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Thursday, 27 September 2018

The Interpersonal Flow Of Communication

The marketer provides information to consumers through mass media. How does information provided by mass media reach and influence the total population? Several theories suggest that the opinion leader is a vital link in the transmission of information and influence.

The Two Step Flow of Communication (Theory)

Katz and Lazarsfield (1955) were among the first to identify the process of word of mouth communication. They described it as the two step flow from the mass media to opinion leaders,and from opinion leaders to opinion receivers. They believe that the opinion leaders  are more exposed to the mass media than those they influence. As a result,the opinion leader is viewed as intermediary between the mass media and the other consumers. The majority of consumers,the opinion receivers are viewed as passive recipient of information.

Information is depicted as flowing in a single direction (ie one way) from the mass media to the opinion leader(step 1),and from the opinion leaders(who interpret,legitimize and transmit the information) to friends,neighbours, and acquaintance who constitute the masses (step 2)

The significant contribution of two step theory is that it rejected the long standing notion that the mass media were the principle means of influencing consumers and principle sources of information. Although evident today the importance of personal influence relative to commercial influence was not as clear as after world war II. Advertising was considered the dominant force. It was only in 1900s and paradoxically,with the advent of television,that advertising began to be viewed as a weaker force that was unlikely to change group influenced purchasing choices. Advertising could reinforce existing product preferences but could not change negative opinions,particularly when they are strongly held (Baurer 1964). The two step flow theory encouraged the view that personal influence ,not advertising was the principle means of communication and influence.

The two flow of communication theory is insightful because it illustrates how people acquire information about issues of interest or importance. However,it no longer seem to be accurate portrayal of the flow of information and influence. The need for modification of this theory arouse because of the advances in communication technology and research evidence which suggests that:

1) Mass media may inform both opinion leaders and opinion receivers ,however the opinion reciever is more likely to be influenced by the opinion leaders than by the media.

2) Not all interpersonal communication is initiated by opinion leaders and directed to opinion receivers. Very often those who are receivers may initiate the interpersonal communication by requesting information or advice from the opinion leaders.

3) Those who receive information and advice from others (that is opinion receivers) are more likely to offer advice to others (including opinion leaders) than those who do not receive advice from others.

4) Opinion leaders are more likely than those who are non leaders to both receivers and seek advice from others (Schiffman and Kanuk 1987)