What is influence? – a view from Onalytica

13 July 2011

The view of the London skyline from Onalytica‘s Centre Point offices is quite impressive. And their view on influence is also quite interesting and relevant to our conversations on influence and visibility -many in relation with James McGann’s index.

In their post: Who is Influential in the Debate on the Royal Wedding?, they explain the difference between influence and popularity:

What is influence?
Influence, is the capacity of a publication, an organisation or an individual to impact the viewpoints, actions or opinions of others over whom they do not hold power.

This shouldn’t be confused with popularity. Popularity is about how many listen to you whereas influence is more about who listens to you.

Influence is also, topical:

Those who have influence in the debate on cat-food may not have the same influence on energy supply.

So you do not just want to count the hits on your site but the hits from those who have a relevant interest in the issues you would like to be influential on. And number of hits for a think tank may not necessarily assess how influential it is on each of the specific issues it deals with.

And why is measuring influence important (note that Onalytica’s clients are usually corporations or organisations wanting to sell something –but is its method is perfectly relevant for think tanks)?

The identification of influencers based on measurement is important as we (as humans) tend to overrate the importance of those we hear about more often and similar underrate the importance of those we hear about less (or never).

This is true. The approaches we tend to use to measure influence (stories of change, case studies, etc.) tend to overestimate the roles that our organisations and our research play.

So how does Onalytica measure influence?

Basically, Onalytica uses a new version of citation analysis. Rather than focusing on academic journals, it looks for links on websites:

We use this method to measure the influence of websites based on which websites link to them, and in turn, which websites link to those websites and so on.

This helps them to measure the share of influence of different players (and their sites) and who this share changes over time as a consequences of specific actions or interventions -which is great to assess is something is having an effect or not.

Do you know of any other services like this?