The Problem With Measurement Proxies

Nate Elliott

I've noticed a disturbing trend in one of the markets I study. Thirty percent  of marketers say their top social media goal is creating brand impact, but only 10% tell us they measure brand impact — a gap of 20 percentage points. But then while just 4% say sentiment or engagement are their top goals, a whopping 26% measure these numbers —leaving us with an almost identical gap of 22 percentage points, but in the other direction. It’s clear what's happening here: Marketers are using sentiment and engagement numbers as a proxy for brand impact surveys.

Deep down I love the idea of measurement proxies. A properly constructed and proven proxy could be a cheap, quick, and effective stand-in for direct measurement of things that are quite frankly hard to measure — like brand impact.

But there’s a big problem here: I've been looking pretty hard for good measurement proxies for a while now, and I’ve found very few that could be described as "properly constructed and proven." And I'm pretty sure none of the marketers in our survey have proven their proxies — because if they'd tried, they'd have almost certainly failed.

Read more