Last week, Microsoft announced that it had acquired LinkedIn a social platform for professional networking. For many of us, this announcement came out of nowhere and left us wondering what would become of our beloved social network which has become foundational to many of our sales and marketing campaigns. What’s in it for Microsoft anyway?
At this point, all we can do is rely on the limited information the shared with us and make speculations about what Microsoft plans to do.
If you didn’t read the Press Release, here’s what we know:
- Microsoft has openly expressed their intention to use LinkedIn to benefit Office 365 and Dynamics their CRM.
- They are planning on combining their Cloud and LinkedIn’s network.
Microsoft also released a video interview with Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, and Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. In this video Satya makes a clear point that Jeff Weiner will remain actively involved in LinkedIn (at least for now.) Satya also expresses the intention to keep LinkedIn true to its roots and not turn it into another business process / productivity tool.
This is good news for LinkedIn lovers, and should put your fears of a drastic change to rest for now. But, we all know that like all technologies, LinkedIn will have to evolve, the question remains, what does that look like with Microsoft in control?
Our Prediction for 2016
If you’ve been following Microsoft closely, you will have noticed that they are putting a lot of resources into creating best in class business tools. They’ve expanded their horizons in software development, embraced open source, revamped Office 365, and begun positioning Dynamics as a competitor to top CRMs like Salesforce and Oracle Sales Cloud.
LinkedIn creates a strong competitive advantage for Microsoft against other Enterprise CRMs. As a data enrichment source, LinkedIn is the crown jewel. LinkedIn is the only place where professionals keep all of their information up-to-date, if Microsoft can leverage this data in a valuable way that doesn’t expose individual users, it can position itself as the only Enterprise CRM that can add profile enrichment.
Accessibility to Office 365
Currently, Microsoft offers much of Office 365 for free to individuals. Soon, everyone with a LinkedIn account will have seamless access to Office 365, in the same way that Google’s business suite is available for everyone with Gmail.
On the flip side, LinkedIn will benefit from an Office 365 integration. If you’ve ever prospected on LinkedIn, you will quickly come to realize that not all businesses are listed and for the ones that are, it’s rare that every employee has a profile. Because Office 365 is rolled out across an entire organization, every employee will have a profile. This means greater connectivity and more opportunities to interact with prospects.
All we can do is speculate what Microsoft’s big plan is, but if Microsoft follows the most obvious path, LinkedIn will remain a valuable tool for the foreseeable future and who knows, maybe it will become even more valuable. I know a lot of sales reps who wouldn’t mind inMail going directly into an Office 365 inbox.
Our Prediction for the Longterm (2017 and beyond)
The Love Affair Ends
At some point, LinkedIn will begin to display an obvious relationship to Microsoft, this will mark a major shift. Users will become less enthusiastic about the platform because it will lose its carefree social media appeal. Checking out LinkedIn will no longer be breaking company rules because it will be installed on your corporate computer. On top of that, users tend to distrust major vendors like Microsoft with confidential information. A private message to that executive who was scouting your profile will seem a lot riskier when your LinkedIn is a part of your business suite, and if you think email watching is intrusive, think again.
We mentioned earlier in the post that Microsoft’s CRM will benefit greatly from LinkedIn, but what about all of the other CRMs like Salesforce, Sugar, SAP, and Oracle?
In the case of Enterprise CRMs, there is a very good chance that we will see the iron curtain drop like it’s hot. These vendors will greatly limit the access that third-party tools have for integrating LinkedIn and their CRM, because of the fear that Microsoft will be able to see more than they should.
CRM vendors will also look for ways to compete with Microsoft’s new data enrichment capabilities and double down on finding a real-time solution.
The New Guy
Let’s face it, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that a new networking platform will most likely take over. Xing already has great adoption in Europe and offers a very comparable service. Major CRM vendors might even begin extending some venture capital resources towards networking platforms to see this happen. These new platforms could potentially provide the real-time data solution we mentioned above.
What do you think? Join the conversation on Twitter.