Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

Opinion Leadership: Non-Work-Related Advice in a Work Setting

Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

Opinion Leadership: Non-Work-Related Advice in a Work Setting

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Opinion leaders influence the decisions of others and play a significant role in disseminating information, specifically in the domain of e-commerce. Prior studies exploring the factors that affect a person's ability to influence others have been conducted in either a work setting [i.e. advice networks] or leisure setting (e.g. movie recommendation). However, it is common for these networks to interweave, for instance when a person asks for advice from work colleagues on a personal issue, like the purchase of a car. This suggests that there is a need to differentiate between the antecedents of opinion leadership that stem from one's position in the professional network and the antecedents that stem from personal characteristics associated with the specific non-work related advice [e.g. expertise in cars]. To explore how opinion leadership is determined in such multifaceted settings, we develop a theoretical framework of opinion leadership. The results from an empirical study of a movie advice task that was conducted in a professional setting, demonstrate that both movie-related trustworthiness and work-related centrality exert distinct effects on one's ability to influence others opinions regarding movies. Implications for theory and practice of e-commerce are discussed.

Keywords: opinion leader, social network, competence, benevolence, network centrality

1. Introduction

In the information economy, information is of utmost importance, and opinion leaders play a significant role in disseminating information and knowledge. With the advancement of network technology and the internet in specific, marketers have started using communication from opinion leaders, in the form of opinions, recommendations, suggestions and experiences on products, services, or sellers, in order to influence consumer decision making. This kind of informal communication about the ownership, usage, or characteristics of particular products and services or their sellers, is referred to as word of mouth [Westbrook 1987]. Extended to the e-commerce context, this has been called electronic word of mouth [Hennig-Thurau & Walsh 2003; Hennig-Thurau et al. 2004; Cheung et al. 2009] or word-of-mouse [De Valck et al. 2009; Hsu & Wang 2008]. With the explosion of e-commerce, word-of-mouth has started to gain importance in research and practice [Bickard et al. 2001; Brown et al. 2007; Dwyer, 2007]. At the same time, compared to a traditional environment, enticing customers and retaining them in an online e-commerce context is challenging [Zhou et al. 2004]. Because of the ubiquity of online information, the credibility of the messages depends on the credibility of the source (opinion leader). It has been suggested that in recent times, electronic commerce has been characterized by much faster diffusion of products and services because of the word of mouth influence of opinion leaders [Cheung et al. 2009; Forlani & Parthasarathy 2003]. News sites (e.g. Slashdot.org), recommender systems (e.g. Amazon.com), and commercial applications (e.g. epi8nions.com) try to automatically identify opinion leaders, often by assigning members a reputation score. These applications often calculate the reputation score in an ad-hoc manner, without considering the various factors that determines one's ability to influence others.

Early work on word of mouth recommendations, following that of Katz and Lazersfeld [1955] were mostly survey-based, measuring the impact of word of mouth using self-reports from consumers about their reliance on others. opinions for decisions. With the staggering growth of e-commerce over the last decade, there is an increasing focus on the influence of opinion leaders using word of mouth in an online context [Nail 2005]. Word of mouth referrals are said to have a strong impact on new customer acquisitions [Trusov et al. 2009]. Opinion leaders earn the trust of the web-users which leads to the users performing a "purchase-click" when they get online (Hsu & Wang 2008). …

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