What’s the Difference Between Influencers and KOLs

Are you new to influencer marketing? Did you run a campaign before but not get the results you desired? If so, don’t worry. We’ll help you navigate this $13.8 billion industry.

Influencer marketing starts with understanding influencers. There are many types and levels of influencers. From a nano influencer with just a few thousand followers, to a KOL, or key opinion leader.

Not sure what these terms mean? Continue reading to learn.

All about influencers

Social media influencers are people who can influence others via social media. Influencers have the ability to introduce products or services to certain consumer segments.

While we may think of influencers as fashionistas or digital nomads, there are many others. Sports, family, lifestyle, vegan, you name it.

In the same way, every major social media network has influencers who can help with marketing campaigns. YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok influencers might be the go-tos right now, but Twitch has also been growing in the influencer market. And don’t overlook networks like Twitter or LinkedIn.

Further, influencers can be classified according to their level of followers or tier. Because they decide how much influencers might charge for content creation, these influencer tiers matter to your brand when preparing a campaign. Let’s briefly examine each influencer tier.

Nano influencers: 1-5K followers

These influencers have one of the highest engagement rates in influencer marketing. They are relatable to their followers, who trust their still-unbiased opinions. Nano influencers are a cost-effective option for brands, too. They can often be sent free products in exchange for social media content.

Micro influencers: 5-50K followers

Micro influencers have similar engagement rates to nano influencers. They too have trusting audiences that see them as experts in their field, just their audiences are slightly bigger. They may offer to collaborate on products or they may ask for a fee. In recent years, they have been a hit with influencer marketers because of their great ROI.

Medium influencers: 50-100K followers

Medium influencers have begun to become professionals. They may quit their day job to influence full-time. Some might hire managers. As a result, fees can rise. For a medium-sized influencer, you can expect to pay more because of their increased reach.

Macro influencers: 100K-1M followers

The Macro level starts to see a drop in engagement rates. As your audience grows, it becomes more difficult for you to manage them personally and consistently. While increasing exposure to more people is great, you should also understand that these followers aren’t always ultra-focused on macro influencers content.

Mega influencers: 1M+ followers

Mega influencers are celebrities. While they are good at getting your brand noticed, consumers can easily see that their profiles are a rotating display case of branded content. Further, followers have a harder time connecting with influencers who live lavish lifestyles.

KOLs: Everything You Need to Know

Key opinion leaders (KOLs) are akin to uber-influencers. KOLs and influencers have one major difference: KOLs have access to other channels, while influencers rely on social media for their influence.

Another difference is that influencers aren’t always experts in their field. Anyone can, for example, become a beauty influencer. It doesn’t take any special qualifications to be a beauty influencer. Success comes more from passion and creativity than anything else.

KOLs on the other hand often have a lot of experience and/or education. Rand Fishkin, for instance, is a key opinion leader within the marketing industry. He founded Moz, one of the largest SEO tools available. With all that experience, we can assume he has a good understanding of what he’s talking about.

KOLs are a powerful resource for your campaign. However, it can be challenging to get in touch with them and pin down a collaboration. They need to be very closely aligned with your brand and products to even consider working for you. But you can expect a positive impact if you manage to link up with a KOL in your industry.

Tips for how to work with either

There are certain things that you must do, regardless of whether you’re working with an influencer or KOL.

Analyze their performance on social media and channels

You want to be sure your future collaborators won’t be fakes. Marketing fraud is common. 

You can avoid this by carefully reviewing the statistics on an influencer’s profile, such as follower growth, engagement rate and audience demographics. If you find something suspicious, ask for more data.

With KOLs, you may want to look at their social media profiles, or examine the other channels where they tend to voice their opinions.

Give them the freedom to express themselves

No matter how many followers you have, let influencers be free to be creative. They are the most knowledgeable about their followers, and they have the knowledge and experience to best communicate your brand’s message.

However, you can also specify any guidelines that you would like to be followed during negotiations. You should communicate deadlines and the things you want them to highlight about your product. You can also ask them to use specific hashtags and mentions in their content.

Consider whether you will need a contract

An influencer contract isn’t necessary 100% of the time. If you’re not paying influencers with money, there is no need for a contract, unless the products you’re giving them are extremely valuable. In such cases, you can just summarize the collaboration agreement in an email.

But you will need a contract when paying influencers in money. You might have an existing provision of services contract at your company, or you can obtain an influencer contract template that you can modify to suit your unique collaboration.


The most important step in influencer marketing is to choose the right influencer for your campaign. You should now be familiar with the various influencer tiers and the difference between KOLs or influencers. This will allow you to make the best decision for your brand.

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Last modified: September 23, 2021

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