Identifying Opinion Leaders in Social Media during Brand Crises: A Case Study on Haidilao Hot Pot

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In social media, opinion leaders are those who can make strong influence on the public, by posting and reposting information through online platforms. To better understand the characteristics of online opinion leaders, we propose and test a conceptual model to identify online opinion leaders, based on social impact theory and the theory of two-step flow communications. Particularly, in this paper we conduct a case study on Haidilao Hot Pot involved in a recent food-safety-related crisis. For predicting opinion leaders during the crisis, we rely on user attributes, such as number of followers and number of Weibo posts, as well as content-based features of 520 sample posts appeared on Sina Weibo, which is a dominating microblogging website in China. From these posts, using the metrics of: 1) number of reposts, 2) number of comments, and 3) number of likes, we nominate 54 opinion leaders. In a two-step analysis, a multiple regression model first proposes several promising factors to predict opinion leaders. Then, a logistic regression model further confirms the characteristics of opinion leaders in this event. Finally, we summarize our results and discuss the theoretical and practical implications of this study.

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Review of Integrative Business and Economics Research

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