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Social Selling Index (SSI) is a tool that measures our capability with regards to selling a brand or product via social channels. Having a sense of our SSI allows us to become better marketers and salespeople and observe how successful we are with engagement. The better our SSI is, the more we’ll be able to sell ourselves and our products.
The phrase started to become mainstream after LinkedIn introduced their social selling ind ex (SSI) several years ago -- and while it pertains in general to a person’s capacity to sell, it ended up being an interesting initiative for those trying to boost their professional image via the site itself. In other words, it is a good marketing tool for LinkedIn to get people more engaged on the site by selling themselves.
By having a specific phrase devoted to the actions and measurement of how we essentially sell ourselves as professionals, we can then have a better understanding of what we need to do to improve our SSI and therefore become more competitive in the digital professional sphere. (While this isn’t concept strictly related to LinkedIn, for the purposes of this discussion we’ll be referring to LinkedIn regularly since it’s key to personal and professional branding these days and it has its own SSI factor built in.)
What are some best practices for SSI and how do we improve it? Read on for more information.
What is social selling?
In a general sense, social selling refers to using social networks to find and nurture leads and prospects, and it may be effective in the B2B or B2C sphere. When we talk about SSI, we’re talking about how well a person demonstrates their sales skills.
In the career sphere, digital and social selling involve various activities that typically revolve around personal branding and to this end it typically includes social media as a part of boosting one credibility. As we create more and more profiles (and specifically professional profiles via LinkedIn), we’re essentially selling ourselves on a level of personal-professional that we haven’t seen before in order to connect with others.
It also can pertain to social prospecting, which means, amongst other things, we’re finding innovative ways to connect with clients and customers. So an innovative social seller will be able to, say, use some characteristics of social or a certain demographic to find customers in a way that hasn’t been done before.
But it’s not only about getting to know customers and clients, it’s also about building brand awareness. This might also be your personal brand or you selling yourself as an entrepreneur even while you partner with other companies and agencies as a freelancer.
To this end, many of us are probably already practicing social selling at some level, even in a subtle or unofficial way via professional social profiles like LinkedIn.
Why should digital marketing professionals care about social selling?
According to one study, almost half of B2B businesses have a formal selling program and more are well on their way. Today’s brands need to care about social selling because it's the main way that we’re engaging people. And whether we’re formally in “sales” or not, anyone pursuing a marketing related profession will need to understand the importance of engagement and lead nurturing in order to succeed.
According to LinkedIn, 78% of people that are using social to sell are ahead of their peers who aren't using social - so clearly it’s of great benefit. Here are a few reasons why:
Collaborating & Networking
Relationship-building at a team level and even finding other in your field like influencers to help promote your brand can go a long way. This is in stark contrast to traditional marketing, where pitching or cold-calling was the norm (but have never really been well-received). With social selling, we have more opportunities to identify and engage with new leads, reach out slowly and warmly, instead of hitting them with a pitch out of the blue.
Your Audience is Ready
LinkedIn claims that over three-quarters of all buyers are ready to have a conversation in the B2B space and this especially applies to influencers who already have a strong name connected with their profiles. So basically at least on this platform, you already have a built-in audience that’s ready and willing to have a conversation.
To Stay On Top of Competition
If you’re not already convinced of the importance of social selling, you can be sure that your competitors are moving in that direction. And this is particularly the case with millennials - some 78 percent of millennials are regularly using social selling, and most of them claim that this is integral to high performance.
Social selling is about setting yourself up as a professional, sharing content there, and building authority. LinkedIn professionals want to engage with a strong brand and people with a strong presence such as well-respected thought leaders. So if you are a digital marketing student or new professional this is a great place to start showing your stuff - your personal branding activities are examples of how you can sell socially.
What is a Social Selling Index?
An SSI is a way of measuring how good people are at selling and often this is represented by the type of things they are doing on LinkedIn -- ie: to sell themselves. So while it does apply beyond personal marketing and branding, LinkedIn measures it with regards to their professional networking.
To the extent that your SSI is really giving you a picture of how well you know how to use the tools that you have at your disposal for relationship-building, you can’t really go wrong with having this be a central focus and motivation to stay ahead of the competition.
Establishing And Building your SSI
The suggestions below mostly pertain to professional marketing via LinkedIn, but do bear in mind that this is a true representation of how you are able to market yourself and engage, so it can be applied in various social selling contexts.
Create a Professional Persona
You probably know what a buyer persona is, so if you’re on LinkedIn, you may as well try to create one that pertains to your ideal colleagues, clients or employers. You can also try to view your own profile from the perspective of those people’s shoes -- would they really be attracted to your profile and want to engage with you were you to send them a quick message? Pay attention to the completion rate on LinkedIn to help ensure you fill out your profile completely.
Another thing you should stay aware of is that, when you’re networking, you should focus on a specific value offering for would-be employers or clients.
Use LinkedIn Tools
Take advantage of the free tools on LinkedIn to know how well you’ve developed your profile, give and receive professional endorsements and congratulate connections. You can also share industry-specific content via their blogging and video tools, as well as on Slideshare, all of which are extremely effective ways of building authority in your industry.
Don’t Automate (too much)
Obviously, we need to use automation tools to develop and manage email lists for purposes of targeting whether this is something we’re doing for another company or for ourselves, but when we’re too automated we’re not personal enough. So don’t use automated tools or use social bots for all of your social purposes. The point is to be yourself and show your face when you can.
Create High-Quality Connections
It doesn’t really matter how many followers you have, what matters more is the quality of your connections. The right people will be happy to lead you towards greater opportunities, whether this is engaging you as a potential employee or colleague.
A good rule of thumb is to only contact people that you feel you genuinely like! It may seem obvious, but sometimes we get so caught up in what people are doing that we don’t stop to take a look at how they are -- is this someone that you think you’d like to have coffee or even hang out at a party with?
LinkedIn groups are a great way to assess not only who in your industry are true professionals, but the people that are respectful and helpful about dialogue.
Social selling is really about showing your prospects value based on what they will be interested in and will want to engage with you and to this extent, it’s important that you approach people with a valuable offer, not an “ask.” You can use social to pinpoint something your connections would be genuinely interested in and start a conversation from there.
Are you able to establish strong credibility for yourself and the business(es) you represent? Can you anticipate consumer and clients needs and offer people genuine information in a constructive way? Your SSI score shows how good you are at all of these things, and it’s a great way to help you understand your ability to market and sell yourself.
At the same time, you need to remember that your SSI score is just an indicator -- it doesn’t say everything about you professionally or personally. Just like any other metric you should use it as a barometer and motivator - not be too attached to it or apply some sort of “meaning”!
Follow people you love - your dream clients or employers are your “target persona” - you’re not “asking” them for work, you’re selling to them but in a social way so in this way it’s an empowered demonstration of your skills.