Persuasion 101

Posted on June 25, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |


Persuasion is a beautiful thing. Whether it is a fundraiser on the street or a shoe salesman at a department store; face-to-face contact is the most influential way that ideas diffuse. This idea is from Rogers’ book Diffusion of Innovations, Rogers defines “individuals who have a greater share of influence are called ‘opinion leaders’ because they take the lead in influencing the opinion of others.” (p. 208) These opinion leaders are part of a larger social network, but play a critical role in approving or disapproving the spread of an idea. Rogers denotes this as the Two Step Process: Step One- source to opinion leader. Step Two- opinion leader to followers.

This seems pretty basic, but it’s trickier than it sounds. As Rogers states, opinion leaders most often do not question their sources. In that case, false information may trickle down to the larger population and turn into an over-adoption of an idea or worse, a depression. In order for an opinion leader to convey the most accurate information, he or she needs to be wary of the most important stage of diffusion, the evaluation stage. This is the part of the sell is where the opinion leader needs to promote his or her idea, it is a make or break point for future diffusion. In this stage, the more opinion leaders working in a community, the higher the interest and adoption will be. This is shown in Figure 1:


Once Rogers has explained what is expected of these opinion leaders, he goes on to explain what makes them so much better than “followers”. He discusses their consistency, followed by multiple research studies to back his claim: Lionberger (1953) and Rogers and Burdge (1962) who both have proved that innovativeness of social norms are dependent on opinion leaders.

In the future, research could be done on the variation of opinion leaders. Their techniques, styles, and approachability could be analyzed in order to qualify the most effective ways of diffusion.

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