What’s the first thought that comes to your mind when we mention the phrase “student key opinion leader” (KOL)? You might think of someone with a huge following on social media, however you might be mixing that up with that being a social media influencer.
In the words of Bryan Loo—CEO of Loob Holding, “I think influencers are the people who have potentially a lot of following on their social media, they are usually beautiful people but KOLs are different in their own right. KOLs are very talented in their own chosen field and are champions in their own industry, so they tend to be very opinionated and also tend to be a great influence to their industry.”
The MonStar Awards which was recently held over the weekend at Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) Cyberjaya, was an award ceremony recognising 100 student Key Opinion Leaders across Malaysia. It was organised by Monsta, a network for students to access real-world opportunities through experiential learning compared to traditional methods.
The Monsta team defines KOLs as outstanding students that go beyond the ordinary to create impact through online & offline engagement.
Monsta was founded by Chan Zhi Ee who has 8 years of experience working in the youth and events industry, she started the business with the goal of helping students with their internship placements.
However she has now pivoted it with the goal of becoming a “University of Experience” by connecting students to their industry partners to provide real-world opportunities.
Industry Experts Weigh In
Monsta received over 150 submissions from 33 campuses across Malaysia and the top 50 was evaluated by their experienced panel of judges from different industries including Bryan Loo—CEO of Loob Holdings, Amber Chia—Malaysia’s Top Model and principal of The Amber Chia Academy, Zikry Kholil—co-founder of Incitement, John-Son Oei—founder of Epic Homes and Desmond Ngai—senior Vice President of WebTVAsia.
The KOLs were evaluated based on certain criteria such as creativity of their video recording and authenticity of the student key opinion leader (which includes his or her uniqueness and talk-ability). The top 10 was then selected by the judges and announced during the MonStar Awards.
We managed to ask some of the judges for more insights on what they think about student KOLs and how they went around judging the submissions. Zikry Kholil told us that the most important trait that he wants to see in a student KOL is integrity; he feels the term is used loosely as there’s a big difference between being a student KOL and an influencer.
“As an influencer, they can be as terrible as much they can be and still be able to get someone to be behind them, but a KOL does not have that strength. Instead, they can listen to your opinions and understand what’s going on. Bringing this exponential empowerment by bringing people together, that’s not easy,” he explained.
Desmond Ngai chimed in that the trait he would like to see in most Malaysians, not just student KOLs but the younger generation was: being bold, not being afraid to communicate.
“We’re living in exciting times of new Malaysia—Malaysia Baru, there’s no longer the culture of fear, the trait is to be bold,” he said.
He also added that it’s not just the student KOLs that are important but every student in Malaysia plays an equally important role in any field, area or community that they are in.
Comparing student KOLs to to Members of Parliament, he added, “Student KOLs simply reflect and represent the larger voices, it’s just like why we have general elections. Are the MPs the most important or the rakyat? The MPs are the ones that represent the voices of rakyat.”
It’s like how 100 people are chosen to represent the voices of one million people.
Voices Of The Students
Other than the judges sharing insights, some of the top 10 student KOLs shared some information with us about their journey on making the top finalists.
One of the student KOLs who stood out for starting his own social enterprise and went through the MaGIC Accelerator Programme, Shy Kit from UPM said that most of the students in their generation don’t really look at money. He added, “It’s what drives us and what passion we have, for example what sort of problem do you want to solve in society.”
“For me personally, I want to utilise my engineering skills to provide off-grid devices that provide electricity and water for orang asli community”, added Shy Kit. He also mentioned that he took inspiration from from John-Son Oei of Epic Homes and Zikri from Incitement and hopes that one day he can do something that has a bigger impact than what they have done.
Vanessa from MSU shared her vision of developing more people and providing opportunities for the younger generation as most of them have the talent but don’t have the platform. She hopes to achieve this vision with her production company that produces movies, music and advertisements.
“So what my company partners and I have as a vision is that we want to give more opportunity to people who have talent, we have been searching and releasing a lot of videos with different artistes—Malay, Chinese and Indian. For my studies, I want to continue with my integrated Masters and if I succeed I will go for my PhD,” said Vanessa.
It’s great to see such initiatives being brought forward by industry leaders and such positive feedback from students all across Malaysia. As the student KOLs will be the future leaders of tomorrow they will need all the help they can get to nurture and train their skills to become better individuals.
If you would like to know more about Monsta, you can check out our previous coverage on the business here.
Feature Image Credit: Monsta