The role of opinion leaders in diffusion

I am back from a short break and very excited to be delving deeper into even more communications issues. As all blogs take a turn to talk about what authors are reading and interested in at the time, this blog will shift its focus, just a bit, too. Not to worry though – we’re still all things communications, here!

The first posts made for Robbyn’s Nest were made with the idea of emerging technologies in mind. You all know I’m a graduate student working toward my Strategic Communications degree. This term, one of my classes focuses on leadership and media strategies in regards to communications. So, I’ll be using this forum to share some ideas that are geared more toward those aspects of comland.

Let’s talk, for a minute, about communications technologies in terms of how quickly we jump on the bandwagon. Were you first in line in to buy the iPhone in 2007?

iphone1It was a bright and shiny idea that combined a mobile phone, a camera, a widescreen iPod with touch controls and an Internet communications device with email, web browsing, maps and more. It was revolutionary, and I agree that the entire package sounded pretty cool. The original iPhone was named Time Magazine’s “Invention of the Year” and debuted at $499 for a 4GB and $599 for an 8GB. Apple sold 270,000 iPhones between the device’s June 29, 2007 release and the end of the company’s fiscal year.

There’s a term for those 270,000 people that communicators have come to use for people who embrace new technologies that incorporate many tools into one – early adopters, or “asset-lighters.”

It’s taken me a while to move toward that thought process, not because I consider myself a “lagger” – a term used for people who are slow to embrace new technologies and ideas. On the contrary, I find technology fascinating, productive and convenient. But I’ve been a journalist for quite some time. We’re among the groups of starving artists you hear about. Before I was in the professional world, I was the child of a teacher and auto mechanic. I joke that I didn’t know mac and cheese was a side dish and not an entree until I got to college. While I never really had to do without much, financial decisions were usually based off of need instead of want. Did I want a laptop in college? Yes. Did I need to pay tuition with that money instead. Yes. That attitude carried over for me into adulthood. Was the Apple iPhone cool? Yes. Did I want one? Yes. Should I pay all my bills and save money for my 45-minute, twice-a-day commute at that time? Yes.

siriSo, I wasn’t in line to purchase an iPhone in 2007. That said, last year I did pre-order the iPhone 5. Apple reported that the company sold 5 million phones in the three days after the product launched in 2012. That bandwagon I was on. My lifestyle had adjusted so that a smartphone had become a necessity instead of a want.

My first smartphone came in the form of an outdated Blackberry I picked up off the free table at the non-profit I was working for in 2010 that was compatible with my SIM card. I wasn’t up for changing cell phone companies and I wasn’t sure I needed 24-hour access to email and the Internet. When it was time for me to upgrade, I got a mid-level Samsung smartphone. Fast forward to my life now and the convenience a smartphone provides.

A few weeks ago, I was out at dinner with my husband and friends when I got a text message from our newspaper’s sports writer that there had been a shooting in our city. Never leaving my seat at the table, I was able to text a police officer for information from the scene, craft a story and email it to a page designer who then logged on from her house to update our paper design. She then emailed me a proof of the new pages for me to approve and I uploaded them to a site our press pulls them from.

I am definitely on the bandwagon.

But what was it that got this frugal girl interested in purchasing something she once thought was frivolous? Communication lingo term number three of this blog – opinion leadership. My friends that had been iPhone junkies from the beginning fell into two categories. They were either extremely tech savvy and had been salivating for years at the talk of the phone, or they viewed an expensive new phone as a status symbol. While I love technology, and I can appreciate quality items, I don’t really fall into either of those categories. It took me some time, reading reviews, seeing the convenience a smartphone provided for my middle-of-the-road friends and watching the evolution and longevity of the phone.

Opinion leadership goes a long way when it comes to selling products. People look to reviews and folks they consider to be “experts” in certain fields to determine if they should join in with whatever new technology and fads are out there. They lend a certain credibility to products that are on the market. If you aren’t sold on how much opinion leaders influence the population’s buying trends, think in terms of celebrity endorsements.

diorHow many times, as a kid, did you beg for a box of Wheaties because it had a famous athlete on the box? I don’t even remember Wheaties tasting good! Why do women flock to Louis Vuitton and Monolo Blaniks? Because Sarah Jessica Parker and her Sex and the City character Carrie Bradshaw love the brands. When’s the last time you picked a fragrance for you or your partner because of a celebrity advertisement on television? I can’t tell you what Miss Dior smells like, but it must smell like Natalie Portman.

Who are opinion leaders that influence you and why? And are you an “asset-lighter” or a “lagger?” I’d love to hear your thoughts on the diffusion of innovations into society.

Please bookmark and visit often. Remember, posts go up weekly and I’d love to read your opinions.


Posted on June 2, 2013, in Just Because, New Media, Public Relations, Social Media, Strategic Communications, Technology. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. frasersherman

    I’m close to your position, except without the actual need for an iPhone. For me it’d be frivolous (it’s extremely rare that I genuinely need Internet access when I’m unable to reach my computer) and so I’d rather put the money somewhere else. It’s impressive what it can do, but I don’t think it offers me much in the way of benefits. Plus, I really find working the keyboard a pain.

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