Who Leads Your Opinion? Opinion Leaders’ Influence on Virtual Engagement

<p></p><p>Abstract Digital influencers are virtual opinion leaders that represent an alternative for companies targeting to advertise at the community surrounding these individuals. These individuals expand concepts of consolidated theories that examine the process of innovation diffusion and the flow of communication between opinion leaders and followers. Research about the power of these opinion leaders have in virtual social networks is still in its early stages and an obvious gap is how to measure the influence these opinion leaders have on engagement. This article details an approach that measures this influence on Instagram by analyzing all posts published in 2015 on four widely followed public profiles. Three hypotheses evaluated differences in engagement metrics provoked by individual (people) and institutional (institutional entities) opinion leaders. The two-stage least squares regression models confirmed the hypotheses that individual opinion leaders intensify engagement: postings on individual profiles produce significantly more likes, comments and word of mouth than posts on institutional profiles. Results from the empirical models are particularly relevant to companies seeking to raise interaction levels with their target audience on virtual social networks.</p><p></p>