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Shehab Zahda Essay

What is two-step flow? What implications does it have for our understanding of mass communication? Communication theories previously referred to as Theories of the Press, aim at, inter alia, explaining the role of Mass Media in shaping peoples values and views (Severin & Tankard, 2001: 12). The media-audience relationship has been a core concern for many analysts and researchers working in the field of Media and Communication studies for long, where they attempt to describe the extent of medias influence on the audiences attitudes and behaviours. Be it Newspapers, magazines, and even the most recent social media websites. The two-step flow theory has served as recourse to researchers and scholars in other different areas aftermath; it shed the light on importance of Interpersonal Influence or Communication. In an era where Mass Communication is defined as the process by which a complex organization with the aid of one or more machines produces and transmits public messages that are directed at large, heterogeneous, and scattered audiences. (Dominick 2007:10). The process was named the two-step flow of communication (Severin & Tankard, 2001: 202). In 1948, Paul Lazarsfeld, Bernard Berelson, and Hazel Gaudet published The People's Choice, a paper analyzing the voters decision-making processes during a 1940 presidential election campaign. They tried to demonstrate the power of Mass Media in affecting voting decisions and to determine how the Mass Media brought about such changes in these decisions (Scannel, 2007: 83). The two-step flow theory is a key theory in understanding medias influence and is considered the first endeavour to examine the notion more particularly about voting behaviours (Severin & Tankard, 2001: 12).They investigated the effects of the Mass Media on political behaviour. It was not until the People's Choice was published that society really began to understand the dynamics of the media-audience relationship (ibid: 12). The theory was deemed,
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Shehab Zahda Essay

on one hand, as very loose and incoherent empirically, gave no clear definition of opinion leaders, and on the other hand, the theory found its glory in advertising, marketing, politics, and social media fields. The importance of Interpersonal Communication - defined as situation in which one person (or group) is interacting with another person (or group) without the aid of a mechanical device (Dominick p.8) - factor appeared in the theory as its hypothesis was that messages from the media first reach opinion leaders, who then pass on what they read or hear to associates or followers who look at them as influential (Severin & Tankard, 2001: 202). The theory denotes that opinion leaders pay more attention to mass media than the nonopinion leaders. The theory indicates that voters decisions are more opt to be influenced by other people than mass media; newspapers, radio, magazines, etc (Katz, 1957: 63). The theory suggests that information from the media move in two stages; it start by the opinion leaders receiving the messages of the media, then, Opinion leaders pay close attention to the mass media and pass on their interpretation of media messages to others. The main findings of the theory are; the impact of personal influence, the flow of personal influence, the opinion leaders and the mass media (Lazarsfeld & Berelson & Gaudet, 1948: 50- 51, 135-152). On the other hand, it was found that the leaders who are supposed exposed to the media more than others acknowledged that they sought information and advice from other persons (Berelson & Lazarsfeld & McPhee, 1954: 110). The theory has been criticised from different aspects and angles, it was pointed out that opinion leaders can be either active or passive (Rogers & Shoemaker, 1971: 206). In addition to that, the notion of "opinion sharing rather than opinion giving" (Troldahl & Van Dam 1965: 633) raised

Shehab Zahda Essay

the concern of the influence that might relatively take place out of that exchange. The definition of opinion leader versus non-opinion leader is rendered unclear (Lin, 1971: 203) which comprises confusion in cases of attitude and behaviour influence brought by interpersonal interactions. The distinction between advice giver and opinion leader makes one wonder if it really media which has more effect on the audience or opinion leaders as the theory suggests. The two-step flow theory has still its significance in advertising industry, both commercial and political advertising. A study on political advertising the and Lebanese elections of 2005 suggest that the use of political advertising is highly regarded as the cause of some candidates wins due to the impact of political ads (Farha & Hamdar, 2008: 2). He suggests that this is due to three combined strategies that make political campaign advertisement effective; simplicity, repetition, and sight-sound coordination (ibid: 2). electronic media have unique and powerful campaign impact because radio and television instantly and vividly reach the most persuadable audience who ignore or fail to be exposed to information presented in other media or face-to-face communication (ibid: 2).

Advertising and Marketing sector has acknowledged the word-of-mouth is quite powerful in the industry; one would quote the whole book supporting this point entitled Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking. As the title speaks of itself, one could see how important it is to initiate personal interaction among people. That is, the word-of-mouth and recommendations are highly influential; be it your mother, friend, neighbour, etc. More specifically, big advertisers use the personal influence by targeting opinion leaders; artists, public figures, and so on to influence the customers about the products and services they advertise. Marketers who wish to use word-of-mouth as a means of influencing consumers should be careful to understand as much as they can about their consumers (Duzevik & Anev & Funes &
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Shehab Zahda Essay

Gaudiano, 2007: 15). Meanwhile, campaigns and the use of the word-of-mouth is complementary to social interactions. This movie has brought huge change when it first spread. Kony 2012 is highly regarded as a successful social marketing campaign; it stimulated the people to talk about the issue in order to promote social change, and used celebrities and figures as opinion leaders which brought success to the campaign (www.invisiblechildren.com/kony) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc).

The two-step flow theory led a multistep flow model referred to as Diffusion of Innovation defined as the social process of how innovations (new ideas, practices, objects, etc.) become known and are spread throughout a social system (Severin & Tankard, 2001: 207). This helps us understand that the two-step flow is a crucial part for understanding Mass Communication; meanwhile, it covers some aspects and is complementary in a macro-view of the theories to make more sense and conception of Communication process and impact. One has to take into consideration a general view of the concept and see it as a whole image and not discarding the two-step flow theory even it has its cons and pros.

The main emphasis of the two-step flow theory is on one aspect of interpersonal relationsinterpersonal relations as channels of communication. Interpersonal relations are merely channels of information, sources of social pressure and social support, and it is related to decision-making influence in certain contexts (Katz, 1957: 42). Opinion leaders vary depending on the topic, the main emphasis of the two-step flow theory was that opinion leaders influence in the social affairs aspect, while one can still notice that a husband might influence his wifes voting decision personal contacts appear to have been more frequent and more effective than the mass media influencing voting decision (Katz 1957: 63). Young people are more influential

Shehab Zahda Essay

to others relatively when it comes to movie-going, clothing, fashion because individuals from this age-group are more familiar than elder people; doctors choice of drugs for patients is assumed to be also influenced in some cases by interpersonal interactions.

The two step-flow theory has survived for over six decades, this shows that it still has some validity and value. It originated undoubtedly to study the voting behaviour which by itself is a whole important field of study; it has, nonetheless, intervened in analysing various fields ranging from modern technology and social media phenomena as Twitter and YouTube videos, to politics, elections campaigns, advertising, marketing, fashion, and so on. Keeping the two-step flow theory in mind is crucial for better understanding not only interpersonal communication, decision making and voting, but also understanding Mass Communication as a realm and its theories which go together and make a clearer vision and perception of it.

Shehab Zahda Essay

References

Berelson, B & Lazarsfeld, P & McPhee W. (1954). Voting: A Study of Opinion Formation in a Presidential Campaign. University of Chicago Dominick, J (2007). The Dynamics of Mass Communications: Media in the Digital Age. 9th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill. Duzevik, D& Anev, A & Funes, P & Gaudiano, P. (2007). The Effects of Word-of-Mouth: An Agent-Based Simulation of Interpersonal Influence in Social Networks. Word of Mouth Research Symposium. Farha, G & Hamdar B. (2008). The Impact of Perceived Political Advertising: The 2005 Lebanese Parliamentary Election. American Communication Journal. InvisibleChildren 2012, Kony 2012, D.R.Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan, online video, accessed; 12th October, 2012( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc) (www.invisiblechildren.com/kony) Katz, E. (1957). The Two-Step Flow of Communication: An Up-To-Date Report on an Hypothesis. Annenberg School for Communication: Departmental Papers, University of Pennsylvania. Lazarsfeld, P.F., Berelson, B. & Gaudet, H. (1948). The peoples choice: How the voter makes up his mind in a presidential campaign. New York: Columbia University Press. Lin, N. (1971). The study of human communication. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. Scannell, P (2007). Media and Communication. London: Sage Publications. Sernovitz, A (2009). Word of Mouth Marketing, Revised Edition: How Smart Companies Get People Talking. Pennsylvania: Kaplan Publishing. Severin w. & Tankard J. (2001). Communication Theories: Origins, Methods and Uses in the Mass Media. London: Addison Wesley Longman. Troldahl, C & Van Dam, R. . (1965). Face-to-face Communication about Major Topics in the News. Public Opinion Quarterly.