How to Identify Themes Driven by Key Opinion Leaders

It’s no secret that key opinion leaders move markets and influence consumer opinion. They have monumental impacts on brands and industries, and brands must be paying attention to their conversations. Additionally, key opinion leaders are often heavy-handed in driving emerging trends to the forefront of consumer thought. Online is a noisy place, so we’ll discuss how to identify themes driven by key opinion leaders using social listening.

With that intel in hand, you can leverage key opinion leader discussions to best align your brand with consumer opinion and shifts in market momentum. Specifically, we’ll break down the topic with a focus on:

  • Identifying key opinion leaders (KOLs)
  • Identifying key themes in KOL conversations
  • Applying KOL themes to marketing strategy

Before we jump in, though, here are a few statistics that underline the importance of keeping tabs on KOL conversations:

  • What key opinion leaders have to say has a significant influence on consumer opinion. Consumers listen to KOLs because they trust their expertise, and that matters to brands because 74% of buyers say that word of mouth affects their purchasing decisions.
  • Aligning your brand messaging with KOL conversations can substantially boost how consumers feel about your brand. That’s why it’s crucial to identify the KOLs that impact your industry, as 92% of consumers trust earned media over paid advertising.

Depending on your category, isolating KOL conversations can be like finding needles in a haystack. For example, here’s a timeline view of the cosmetics industry’s social media commentary over the last 30 days. It’s massive.

sentiment timeline cosmetics KOL

Timeline view showing the volume of social media users discussing cosmetics over the month of May 2021.

That being the case, let’s look at digging into social media conversations similar to this to identify the KOLs that impact your brand!

Identifying KOLs

Truth be told, without the right social media analytics tools, identifying KOLs within an industry can be daunting. Of course, you’ll probably be familiar with the top names in the category, but there are usually quite a few more.

That aside, accurately identifying the themes of KOL discussions over time without social listening tools is fairly impossible.

If you’re dissecting a short analysis like our one-month conversation above, you can isolate the main conversation generators by filtering for verified users and original posts. That weeds out most of the clutter.

Then you can apply themes to your analysis such as beauty and cosmetics to assure your market research doesn’t include any haphazard associations to cosmetics or makeup such as “making up for lost time.” Additionally, you can apply a mega-influencers theme to filter out everything but the conversations by authors generating the lion’s share of volume.

That will give you a peek into the authors driving the conversation over your selected time- period. However, there’s an easier way that leaves you with a much more holistic viewpoint of KOLs operating within your space.

Our platform allows you to identify and rank key opinion leaders within any topic category within minutes. Simply enter your topic, narrow it down by sub-topics if desired, apply filters, choose your source countries and the time period that you’d like to cover. That’s it!

We’re quickly given a table of the top 40 KOLs making waves in the cosmetics industry. Here we’ve chosen to search for key opinion leaders in the U.S. who are getting the most traction over the past six months.

quid apps KOL list

Aside from being ranked, we are also given the number of mentions during our search period and score for relevance, resonance and reach, which measure on a scale of 0-100. As you can see, over the past six months, Kylie Jenner and Jennifer Lopez are the leading key opinion leaders in the social media conversations surrounding cosmetics.

However, they’re not at the top of the list when it comes to traction per post. Marc Jacobs leads the list in social engagement by a long shot. Naomi Campbell and Keke Palmer come in second and third.

Now that we’ve completed our KOL identification, we can create an analysis that singles them out to determine conversational themes that we want to pay attention to.

Identifying Key Themes in KOL Conversations

When we’re analyzing key opinion leaders, we’re looking for intel on what they say and the reactions from social media users that generate the traction. We’re also looking for affiliations, owned channels and thematic undercurrents to the conversations surrounding the individual.

It’s important to note that depending on the KOL you are analyzing, it’s not always what they say but what they do that stirs up the conversation. That’s because KOLs primary occupation isn’t being an internet celebrity. They are known for their expertise within an industry.

As such, it’s essential to identify the key opinion leaders that are affecting conversation within your category and research the themes within it. Doing so across all the KOLs exerting influence on your space will reveal areas of interest that align with your brand. This, of course, allows you to leverage those conversations with creative messaging and product placement. It may also reveal areas that you can expand your influencer marketing.

Since the supermodel Naomi Campbell was one of the top KOLs in the cosmetics category over the last six months, we singled her out to take a closer look.

We isolated a sampling of the conversations surrounding Campbell by filtering out paid mentions to ensure we weeded out advertising and spam. Here’s a look at the top conversational topics surrounding Campbell.

Naomi Campbell conversational themes

Social media themes surrounding cosmetics KOL Naomi Campbell.

We can quickly see that hair and makeup dominates this conversation, as we’d expect. There’s a lot of talk about the recent birth of her first child at the age of 50, as well as discussions around her personal and professional relationships with other influential people. Additionally, her current status as Kenya’s tourism ambassador and her “No Filter” YouTube series offer areas of interest for further exploration.

Key opinion leaders are complex individuals with bodies of work and lifestyles that generally overlap in different segments. From this analysis alone, we can see those aspects of her life that touch on fashion, makeup, hairstyling, motherhood, childbirth, and international brands, such as Versace and Vogue.

If these areas touch your brand somehow, then some creative messaging can get you in on the conversation. At the very least, it aligns your brand with the attitudes and perceptions that consumers adopt from paying attention to key opinion leaders and the conversations they generate.

Let’s look a little closer at that.

Applying KOL Themes to Marketing Strategy

The point of analyzing key opinion leaders is to understand how they shape opinion as a respected voice in your industry. Aligning with the principles they espouse that resonate with your brand gives you a head start on emerging trends and consumer perception. After all, key opinion leaders are the future of marketing.

It’s all about finding the themes within the key opinion leader conversations that are a good fit for your brand and directing your marketing pursuits towards them.

For example, within the “No Filter” topic cluster above, we found an interesting interview between Naomi Campbell and activist and fashion designer Aurora James. James is the founder of the Brother Vellies fashion label and founded the 15 Percent Pledge last year to get businesses to dedicate 15% of their shelf space towards BIPOC-owned products.

The idea arose from James’ perception that brands were just throwing up social media posts saying they supported black-owned businesses amid racial tensions in the U.S. last year. In other words, she thought it was theater. She wanted an initiative that gave brands the impetus to back up their words with action.

That’s what Sephora Canada did recently. Actually, they went a little further and committed to reaching 25% BIPOC-owned brands by 2026. Their parent company Sephora had already committed and is using their messaging to spread the word while getting a lot of consumer love and appreciation in return.


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A post shared by Sephora (@sephora)

This is an excellent example of the types of conversations you can uncover with targeted KOL market research. Find the ideas that align with your brand and emerging trends so you can create messaging that shows your consumers that you’re at the forefront of societal shifts.

Could your brand use a leg up with key opinion leader conversations? Reach out for a demo, and we’ll help you hone in on the conversations that are shaping your brand’s future.

key opinion leader list brand guide

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