Opinion leaders are individuals who are active voices in their communities and influence the decisions of community members. Opinion leaders may be educated and highly skilled individuals, such as doctors, pastors or local politicians, and they can also be individuals who know their communities well and whose opinions are respected by members, such as barbers or daycare center operators.
In terms of marketing, opinion leaders are individuals who can influence the purchasing decisions of others. They may possess more specialized knowledge about a certain field, which makes them somewhat of an authority in the eyes of others. Examples of this type of opinion leader include auto mechanics, who may recommend products related to cars, and physicians, who may recommend different medicines and health products.
These individuals have a degree of clout in their communities, and others trust them to dispense advice. Opinion leaders are commonly targeted by marketers because of the influence they wield over other consumers. Whether it's a product or a politician, opinion leaders can often sway other community members toward their own views. Outside of specific communities, celebrities are often defined as opinion leaders. Many products are marketed with celebrity endorsements, which can significantly influence consumer purchasing decisions.