Kobayashi Maru and Linkedin’s SSI

Klingon Battle Cruisers

Fans of Star Trek immediately know the Kobayashi Maru as the no-win test given to all Starfleet officer candidates to see how they respond to a loss. After being one of Linkedin’s first million members, I recently found out that there is a score by which Linkedin determines how effectively you use their platform. This score is out of 100, and it is composed of four pillars, each with a value of 25 points. If you overachieve in any given pillar, you can’t earn more than 25 points; it’s a hard cap. Like the Kobayashi Maru, the only way to beat Linkedin’s Social Selling Index (SSI), is to learn as much as you can about the innards of how it works, then hack or more accurately “game the system.” Here is a link to your score. There are several articles out there that explain how the SSI is computed, some build on slides that Linkedin supplied at some point, but here are the basics that I’ve uncovered, and how you can “game the SSI.” 

How Linkedin computes the SSI is extremely logical. Someone can effectively start with the platform and leverage it to become a successful sales professional in very little time. As mentioned earlier, the SSI is computed from four 25-point pillars which to some degree, build on each other, and they are: 

  • Build your Brand 
  • Grow your Network 
  • Engage with your Network 
  • Develop Relationships with your Network

The first pillar, “Building your Brand,” is almost entirely within your own control, and can be mastered with a free membership. There are four elements to building your brand, and these are: complete your profile, including video in your profile, write articles, and get endorsements. The first three require only elbow grease, basic video skills, and some creative writing. All of these elements are skills that most professionals should have some reasonable degree of competency with, and if not, can be quickly learned. Securing endorsements requires you to leverage your network’s closest elements to submit small fragments of text about your performance when you worked with them. If you want to be aggressive, you could write these for your former coworkers and offer them up to put in their voice and submit on your behalf. Scoring 25 in this area is within reach of most folks; I scored 24.61 when I learned about the SSI.

To pull off a 25 in the second pillar, “Growing your Network” requires a paid membership with Linkedin and for optimum success a “Sales Navigator” membership at $80/month. If you’re a free member and you buy up to Sales Navigator, some documentation implies that this will give you an immediate 10-point boost in this category. Once you have a Sales Navigator membership, it then requires that you use the tool, “Lead Builder,” and connect with recommendations. The “free” aspects of this pillar are doing people searches, viewing these profiles, especially 3rd-degree folks and people totally outside your network. While I had a paid membership, it was not a Sales Navigator membership when I discovered SSI, but when I bought up to Sales Navigator, my score in this pillar remained at 15.25. After going through the Sales Navigator training, my score did go up to 15.32, but clearly, I need to make effective use of Sales Navigator to pull my score up in this pillar. The expectation for those hitting 25 in this pillar is that you’ve used their tools to find leads and convert them into members of your network, and perhaps customers. 

Engagement is the third pillar, and here Linkedin uses the following four metrics to determine your score. You need to share posts WITH pictures, give and get likes, repost content from others, comment and reshare on posts from others, join at least 50 groups, and finally send Inmails and get responses. Inmails only come with a paid membership, so again you can’t achieve 25 in this pillar without a paid membership. In this section, I started at 14.35. I never send Inmails, so that’s something that is going to change. Nor was I big on reposting content from others, or resharing posts by others. I do like posts from others and get likes from others, so perhaps that’s a good contributing factor. I was already a member of 52 groups, and from what I’ve read, adding more above 50 doesn’t contribute to increasing your score.

Finally, the last pillar is Relationships. This score is composed of the number of connections you have and the degree to which you interact with those connections. For a score of 25 in this group, it’s been said that you need at least 5,000 connections, this is not true. If you carefully curate who you invite, you can get close to 25 with under 2,000 quality connections. If you’re a VP or higher, you get additional bonus points, and connections in your network that are VP or higher earn you more points than entry-level connections. The SSI is all about the value of the network you’ve built and can sell to. If your network is made up of decision-makers versus contributors or influences, then it’s more effective and hence valuable. Here you get bonus points for connections with coworkers and for a high connection rate acceptance ratio. In other words, if you spam a bunch of people with connection requests that you have nothing in common with, then you’re wasting your time. These people will likely not accept your request, and if they do, Linkedin will know you were spamming and that those people who did accept were just being polite, but aren’t valuable network contacts. Here my score started at 22.8, and just over 24 hours, I was able to run it up to 24.05, a 1.25-point gain. Now It should be clear that I had 1,700 or so connections to start, so I skillfully ran it up to 1,815 connections knowing everything above, and it paid off. I went through my company and offered to connect with anyone that I shared at least five connections. Also, I ground through those in Linkedin who had jobs near me geographically that also shared five connections with me and invited those people. The combination of these two activities yielded just over two hundred open connection requests, and very nearly half accepted within 24-hours.

After 24 hours, some rapid course corrections, and a few hours working my network while on a car ride on a Saturday, I’ve brought my score up 1.35 points. Now that you know what I do about the SSI, I wish you all the best. Several people that have written articles about SSI are at or very close to 100. At 78, I’m still a rookie, but give me a few weeks. 

SSI Score 78 – Sunday, June 28th, 2020 

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