Microsoft & LinkedIn: What this deal means for us

Will Microsoft’s buy-over of LinkedIn revolutionise how we work and market ourselves?

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It is probably safe to say that the majority of today’s working professionals are no stranger to LinkedIn. As one of the most prominent social networking sites in this day and age, it has over 411 million users and a diverse range of useful features, ranging from an influencer content search bar to networking groups.

However, there is one key characteristic that differentiates LinkedIn from its rival social media networks: a business-orientated focus.

Although other popular social networking platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, do offer opportunities for marketing and customer relationship management (e.g. limited-time promotions, sponsored posts etc.) they are almost never seen as the go-to website for professional hobnobbing.

Put differently, this unique reputation allows LinkedIn profile pages to effectively double as online resumes. By simply accessing a virtual grapevine, LinkedIn users are essentially rewarded with a platform to both market their talents online and to acquire new career opportunities.

Given LinkedIn’s considerable utility for working professionals, questions about the social network’s future have surfaced following its recent purchase by Microsoft. The tech giant bought over LinkedIn for US$26.2bn earlier this month, which makes it the largest acquisition that Microsoft has undertaken to date.

Driving growth in businesses

While it appears that this deal is a win-win situation for both companies as they stand to leverage on each other’s unique strengths, little has been confirmed about upcoming products that will arise from this synergy.

What we do know, however, is that there is indeed a larger vision to integrate LinkedIn into existing products by incorporating social networking functions into the ubiquitous Microsoft Office suite as well as other virtual services such as OneDrive, SharePoint and Lynx.

Initial details revealed by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn’s CEO, in the official announcement video have pegged the merger as a way to increase ‘engagement across LinkedIn as well as Office 365 and Dynamics’.

This potentially translates into an expanded range of economic opportunities for users of Microsoft products and LinkedIn everywhere. Professionals and companies from all walks of life are envisioned to be able to tap into a single profile that will connect them through a business-driven social fabric and newsfeed.

For instance, Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant Cortana might become an essential tool for meetings of the future, where it can smoothen interactions by tapping into LinkedIn’s database and supplying user-published information about other participants.

Social selling was also highlighted as another area of development — by being able to leverage on LinkedIn networks to get an introduction to potential clients, businesses stand to transform ‘cold calls into warm prospects’ and increase their deal-making efficacy by reaching out to the right people, in the right way.

A future in flux

Given the positivity and drive behind the ideas announced by Microsoft and LinkedIn, it appears that consumers can soon look forward to a more social suite of Office applications in the future. However, there might be grounds for worry given the track records of Microsoft’s past acquisitions.

Previous purchases — such as video chat/voice call application Skype in 2011 and Finnish telecommunications company Nokia’s mobile phone technology in 2013 — have yet to demonstrate exciting results. In fact, the latter deal was written off as a US$7.9 billion loss in April last year and reported in the media as ‘a disaster for all concerned’.

Nonetheless, given how recent this deal is, Microsoft and LinkedIn fans might do well to simply wait and observe future proceedings. As the proverbial saying goes, ‘the third time’s the charm’ — things might just turn out differently this time round.

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