What does Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn mean for B2B marketing?

What does Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn mean for B2B marketing?

Slack and Company | June 20, 2016

You can bet the information from LinkedIn won't get less invasive.

Microsoft and LinkedIn now joined.  

Considering our own history with LinkedIn, and as avid users of the platform ourselves, this news has invaded the airspace around Coffeebot, our trusty office automatic coffee dispenser, and shows no sign of retreating.   Whether the move is destined for success or is a colossal failure, speculation on the deal's implications - both for LinkedIn and Microsoft as well as the digital community at large - is well underway.     

One thing cannot be denied, however: it is certainly a data play, and Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, agrees. “It’s really the coming together of the professional cloud and the professional network,” he said of the acquisition in a Monday interview with The Wall Street Journal.   

Being able to augment data in Microsoft's CRM, Dynamics, is much better - in terms of quality and functionality - than needing to bring in outside partners, such as DemandBase, Reachforce or others. It also allows Dynamics to potentially fuel a digital marketing system (DMS) for programmatic advertising, enabling more meaningful competition with Google.   

The wealth of new possible features and their tangible applications are manifold. LinkedIn data can feed the Dynamics CRM software. Lynda educational videos could be embedded into Microsoft documents. Microsoft could even push LinkedIn as an embedded publishing service by attaching it as an API to its existing products.   

Of course, we have been racking our brains in another direction. This can’t be about advertising, can it? For B2B marketers, there are clear implications to this move.   

These early declarations, including press exclusives and executive interview videos, suggest that a large portion of what LinkedIn does will continue to remain autonomous.   

Advertising on the LinkedIn social media platform proper ought to be minimally impacted. Further, the native advertising execution of Sponsored Updates should continue to provide effective promotion based on the unsurpassed demographic targeting LinkedIn offers.   

It is possible the move will strengthen both parties, enabling the combined entity to unlock a level of behavioral targeting that both currently lack.   

Given the growth in predictive marketing, and based on online signals and comparisons to an existing customer database, LinkedIn’s demographic and firmographic needs a boost. Maybe Microsoft can provide that.   

There are numerous reasons to be skeptical. Microsoft’s aQuantive acquisition didn’t work out, and it’s never become a powerhouse in online advertising. LinkedIn saw its stock decline by more than 40% in February due to weak growth in ad revenue.   

It is difficult to see how combining those two would be a recipe for ad sales success. But, adding LinkedIn to Microsoft’s portfolio of Yammer, Skype, SharePoint, Dynamics, etc. offers the potential for a seamless connection of data and tools.   

Microsoft has already indicated that LinkedIn will be integrated into the Office product suite. We can only assume that this integration will include a “person display” panel that will show the Office user the LinkedIn information of any persons that document they are working on is related to.   

This would function, we assume, much like the current Outlook Social Connector, but built directly into Microsoft's applications. For B2B marketers, this means that maximizing the information in your key employees’ LinkedIn accounts will become even more important to the way your organization is perceived by the clients and prospects you deal with every day.   

Only time will tell where and how this deal will impact the B2B marketing space, but it’s a safe bet that this move means enhanced firmographic and behavioral data, better demographic targeting, more tools, and greater ways to you and your audiences to engage with each other.   

One thing’s for sure – this story hits us where we live, and we’ll continue to monitor its Pulse very closely.   

(We do not apologize for the pun.) 

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