My friend Jay Baer received a new leather backpack for Christmas. He discovered the bag because of a recommendation made by a mutual friend of ours, Rohit Bhargava. This recommendation was posted in a private Facebook group for frequent travelers. Both Jay and Rohit are members of this group.

He had never even heard of the brand (Piquadro) before Rohit mentioned it. But Jay knew he wanted it and sent the link to his wife, who bought it as a gift. Piquadro has no idea that the sale was primarily generated by a post in a private community of frequent travelers. That community receives no credit, nor does Facebook. To Piquadro, it will simply look like a direct referral.

Listen to Jay tell the story himself in the video below (or read his article, “Why Social Media Will Never Get the Credit it Deserves”).

I thought Jay’s point was excellent, and I couldn’t help but see this from the community side. When people ask me about the ROI of community, this is something I try to get across. Yes, you can measure X and try to tie it to Y, but you have to recognize the immense value of what you can’t measure directly. What you can measure directly is simply a minimum representation of value. Nothing more.

On a community manager Twitter chat awhile back, someone said that “if you can’t measure it, it never happened.” I couldn’t help but shake my head at the shortsightedness of that perspective. While progress is being made and multi-channel attribution modeling seems promising, most of what is happening isn’t measured.

I have had good conversations about this with Ted Sindzinski and Sarah Judd Welch, who wrote my favorite community ROI article of 2014. I remember Ted telling me about how he does exactly what Jay said and aggregates their direct data with surveys to help unearth where sales are actually coming from.

The funny thing is that I had never heard of this brand before Jay mentioned them in his YouTube video. And now, I am seriously considering buying a bag like his. If I do, Jay won’t receive any credit. Nor will his show, YouTube, Facebook, the community of frequent travelers or Rohit. The cycle continues.