How are you receiving and sharing information today?

The two-step flow is a theory first written by Lazarsfeld in 1940 and then later popularized by Elihu Katz. Elihu Katz reviewed several studies, including Lazarsfeld’s work, and concluded that all the studies showed that opinion leaders influenced individuals.

The two-step flow theory is a process where a few people (opinion leaders) gather information from the media and then share it with specific groups of people (individuals).

The Two-Step Flow Theory

Although the two-step flow theory was first conceptualized in 1940, it is possible to apply the view in today’s world. Social media influencers are one example of how opinion leaders can collect and analyze information and spread their opinions to their followers.

We cannot deny the power social media gave to individuals to distribute messages to a massive amount of people at the same time. Moreover, according to Pew Internet Research, about half of Americans get their news from social media pages.

Before the surge of social media, not too long ago, your parents were probably listening to the opinion leaders who were on TV sharing information, such as Oprah.

They are opinion leaders: credible people with authority who use the media to spread information. When I choose to follow someone on my social media page, I choose who will be on my timeline. Because I spend more time online than in front of the TV, my social media “friends” are responsible for most of the news I hear.

What makes opinion leaders influence other people? Several factors can be listed for why some people become influencers. However, one of the skills of opinion leaders is the authority they have on knowing something. The knowledge makes them trustworthy.

Nowadays, social media influencers have the plus of being people “like us.” We tend to trust real people like us over famous unrealistic people.

The way we communicate with one another has been evolving, and so have the theories around us. Theories are constantly changing and adapting to today’s fast-changing world.

With the amount of information available, the two-step flow theory is becoming more like a multi-step flow theory. For example, if I receive information online from someone, and if I find that piece of information interesting, I will most likely share that message with my social media friends, and that cycle continues.

The two-step flow theory has its limitations because it only concentrates on the first two steps of communication. Is the way we gather news and share information changing? Let me know in the comments what you think about the two-step theory and if you believe that it is still applicable in today’s world.

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Ludmilla D'Alessandro

Ludmilla D'Alessandro

Moved from the majestic coast of eastern Brazil, to the University of Florida. Trilingual. Pursuing a career in Global Communications.