Traditionally the opinion leader has been the agent who is an active media user and who interprets the meaning of media messages or content for lower-end media users. The opinion leader is held in high esteem by those who accept his or her opinions. Marketers have used this concept to reach people who have the ability to influence a number of followers regarding a certain product or product benefit. Advertisements and promotions are aimed at these opinion/thought leaders, so as to encourage them to interpret and disseminate the message communicated by the company to their respective primary network.
However the changing mediascape necessitates a new point of view regarding these opinion leaders. With social media becoming a force to reckon with, companies have realized that the traditional form of reaching these opinion leaders is now almost obsolete. The process of capturing the ‘pulse’ of the target audience and then tailoring a message which suits the needs of this segment is fast losing its sheen. Consumers now are more equipped to find unbiased information regarding a certain product on the web.
The filtering of such information as valid/relevant is done, based on the credibility of the source of the information. This creates a whole new scenario wherein marketers must diligently scout for such sources and then try associating with them. This is not an easy task as these opinion leaders are under constant scrutiny by their primary network of followers. A credible source of information may cease to be credible, when linked with advertisements. As these users are trying to expand their networks and consistently deliver value to their subscribers, the end result is a favourable one. More users are entering the digital space every day trying to please the segment they cater to. As these users are judged by their primary network they have to keep in mind the effects of an advertisement appearing on their page. All this is leading to an environment with innumerable options and unbiased information.
This creates added pressure on the marketer to be both honest and sincere in his/her communication. Companies can no longer bombard the media with redundant messages hoping for someone to pick them up along the way. Advertising and public relations used to be completely independent aspects of a firm’s communication strategy, however the line between these two are now blurring. The need of the hour is to have a synchronous message across all media platforms and engage with consumers in a manner which they will not find offensive.
With such an environment in place we can now notice the emergence of true opinion leaders. Social media networks are filled with users who are trying new and different methods to increase their visibility and reach. These users are constantly at war with each other to garner more views/likes/shares on their content. As advertisers seek out such users with a huge base of readers/friends, more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon to emerge as the opinion leader for his/her online community. The rewards for being an opinion leader are not purely monetary mind you. Fame and respect from peers is another vital motivating factor. Everyone strives to be more popular or distinct and with the platform of social media networks this ‘dream of fame’ can be easily fulfilled.
The emerging opinion leaders are truly respected within their community due to the content they share.
However they are entrusted to be believable sources and their credibility is their only strength.
A different take on this subject:
Can u picture the government in the near future?
- The manifesto of political candidates will be displayed on their online profile so that every citizen can scrutinize and suggest improvements.
- Each decision will be taken after extensive polls held online, so that every citizen’s opinion is heard if not considered.
- Failure to fulfill on deliverables will lead to a barrage of criticisms online and quick removal of the elected representatives.
- Elections will be held online, with the winner being the person or party who gets most ‘Likes’ on Facebook/ most ‘Followers’ on twitter- A true Opinion Leader.
The aforementioned outlook does seem truly futuristic, but is it improbable?