Thoughts on the Microsoft-LinkedIn acquisition
Last week the world was surprised with Microsoft’s announcement that it would acquire the company for a price well above its recent share price. This was met with a mix of reactions and articles proclaiming to know the future plans of Microsoft for the social network.
I admittedly was very excited, for two reasons:
Microsoft is cool again! It has been on a spree buying some incredible technology products and retaining those brands in its portfolio (for the most part).
LinkedIn has a tremendous number of assets, but I think it was starting to suffer in financial performance because had lost site of its own north star.
Is it live, or is it dead?
LinkedIn is dead, or dying. At least that’s what many of my friends and colleagues were saying over the last 12 months. Now we know that’s an exaggeration, of course, but they were basing their opinion on some very visible actions the company has been taking.
If you’ve been a power user of LinkedIn for some time, you will have taken note of one or more of these:
The diversion of power user features from the core service into paid plans like Sales Navigator and Job Seeker.
The creation of very different, CRM-style experiences of the premium services.
An increasingly non-transparent set of paid advertising options.
Corralling an impressive set of content marketing resources (read: Pulse, Slideshare and Lynda.com) but failing to promote any joined up vision for how they co-exist.
My long-standing love affair with LinkedIn
I started early. I think that I was really intrigued with the idea of having a place for professional networking that was inherently social. I initially earned quite a bit of harassment from my colleagues who didn’t seem to understand the value in those early years. They eventually came around, seeing the power that an extended network could bring to sales, marketing and recruiting efforts.
Even when I was on and off with my Twitter use, and restricting my Facebook visibility to close friends, my LinkedIn profile was always a place that I shared things of interest to me professionally. My network has become a massive asset for recruiting new team members, for job searches and for business deals. We use it for persona research, testing and amplifying content. It’s become an essential part of business life.
That said, perhaps that’s why the acquisition makes so much sense. Microsoft’s products are by and large synonymous with and (for some) essential parts of business.
Exciting opportunities all around
Depending upon where you sit, you are bound to see lots of very interesting potential opportunities coming out of the Microsoft-LinkedIn deal. A few folks were quick to point out that Microsoft products take a few of the top 10 Lynda.com course slots.
The Return of Author Rank
Google’s introduction of Author Rank in its search engine was a pretty big deal and many website owners were miffed when it went away. That said, LinkedIn, via Pulse, does provide a great way to attribute and “score” authority without relying on an obscure social network profile. Because it will be Microsoft owned, this presents an opportunity for Bing to have a very unique point of differentiation from Google search.
Within the B2B technology space, there are a large number of data providers that provide data enrichment services for businesses to augment their customer and recruiting databases. LinkedIn now has the most well groomed data set of company, industry and individual contact information (including job history) on the planet. This could be a Dun and Bradstreet sized opportunity.
Let’s not forget, LinkedIn has a wide range of established ad products that include display, retargeting, email and more. Granted their high price points and complex sales model have made them slower in growth than their Google and Facebook counterparts, however, Microsoft has an opportunity to change all of that. The web enabled Windows desktop is now potentially the most coveted destination for B2B buyers to buy their ad impressions.
Experts on Demand
Just having a little fun, let’s suppose that Microsoft really started to look at how to combine its new services in exciting new ways. What about asking Cortana, Microsoft’s voice enabled personal assistant, to find you an expert on content marketing strategies in the life sciences space, having LinkedIn locate the expert, book the meeting in your calendar and Skype ring them up for a video conference when its time to chat.
Now that’s the future of work. It would also seem to be a fun time to work at LinkedIn and Microsoft.
Looking forward to see what happens.
Note: This post was a play on the title of a book by the late, great Ed Yourdon, “The Rise and Resurrection of the American Programmer“. I was a big fan of his books, most of which were on my Dad’s bookshelf, when I started my I/T career. Ed became a pretty great photographer in his later years and sadly passed away in January of this year.