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How to Find Key Opinion Leaders?


Marketing and communications have become increasingly data-driven and profit-oriented. The quality of target groups is thus more important than it used to be. When in the past PR and email marketing consisted of mass deliveries at worst, now both have moved to narrow, even one-person segments. Messages have become personalized, or even customized.

In communications this trend is especially visible in how Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) are becoming increasingly important. This basically means that instead of masses you aim to recognize the right people and communicate to them in exactly the right manner, often personally.

In customer meetings we are often asked how to recognize key opinion leaders or influencers. Here's how.

Monitor to get insight

Key opinion leader surveys can be done as one-off by monitoring the current situation. In the best case, however, finding key opinion leaders is a part of everyday communications and marketing that includes social media and media monitoring, press releases and PR.

General monitoring

Continuously monitoring your own industry creates the basis for finding influencers. If you don't know what is talked about, you can't know who are talking or how to find them. Keeping yourself informed about what's going on might sound like stating the obvious but, for instance, the possibilities of LinkedIn groups are not utilized by many.

There is a lot to monitor. Most of us, however, don't have the time to skim through a staggering amount of sources, instead the essential information must be found quickly.

Follow at least these:

  • the most important media outlets of your industry (print, blogs, video blogs...)
  • trends with Google Trends, for example

  • the most read topics online
  • the most important LinkedIn groups in your industry

  • the events of your industry; the speakers are often key opinion leaders
  • what is talked about your industry on social media, forums and media

  • what is talked about your competitors
  • what your competitors talk about 

  • what is talked about your company/brand/products
  • who are the most active recipients of your press releases.

Precise monitoring

As you can see from the list, a social media and media monitoring tool is necessary for someone who is interested in key opinion leaders. Here is an example of effective everyday media monitoring:

1. First make clear, well organized searches on your monitoring tool.

For example, like this:

  • Keywords related to your own brand, all channels
  • Keywords related to your own brand, only social media
  • Keywords related to competitors, all channels
  • Industry-related keywords, all channels
  • Industry-related keywords, social media
  • Keywords related to your own brand, competitors or the industry, Twitter
  • Keywords related to your own brand, competitors or the industry, Instagram

2. Have daily morning reports to your email, and skim through them while you're having your morning coffee. This helps you to form a good general understanding over time.

3. Find the important hashtags for you. For example, Trendsmap is a fun and easy way to see the popularity of hashtags in different areas. Hashtagify suggests alternative hashtags related to the one you already use.

Important hashtags can also be found on Twitter's own top lists and Instagram's predictive search. Start writing #food, for instance, to get suggestions and to see how many times they've been used. However, the most influential hashtags can be found from the hits of media monitoring tools or from the social media posts of recognized key opinion leaders.

4. Create your own hashtag-specific monitors. When some hashtags clearly start to stand out in searches, create own monitors for them, either specifically for each hashtag or make an “important hashtags” monitor where you always add these hashtags. This way the monitors get more accurate with time and key opinion leaders start to emerge effortlessly.

5. Add important forums. Add the pages and forums that are especially important to you to your monitoring tool (in case they aren't part of the database already). For example, the people who comment on your competitors' blogs or use a discussion forum for a specific narrow sector might be valuable to you. Also add websites that list the important events in your industry.

Identify a key influencer from the mass

Social media and media monitoring is the most important tool when it comes to finding key opinion leaders, but good old Google and media release services also play a big part.

Many analytics services directly offer Key Opinion Leader analytics and lists. These are very useful. However, they rarely replace the expertise of a person in charge of marketing and communications who can combine data from multiple online and offline channels, as well as personal experience and networks.

Identify the key people from everyday monitoring like this, for instance:

1. Create a monitor to your social media and media monitoring tool, for example “potential key opinion leaders”. When you notice that the same person pops up over and over again in general searches, add their Twitter account, blog, name etc. to this monitor. Keep an eye how the situation develops. For example, a blog that was launched with a lot hype, might dwindle surprisingly soon.

2. Create a list, for example “Confirmed key opinion leaders”, that you already know are important influencers for you. Move “potential” people from the monitors here after you've become convinced of their importance.

3. Add the people you know to be important based on events, or media release service databases or personal contacts to ”Confirmed key opinion leaders” list.

4. Go through the media release service databases and add key reporters and bloggers to either list. Do this on a regular basis.

5. Every week quickly go through the results of the week in the control panel. Mark the important, good and meaningful hits as well as the bad ones. In most tools this can be done easily by clicking a button. Move people from “potential key opinion leaders” list to the confirmed list and delete those that don't belong to that list anymore. 

6. Google – your customers are doing it. Add all the data you find (words, hashtags, people) to your monitoring tool, in order to keep your data well organized.

7. Use snowballing technique. Around key opinion leaders you can often find other key opinion leaders or those who will be in the future. Take a regular look at your “key opinion leaders” list, and go through the followers and those who comment and add them to either “potential” or “key opinion leaders” list.

Are you interested in social media and media monitoring?

Do you want to learn how to find exactly the right key opinion leaders for you? Ask us for a visit to discuss further! 

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