. Foreign trade SEO optimization and promotion focus on optimization for international search engines such as Google and Bing, aiming to enhance the online visibility and competitiveness of foreign trade enterprises in the global market. Complexity and Challenges of Foreign Trade SEO Optimization and Promotion Compared to domestic SEO, foreign trade SEO optimization and promotion face more complex challenges. These include adapting to differences in search engine algorithms across various countries and regions, overcoming barriers caused by language and cultural differences, and dealing with potentially stronger competitors in the international market. To overcome these challenges, foreign trade enterprises often rely on the professional guidance and support of specialized SEO optimization and promotion service providers. Deepening Strategies for Foreign Trade SEO Optimization and Promotion Effective foreign trade SEO optimization and promotion require the integrated use of a series of strategies and execution steps. These include but are not limited to: Precisely targeting keywords highly relevant to the enterprise’s…