Updated: Feb 8, 2020
When it comes to social selling, no one does it better than LinkedIn. How do you rank?
I didn't fully appreciate the LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI) until I attended a LinkedIn Breakout session facilitated by Brenda Meller, LinkedIn RockStar, at the @TogetherDigital conference. Back in 2015, when LinkedIn released the (SSI), as a measurement of Social Selling on LinkedIn, I shrugged, dismissed it as another vanity metric, and didn't take a look at it until six months ago when I started to build the deck for my LinkedIn Masterclass. Interestingly I ranked very high.
So high, that I was in the Top 1% of both Industry and my network! So how does LinkedIn figure this out? Is it helpful, or is it just a vanity metric? As many know, LinkedIn seems to have its pulse on Corporate America because so many C-Suite types occasionally jive there more than any other social network. It is, therefore, safe to assume that a good portion of the global Salesforce gathers there. According to LinkedIn, 78% of people that are using social to sell are ahead of their peers who aren't using social.
Here are five questions to determine how relevant the LinkedIn Social Selling Index should be to you:
Are You Responsible for Sales?
If you're in Sales, save your company some money by mastering the LinkedIn Sales Navigator, a tool LinkedIn has perfected for lead generation and personal outreach. Having this tool can raise your Social Selling Index by 20 points (LinkedIn.com), leading some Communications Consultants to ascertain that the SSI is "just a way for LinkedIn to plug Sales Navigator." Sinister though it might seem, one can't argue with results. A few years ago, while working in Sales, I managed to reach some hard-to-get department heads using the Sales Navigator. So, despite what you will hear regarding LinkedIn and its desire to take over the corporate world, if the SSI means you get the guy in the corner office off your back, then rack those points up! Needless to say, LinkedIn's data claims::
+33% larger deal sizes when using Sales Navigator to connect with decision makers.
Does Your Job Involve Relationship Building?
Picture this: you're at a conference, and you badly want to meet the Sales Director at Company X who just presented on the latest industry innovation that can make or break your career. Before you have a chance to meet him/her, they slip off, never to be seen again. However, because your LinkedIn game is sharp, you write glowing, but authentic post about the session, tag the presenter, who thanks you for being present, and once again, you have an opportunity to introduce yourself and ask to be in his network which happens to be a gold mine of industry experts. Once again, you start working your LinkedIn magic, and your future unfolds in front of you.
That is the power of relationship-building on LinkedIn, and the SSI will tell you how well you are utilizing these micro-moment opportunities and connecting the dots in your daily working life - it's how many businesses are engaging with their customers and other businesses.
Are You Establishing a Professional Brand?
When you look at your LinkedIn profile, what does it communicate? Is it a series of job responsibilities or career achievements? Do your stated LinkedIn skills match with what people endorse you for? Does your profile headline read like a job title or highlight your capability to problem solve for your network? Do you have the LinkedIn issued blue background or a visual image that captures your essence? Does your summary convey your unique abilities? Last but certainly not least, do you have a clear and professional headshot?
While all these might seem pretentious, they count towards the 25 points LinkedIn will assign to your profile. A low score in this category means your professional brand is not well established. It might be the reason why you are not maximizing the salary increase you are entitled to - your boss or prospective employers don't see or understand the unique set of capabilities you bring to the workplace. According to kinsta.com, 44% of LinkedIn users take home more than $75,000 per year, which is above the national median in the US.
How Are You Building Credibility?
Along the same vein of establishing a professional brand is building credibility on LinkedIn. There are two most important ways of doing this - through Thought Leadership or references.
The references have to go two ways according to Brenda Meller of Meller Marketing:
You have to give at least as many recommendations as you get.
For those just starting, Thought Leadership might seem daunting; however, you can begin to establish credibility through Thought Leadership by writing about what you are learning as you progress through your career. These do not have to be long winding articles; Short precise, but insightful articles will do just fine. Not everyone aspires to go the Though Leadership route, so for those less inclined, making use of references and making sure your LinkedIn profile reflects who you are and where you are headed is excellent for credibility. As in a resume, you will also need to make sure that your profile is free of errors, unexplained unemployment gaps, and yes, feel free to leave out any occupations that do not make sense.
Who is Connecting with YOU, and Whom are you Connecting With?
By now, you should be getting the sense that all this is interconnected. The biggest common denominator in all these is your connections. Who are they? What do they do? Where do they work? Where do they live? Are they prospective clients? If you haven't done so already, you have to curate connections carefully. This is a controversial tactic. Some people believe you should accept every contact that asks you to connect on LinkedIn because you never know where the next opportunity comes from. Others think you should only connect with people you know or have met. I fall in the middle and generally believe in evaluating each connection request I get. If I haven't met the person, and they don't explain why they are inviting me to connect, I rarely accept that connection.
I also look to see if they are already within my network, or we have people in common. The last thing you want to do is connect with an identity thief as they can scrub your whole system! The reverse is also true when I ask to connect with someone whom I haven't met. I tell them why I am seeking the connection, and I look for something in common that resonates with both of us. It's important to remember that as a social network, being social is at the core of how you approach any connection.
On the other hand, who is asking to connect with you? Are they a connection you desire or not? If you are getting a lot of mismatched connection requests, your profile is not on brand. To fix this, ask those requesting a connection with you how you can assist them or why they asked for a connection. Use the feedback to improve your brand and its credibility.
How LinkedIn SSI Works
So let's dig deeper into SSI and why you might want to make sure you raise the score. To see what your own Social Selling Index is, follow this link. We will use mine to understand how LinkedIn scores.
First, forget about getting an 'A' as 'very few people get an index in the 90's'. I understand it's mostly Sales Navigator aficionados who attain the 90's. At 83%, I'm apparently in the top 1% in both my industry and network!
There are 4 Pillars that LinkedIn measures and that drive home my earlier discussion on how you can determine whether or not to put stock into the Social Selling Index:
1. Establish your professional brand - Complete your profile with the customer in mind.
2. Find the right people - Identify better prospects in less time using efficient search and research tools.
3. Engage with insights - Discover and share conversation-worthy updates to create and grow relationships.
4. Build relationships - Strengthen your network by connecting and establishing trust with decision-makers. - Linked.com
In my case, I'm excellent at building relationships (25/25), but I am found wanting at finding the right people (16/25). I can't tell you how right this is in both business and personal life!
How to Improve Your Score
Establish your professional brand - to increase this score - make sure all the fields on your LinkedIn profile are complete. Have at least three references and also give three recommendations. Publish articles, share slides you have created, and generally make sure any engagement you participate in, is thoughtful. Comments like "Great!" , "Awesome!" are not helpful. Strive to use no less than five words when commenting on others posts.
Find the right people - to increase this score - connect with the right people in your market. Don't only connect, engage with them, and the network by posting regularly. Just like you need to know whom you are connecting with, people need to know you as well, so don't hesitate to show your true self authentically and respectfully; on LinkedIn, quality is better than quantity.
Engage with Insights - the quality of your content is LinkedIn's soul. As a network that has captured the attention of corporate CEOs, content posted and published must be of good quality because people use the network for reference. They also trust that the people they engage with on LinkedIn are knowledgeable.
Build Relationships - to increase this score, regularly connect with people in your network. It's not enough to connect with someone and never engage with them. As with any relationship, you will have to nurture the LinkedIn connection to build a beneficial relationship that you can count on later.
So what is the Bottom Line?
The bottom line is that social selling is not going away anytime soon. The most extensive marketing indicators show a rise in the personalization of goods and services. You will need to know more people and make social selling a part of your overall strategy if your work is on the sales spectrum. Your professional brand is increasingly becoming your brand (and vice versa) as the lines between work, and home continues to be blurred. When you focus on your professional brand, chances are your connections will increase, and so will your social selling - making you the rock star you need to be at all times of the day!