How LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index Is Flawed

Should you measure yourself and your team based on LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index (SSI)? I say no. Because your and your team’s productivity matters more than simply using LinkedIn — which is what the SSI is all about.

Should you measure yourself and your team based on LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index (SSI)? I say no. Because your and your team’s productivity matters more than simply using LinkedIn — which is what the SSI is all about.

Here’s the rub. LinkedIn recently made its Social Selling Index (SSI) available to everyone —not just Sales Navigator customers. But is the resulting hoo-haa simply a marketing ploy to sell more Navigator accounts? Or is the Index helpful for all LinkedIn users to measure productivity with it?

No matter how experienced you are with LinkedIn, invest time in what matters most — setting more appointments and bringing leads to close, faster. Avoid wasting time with vanity metrics like the SSI.

Also, the SSI seems to encourage sellers to behave in ways most customers don’t respond well to.

One of my clients sums it up nicely. He recently said, “Is the noise sellers make on LinkedIn helping them set more appointments? As a buyer myself I cannot imagine it is. Yet I see my manager rewarding all the noise-making!”

What Is the Social Selling Index?
The Social Selling Index is designed, in LinkedIn’s words, “to measure how effective you are at establishing your professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships.”

The SSI is composed of four categories.

  1. Establish your brand (be a thought-leader by publishing meaningful posts).
  2. Find the right people (identify prospects faster).
  3. Engage with insights (share “conversation-worthy” updates to grow relationships).
  4. Build relationships (“finding & establishing trust with decision-makers”).

Here’s the rub: Each category is based on a practice vital to your success (on LinkedIn). They are important to your productivity, effectiveness … ultimately, your success rate.

However, each of these areas have a strong quality component. The lower quality of communication skill you demonstrate, expect less success.

Yet each of these four are measured by LinkedIn purely on a quantitative basis.

The Problem With LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index
In sales, we’re forced to balance. LinkedIn must help us keep this balance. Specifically, you need to make as many new prospecting calls as possible — all while keeping the quality of engagement with prospects high. But is the SSI in support of this goal?

Ignoring this balance produces sellers who fail to get in the door and earn a seat at the table. Productivity suffers.

But LinkedIn is rewarding (purely) sellers’ quantitative use of LinkedIn. The more use, the higher the SSI score. The more updates, the more comments, the more typed-into the keyboard the “better” the SSI score.

The direct implication by LinkedIn is increased productivity. Reps with higher SSIs are getting more done on the platform. But this doesn’t hold water with me.

An Activity Indicator, Not a Productivity Measure
Is SSI a potential indicator of productivity? Yes. However, as Yoda would say, “An active user of LinkedIn makes not a productive seller.”

Sales productivity takes more; it takes qualitative behavior and specific business outcomes.

Sales managers measure performance based on quantitative numbers — new calls made, appointments booked, emails sent. But the boss also looks at qualitative facts like close ratios. Sellers are measured using both quantitative and qualitative yardsticks.

Bottom line: Earning more appointments and closing more deals takes more than sharing valuable content frequently, commenting frequently, connecting frequently to prospects and having a completed profile.

Don’t Be Tempted
There are a lot of “LinkedIn experts” claiming LinkedIn’s SSI is a vital measurement tool. I disagree. Don’t be tempted to measure productivity with it. Instead, use it as an activity indicator.

Digital platforms of all sorts tempt us as sellers. We’re tempted to abuse them — play mostly in the quantitative realm. After all, we’re busy. We don’t have a lot of time. And we see others doing it all the time.

Thus, we often send poorly-written emails out en mass. Some sellers use software to scrape LinkedIn profiles and automatically connect or send mass messages to prospects. This violates LinkedIn’s terms and conditions. Yet many try to “fly below the radar” when using it.

Instead, focus your time on qualitative improvements to your communications approach. Then find ways to scale that quality approach.

Is the SSI Helpful or Not?
Measuring your team’s usage of LinkedIn or social media is trivial. It’s a vanity metric. Using quantitative activity data (alone) is not a good basis for helping sellers sell more, faster.

The Social Selling Index measures raw activity — not quality of prospecting activity. This kind of (purely quantitative) measure is less important to today’s most successful sales teams.

Bottom line: Sellers don’t need to be more active on LinkedIn to boost their SSI. The SSI is trivial.

Sellers need to be more productive at generating leads and nurture them to close faster. Yes, on LinkedIn. So be careful when using LinkedIn’s SSI to measure your sales team’s “social selling savvy.”

What do you think?

Author: Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell. He co-founded what became the Google Affiliate Network and Performics Inc., where he built the sales team. Today, he is the authority on effective prospecting communications techniques as founder of Communications Edge Inc. (formerly Molander & Associates Inc.) He's been in sales for over 2 decades. He is author of the first social selling book, Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You.Jeff is a sales communications coach and creator of the Spark Selling technique—a means to spark more conversations with customers "from cold," speeding them toward qualification.

6 thoughts on “How LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index Is Flawed”

  1. Jeff writes: “But LinkedIn is rewarding (purely) sellers’ quantitative use of LinkedIn.

    The more use, the higher the SSI score.

    The more updates, the more comments, the more typed-into the keyboard the “better” the SSI score.”

    Obviously, you are right. The higher SSI score might be diagnostic of more sales; it is unlikely to be the cause of more sales.

    We are in the process of examining both our sales process & the SSI index – more of networking index than sales index- to see if we can use the 16 specific suggestions by LI to good effect.

    We let you know later on in the fall.

    (Also will share this post on our company update: Franchise-Info Sponsored, over the weekend.)

  2. I think you nailed it when you said, use it as an activity indicator. It’s a leading indicator. If lagging indicators aren’t resulting, then we might have a quality problem. The only way that we would be able to tell if the tool is making reps more productive is through CRM integration. For example, if you secure an appointment, click one button which transfers all the info about the appointment to CRM. Then you can start looking at conversions vs. the amount of activity on the platform. If there’s a lot of activity, but little conversions, then we can reasonably assume there is a quality issue.

    1. Damn I like smart thinking. Thanks for helping sharpen my thoughts, Nick. I’d go a step further. If there is a lot of activity but not enough appointments being set (and deals closed as result) we have a quality of messaging/communications issue. And this is a Sales 101 problem — not a LinkedIn challenge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *