Some years ago, a friend asked me if I had a favourite KOL. I was confused because I didn't know what he meant by KOL. The term was just starting to get popular in Hong Kong. My friend told me it meant "key opinion leader". People in the West seldom use the term KOL. Even Hong Kong's English media seldom use it. They use the word "influencer" instead. The word "key" has many meanings. In the case of KOL, it means having a lot of influence on others. But it also means the metal object to open doors, the letters and signs on a computer keyboard, and the piano parts that are pressed to produce a musical sound. Even though KOL is pronounceable, it is not an acronym.
The word "acronym" is a shortened word that can be pronounced using the first letters of other words. For example, the acronym "PIN" means personal identification number. You need a PIN to use your ATM card. ATM is an abbreviation for automated teller machine. It is not an acronym because it is unpronounceable. Even though KOL is pronounceable, it is not an acronym because when people use it, they say the individual letters instead of pronouncing it. There are similarities but also differences between a KOL and an influencer. The term "KOL" is used mostly in mainland China, Hong Kong, and some Asian countries.
KOLs, particularly those in Hong Kong, are also journalists, politicians, or writers. Many do not depend only on being a KOL to make a living. But very popular ones can make a living just by being a KOL through social media advertising and crowdfunding. They mostly do not promote or advertise products themselves. They share their opinions to influence their followers. Some popular KOLs do, however, promote products. Influencers in the West don't normally have other jobs, such as being a politician or journalist. They use social media to gain a large following to influence them. When they achieve that, they promote quality products as a way to make a living.
幾年前一位朋友問我，可有一位最喜歡的KOL。我當時感到困惑，因為我不知道他說KOL是甚麼意思。這個詞那時在香港剛剛開始流行起來。我的朋友告訴我，它的意思是「關鍵意見領袖」（key opinion leader）。在西方，人們很少會用到KOL一詞，即使香港的英語媒體也很少會用到；相反他們會用到“influencer”一字。Key一字有許多意思，在 KOL這詞裏，它的意思就是對他人有很大影響力的。但它也解作用來開門的鑰匙、電腦鍵盤上的字母或符號按鍵，以及鋼琴上用來發出樂聲的琴鍵。雖然KOL可以整個讀出來，但它不是一個acronym。
Acronym即首字母縮略字，用其他字的首字母組合成一個可以讀出來的字。譬如，首字母縮略字（acronym）“PIN”是personal identification number（個人識別碼）的縮寫，你需要一個PIN去用你的ATM提款卡。ATM就是automated teller machine（自動櫃員機）的縮寫，它也不是個首字母縮略字（acronym），因為它不能像一個字般讀出來。即使KOL可以像一個字般發音，但它並非首字母縮略字（acronym），因為當人們使用的時候，他們會逐個字母讀出，而非一整個字的讀出。KOL和網紅（influencer）雖然相似，但也有些分別。KOL一詞多用於中國內地、香港及一些亞洲國家。KOLs，尤其是香港那些，也可同時是記者、政客或是作家，他們大多不會只靠做KOL為生；但一些非常受歡迎的，可以單靠做KOL，以社交平台廣告及眾籌為生。他們大多不會自己推銷或給產品賣廣告，而是分享見解來影響他們的追蹤者。不過，一些受歡迎的KOL確實會推銷產品。西方的網紅（influencers）則一般都不會有其他正職，如做政客或記者，他們會使用社交平台去獲取大量的追蹤，從而影響他們；當他們成功獲得大批支持者後，便會推銷優質的產品，作為維持生計的方式。
Michael Chugani 褚簡寧