Spokespersons for science : examining the attitudinal and behavioral influences of opinion leaders on YouTube
Looi, Jie Min
Date of Issue2019-04-26
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
The ease of content creation and distribution on social networking sites (SNS) has necessitated modifications to the conventional perspective of opinion leadership and spurred ordinary users to become opinion leaders, also known as social media influencers (SMIs). SMIs serve as independent endorsers that create and distribute content to an extensive network of followers on SNS. Due to the burgeoning social prominence and widespread popularity of SMIs in today’s media environment, there is a resurgence of scholarly interest in opinion leadership on SNS. This study serves as the first empirical assessment of SMIs on YouTube. Guided by the social identity theory of leadership and using the contentious issue of nuclear energy development, this study examines how SMIs influence the attitudes and behaviors of their social group members. This 3 (Attitude similarity: Similar vs. mixed vs. dissimilar) x 2 (Social group status: Ordinary YouTube user vs. SMI) between-subjects factorial experiment was conducted with 251 Singapore citizens and permanent residents from an online survey panel. Attitude similarity significantly predicted participants’ attitudes toward the YouTube video, their attitude strength toward nuclear energy development, and their willingness to share the YouTube video. Attitude similarity also interacted with social group status to influence participants’ willingness to share the YouTube video. Theoretical and practical implications, as well as directions for future research were discussed.