by Brittany Ferrera, Customer Success & Marketing Manager at Communications Edge Inc

We hear a lot about how LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index (SSI) is directly linked to sales reps’ effectiveness. But is there a correlation? Really? 

“LinkedIn says 78% of social sellers outsell peers who don’t use it,” says Colin Daymude of SmartBIM Technologies. “100% of all President's Club winners drink water on a daily basis. That doesn’t create a direct correlation to closed business either.”

Can LinkedIn SSI be attributed to sales success? What is a good LinkedIn Navigator SSI score? Does increasing my SSI even matter?

Good questions.

Can reading a lot of books make you an astronaut?  Well, sure… maybe it had something to do with it. But you probably did A LOT of other things that also contributed. The same goes for SSI.

"Linkedin SSI is a great 'early days' measure---to see if you are exhibiting the right behaviors. A SSI of 70 being better than a SSI of 50. But we often see people driving SSI as being the be all and end all of a social selling measure," says Timothy Hughes of Digital Leadership Associates.

That's a mistake, says Mr. Hughes. Because using a "LinkedIn productivity yardstick" (only) is limiting. Thus, his company measures social selling productivity covering all platforms. 

"Our measure also focuses on what we think are better behaviors. We are also confident our social selling benchmark cannot be scammed," says Mr. Hughes.

How do I Increase my SSI?

And Should I Even Care?

LinkedIn defines the Social Selling Index as a tool to measure how effective a salesperson is at establishing professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships. The criteria for measuring this number are:

  • Establish your professional brand
  • Find the right people
  • Engage with insights
  • Build the right relationships

A Deficiency with SSI

But how does LinkedIn know what “right” is? It likely uses company title as the main indicator of quality. This self-reported information is a limited way to determine best match: A qualitative measure.

Next, let’s take insights. What is insightful to one person is common knowledge to the other. How can LinkedIn measure and rank quality of any given insight?

LinkedIn’s technology cannot. Insightfulness is subjective.

LinkedIn seems to measure its relationships component based on the “right” person being in the seller’s target market, as defined by the seller. But beyond connecting and interacting with those customers the “build relationships” component also lacks a qualitative aspect.

How does LinkedIn know relationships are forming productively? It cannot. LinkedIn can only measure quantitative aspects of relationships that the user allows LinkedIn to see.

For example, LinkedIn has no insight on email and phone interaction. 

Three Problems SSI Creates

Focusing on SSI risks your team putting too much time in all the wrong activities. It also risks you believing “using LinkedIn” is enough to get what you need out of it: Meetings with customers.

Here’s the rub. Over-focusing on SSI may result in:

  1. Spammy behavior: SSI encourages pushing of information out onto LinkedIn’s platform.
  2. Productivity loss: Tracking your SSI, and keeping the number higher, is often a productivity suck. Because sellers risk investing too much time farming---pushing insights/information out onto LinkedIn, sharing, etc. Prospecting less.
  3. Ignoring conversations: LinkedIn’s SSI does not qualitatively score conversations with prospects!

Bottom line: One cannot reliably use SSI to predict productivity as defined in sales terms: 

Increased number of good meetings. 

SSI encourages spammy, marketing-esque activities.

In all our research and surveying of our community, it seems that by mandating Navigator, LinkedIn is actually decreasing productivity. 

“But wait,” you’re saying to yourself right now (yes, we also read minds), “Isn’t the whole point of it to INCREASE productivity?”  Well, yes, it is.However, it seems LinkedIn created SSI score a little bit more for themselves and less for their users.

Our research concludes the SSI to be a tool for LinkedIn to sell Sales Navigator and drive page-views (sell ads).

Here’s what we’ve learned:

  1. LinkedIn’s wildly optimistic and unscientific claims about what a “strong SSI” will do have been examined since 2013.
  2. By LinkedIn’s definition the SSI is calculated based on quantitative (activity) metrics; however, LinkedIn claims ties to qualitative outcomes ranging from getting promoted to more closed sales. 
  3. An increasing number of respected, experienced voices are offering evidence suggesting LinkedIn's claims about SSI are not always true.

Andy Foote discovered internal documents dating back to 2013 when the rather unsubstantiated claims started forming. For example, LinkedIn was claiming all you have to do is view profiles to get promoted. Pretty far-fetched.

Andy has a lot to say on the subject, and we couldn’t agree more:

Frankly, it looks like a checklist for how to become an aggressive LinkedIn pest. Want a high SSI? Do all of this stuff daily. Are you joining LinkedIn Groups? Great! You can join 100 of them now, but please use them to share “valuable information”. Why is “Are people viewing your profile?” being measured? 

Shouldn’t that be “Are the people you view return browsing your profile?” 

Yes, I get that SSI was originally designed for sales folks but how does connecting with 2nd & 3rd degree connections square with the policy of only connecting with people you know on LinkedIn? It doesn’t.

LinkedIn says, “The formula behind the SSI is based on the social selling activities top sales professionals rely on, effectively connecting the dots between those efforts and their individual sales success.”

But if "getting better" means "using LinkedIn a lot,” what are we really talking about here?

The SSI seems more likely to have been cooked up as a way to increase usage of LinkedIn Sales Navigator. But don’t rely only on our conclusion. 

So...I Shouldn't Use SSI Then?

Well, that’s a really loaded question. We can’t tell you one way or the other what to do. We can only give you all the facts and let you decide for yourself. We have done the research for you so you can put your time into more productive tasks.

Make a more educated decision. Get our report on Why Focusing on LinkedIn’s SSI is Damaging Your Team’s Productivity.


About the Author

Brittany Ferrara gives our customers and internal team everything needed to stay focused, on-task, effective and ultimately successful. She gives us an organizational, marketing & customer support edge. Brittany brings seven years of customer service, administrative assisting and marketing experience to us. She is a successful entrepreneur, having operated her own successful venture, Pro-Assist, LLC for five years before joining our team.

Brittany Ferrara

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