Why LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index Shouldn’t Be Your Metric for Success

There has been much hullabaloo about LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index (SSI). Sales reps and thought leaders like to brag about their SSI numbers.

“I’m in the top 1% of my industry!”

“I max out around 97. What about you? Oh, you’re only at 68? Oh…”

Sure, who doesn’t like bragging rights? But therein lies the problem. Bragging rights are not meaningful business metrics. If the SSI is your sales organization’s success metric for social selling, something is terribly wrong. Let’s take a look at a few problems with the SSI.

Problem #1: It’s Easy to Game the System

If you’re familiar with the SSI, you know that one of the four pillars is “Engage with Insights.” Here’s a slide deck from LinkedIn on the topic:

To improve the “insights” score, reps should share content, and they should engage with other people’s updates.

Those sound like admirable goals. For sales reps, content is great for building rapport and challenging a customer’s current way of thinking. Sales reps should share industry insights, as well as thought leadership pieces that challenge a potential buyer’s status quo.

Ultimately, those are the types of content that will help sales reps build trust and move potential buyers along their journey. However, the SSI does not measure quality. Sales reps could easily game the system by sharing cat memes all day, every day (or any other type of content that won’t help buyers solve business problems).

And the same could be said for engaging with other people’s content. Sales reps can “like” a lot of content, or they can write, “Great post” on anything a prospect shares. But in the the end, that type of engagement won’t help build relationships or move buyers closer to a purchasing decision.

Problem #2: The SSI Measures Activity on One Network

No surprise: LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index is limited to, well, LinkedIn.

While LinkedIn is the professional network of record, it should not be your only social selling network. A good social selling strategy will span several networks. Twitter, for instance, makes a great social selling network.

For starters, Twitter makes it easier to connect with your buyers, and it’s easier for buyers on Twitter to find you. Moreover, Twitter users tend to present a more well-rounded picture of themselves, which is helpful when it comes time to build rapport with potential customers.

LinkedIn’s social selling index can’t take into account your performance on Twitter. To effectively track social selling performance across platforms, sales leaders need more holistic metrics.

The Solution: Establishing Better Leading and Lagging KPIs

To recap, LinkedIn’s SSI is easy to game, and more importantly, it only speaks to your sales team’s efforts on one network. If you’re only using LinkedIn for social selling, something’s wrong.

So, what’s a sales leader supposed to do? if LinkedIn’s SSI is not the right metric, how do you prove the value of your social selling program? How should you measure success?

Without a doubt, the executives within your company want to hear about revenue metrics. They want to know that your social selling program can contribute to growing sales pipeline, improving conversion rates, and generating more revenue. After all, that’s what social selling – and sales, in general – is about. It’s about revenue.

However, bear in mind that revenue metrics are lagging indicators. It will take time to build a social selling program and to see its impact on your top line. If you measure only pipeline growth and revenue, you won’t know whether your tactics are working and whether your program is heading in the right direction.

That’s why you also need leading indicators. When it comes to social selling, your leading indicators are tactical metrics. These metrics measure how your reps’ prospects are responding to their activity on social. They help you understand how many people clicked on a link, or how many people your reps reached, or how many people retweeted a tweet.

Tactical metrics (i.e. leading indicators) are especially important at the beginning of a social selling program, when you’re trying to establish best practices. If people aren’t clicking on your reps’ links when you have 50 social sellers, you might want to rethink your approach to social sharing before you enlist 1,000 sales reps.

The Bottom Line

As you think about measuring the success of your social selling program, don’t rely on one KPI like the SSI. Include both leading indicators and lagging indicators. Determine which metrics indicate whether your social selling program is heading in the right direction, and determine which metrics will define your long-term success. These metrics shouldn’t be easy to game, nor should they be limited to a single social network.

Want More Social Selling Tips?

Check out the Executive Guide to Social Selling Success. This ebook covers everything marketing, sales, and sales enablement leaders need to know about social selling.

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