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Opinion Leaders' Role in Innovation Diffusion: A Simulation Study


Address correspondence to: Peter S. van Eck, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 800, 9700 AV Groningen, The Netherlands. E-mail:


This study investigates the critical role that opinion leaders (or influentials) play in the adoption process of new products. Recent existing reseach evidence indicates a limited effect of opinion leaders on diffusion processes, yet these studies take into account merely the network position of opinion leaders without addressing their influential power. Empirical findings of our study show that opinion leaders, in addition to having a more central network position, possess more accurate knowledge about a product and tend to be less susceptible to norms and more innovative. Experiments that address these attributes, using an agent-based model, demonstrate that opinion leaders increase the speed of the information stream and the adoption process itself. Furthermore, they increase the maximum adoption percentage. These results indicate that targeting opinion leaders remains a valuable marketing strategy.