Prediction #2: KOL Areas of Expertise Will Grow Horizontally
‘Key Opinion Leader’ is a phrase that’s become nearly synonymous with the term ‘influencer.’ For someone to be a KOL means that they have expert knowledge in a particular field. Fashion, beauty, technology, gaming – we’re used to grouping influencers by their specialism and then collaborating with them to reach an audience specifically interested in this field.
But moving forward, what we’re beginning to see is consumers wanting more from influencers. Influencers are being understood not just as KOL’s but individuals, whose thoughts, feelings, and opinions on many other topics are valuable for their audiences. For instance, in Thailand in 2020-21, we’ve seen traditionally travel-focused influencers such as I Roam Alone, Travel with Katheryn, Kantjournal, and Oats X Somewhere branch out into broader lifestyle elements such as fashion, design, cooking, family, and domestic travel.
In Myanmar, influencers like May Toe Khine, are also branching away from their established topics of interest. May gained popularity after starring in Yuu Aung Chit Mae Lu, a popular Burmese romantic comedy. After the revolution, she began to move away from traditional modeling images and has started posting content that supports local businesses as well as cooking, make-up tutorials, and intimate moments with her friends.
Likewise, in 2022, instead of moving vertically, we’re expecting that other influencers will move horizontally. They will be able to have an opinion on topics or products that would be considered out of their usual sphere of expertise. It will become commonplace for influencers in the auto industry to have an opinion on F&B for example. While this may seem jarring at first to brands, it posits great opportunities to reach new audiences, widening reach and engagement.
Moreover, we will no longer be thinking of influencers as Key Opinion Leaders but Cultural Opinion Leaders, with a following of fans that are interested in all aspects of influencer life and thought.