Opinion Leaders: The Driving Force of Political Discussion in Social Media

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Chen, Chan
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Middle Tennessee State University
Social media, along with the birth of web page based data-mining programs, has provided new opportunities for opinion leadership research. The Chinese people have not only embraced the innovation of social media, but also take advantage of it as a test field for civic participation and political activism. The present study was designed to investigate the effectiveness of opinion leadership via social media when the discussion topic is politics. The results indicated a strong agreement between the opinion leader and followers as well as a reinforcing effect where agreement was later accepted by others. A third step of influence flow was identified where followers became the intermediates between the leader and other users. The notion of opinion leader should be broadened: instead of focusing on media usage, the specialty and expertise of the leader might be the primary source of credibility, which leads to more effective persuasion and influence. Limitations and future direction of the study are also addressed.
Opinion Leader, Political Discussion, Soscial Media