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While looking to promote a product, service, or brand, it is essential to figure out the focus of the marketing effort and how to imprint momentum into the campaign. Here is where Key Opinion Leaders and Digital Opinion Leaders come into play.
The digital universe is expanding; more digital content is created and consumed every year than in the previous year. Computer-generated statistical models predict that by 2025, an average American will experience 4,785 digital interactions every day; the current number is around 601 interactions per day.
This predicted acceleration of digital content generation and consumption is why we, as a community, need to keep innovating on the strategies, tools, and technologies we use to get our message across. Leveraging the depth of connectivity that Key Opinion Leaders can provide, and the broad reach of Digital Opinion Leaders could result in a winning strategy.
There are at least two kinds of opinion leaders: Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs).
What is a key opinion leader?
A key opinion leader (KOL) is an expert or thought leader who has earned the trust of their peers for specific concepts or an area of knowledge. Patients, physicians, and sometimes even regulatory agencies accept their input while making decisions.
Key opinion leaders tend to be well-respected and highly regarded by their peers and the general public.
KOLs are typically experts in their field. A key opinion leader often has had something to do with developing a product or service or developing a significant scientific finding. A KOL is someone recognized as knowledgeable in a field.
Key opinion leaders focus on a specific area/field of knowledge and this might limit their radius of influence to the population interested in that topic.
The logical conclusion is that while their knowledge might be deep, the reach of a KOL might be limited. This type of opinion leadership is called “monomorphic opinion leadership” (Merton, R. K., Social theory and social structure, 1957). KOLs tend to have a reach limited to a specific/niche audience in favor of depth of knowledge.
What is a digital opinion leader?
Digital Opinion Leaders, or DOLs, are on the other side of the spectrum; their radius of action is amplified by the internet and streaming technologies (think podcasts, reels, live TV over the internet) and therefore is much larger.
DOLs can influence tens of thousands and sometimes even millions of people. Because of their broad reach, one might infer that their depth in specific fields of knowledge might not go very deep. In other words, to appeal to large audiences, DOLs often need to be more generalists than specialists. They can’t go very deep, not necessarily for lack of technical depth, but perhaps due to risk aversion (risk of losing part of their audience).
This type of opinion leadership is often called “polymorphic opinion leadership”. In other words, a DOL is trusted on more general topics, but might be trusted for a lot more unique topics (compared to a KOL).
The unicorn KOL: A Key Opinion Leader and Digital Opinion Leader in one
And that brings us to the last “A,” which is “Adjust.”
You should review the rules regularly to make sure they are impactful. If you have a Next Best tool, you will have a lot of data to review. If not, you may be collecting feedback more subjectively through conversations with your team.
You should look to see if rules are regularly dismissed and not acted on. If so, evaluate if you should change the rule or provide coaching. Leaving suggestion rules in place or alerts nobody acts on diminishes the process’s value.
To align on the actions, you want your team to take based on your data. Automate through alerts or suggestions to ensure every team member is notified of opportunities to make an impact. Then review the progress regularly and adjust.
What are good tools to find Key Opinion Leaders?
The following tools/resources are available free of charge to all of us and can be used to find key opinion leaders:
- KeyOpinionLeaders.com: Provides a free search engine to find targeted KOLs for any concept, the KOLs are sorted by level of influence. The user can enter a search phrase like medical conditions, active ingredients, medical procedures, or medical devices and filter the KOLs by country, city, subconcepts, etc. Here is how-to-guide for finding Oncology KOLs that have influence for “car t-cell” AND “Cdr36 deficiency” AND “are located in Japan”.
- Pubmed: It is a good resource with excellent coverage of publications. This tool is more centered on publications than people but still gives an idea of the number of citations for the authors. The number of citations is global (a single score for each KOL) and doesn’t have concept-level granularity.
- Google Scholar: Excellent coverage of publications and can be used to infer who can be a good KOL based on which publications come up on top on search result pages. This tool is also more centered on ranking research papers/documents than people but could be a good proxy.