Date
17 October 2018
Most of the key opinion leaders have become online celebrities because of their unique and intriguing content. But now some of them are preoccupied with making money, and their recent posts are mostly sponsored ones. Photo: AFP/Bloomberg
Most of the key opinion leaders have become online celebrities because of their unique and intriguing content. But now some of them are preoccupied with making money, and their recent posts are mostly sponsored ones. Photo: AFP/Bloomberg

KOL competition intensifies as advertisers become more choosy

I recently joined a gathering of about a dozen key opinion leaders (KOLs), or those whose views and recommendations, usually on social media, are supported and followed by a substantial number of people.

Some of the KOLs in the assembly have more than 100,000 followers each. They were beaming with confidence, saying their business was better than ever.

On the other hand, KOLs with a smaller fan base are having a tough time largely because advertisers are becoming more selective.

Advertisers are a lot more price-sensitive now than before. They allocate their budget in such a way as to create the maximum impact. They weigh their options very carefully: should they spend the entire budget on just a few top KOLs or spread it among a greater number of less popular KOLs?

Apparently, the good old days of easy money are gone.

The situation is partly due to a surge in the number of KOLs or KOL wannabes, who are attracted by good money.

Content quality is another issue. Most of the KOLs have become online celebrities because of their unique and intriguing content. But now many of them are preoccupied with making money, and their recent posts are mostly sponsored ones. As a consequence, many of their fans have turned to other KOLs.

There are also some cases of KOLs who abused their popularity and influence, and ended up alienating their supporters. For example, some KOLs unduly demand VIP treatment, while some use their online platforms to attack whoever or whatever they dislike.

Still, like in any other segment in the entertainment business, most of the money goes to the very top in the sector. Successful KOLs continue to make millions of dollars, and some are also becoming more active in the offline world.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 26

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RT/CG

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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