Microsoft Acquires its Missing Link

Image Courtest LinkedIn

Several news outlets have reported that Microsoft is finalizing an all cash deal for the purchase of professional networking site LinkedIn. This deal, reportedly worth $26.2 bIllion, is a huge move for the tech giant. Consider that only a few weeks ago, Microsoft almost completely gutted its smartphone unit signaling a shift in the company's direction and it's clear with this move that Microsoft has something else up its sleeve to help it reach out to the public at large. You can read up on the deal here.

The advantages of purchasing LinkedIn for Microsoft are myriad. The most obvious one is the wealth of enterprise data Microsoft will now have at its disposal. The world at large is fueled by how much brands and marketers know about you. This particular stream of data, which Microsoft will now own, is a resource that not even Facebook can boast.

LinkedIn doesn't come without its baggage, however. Microsoft will need to invest in curtailing a growing tide of criticism that LinkedIn is becoming another version of Facebook, where the content that people share is lacking the professional relevancy that people have come to expect there. Increased resources from Microsoft, both technological and economical in nature, could help here. New algorithms and targeting tactics would do a great deal to make sure the content on LinkedIn fits the platform more seamlessly. Microsoft's technical expertise coupled with LinkedIn's already robust digital chops make this a potentially powerful matchup.

LinkedIn's acquisition of professional digital training site last year presents an added bonus for Microsoft. It allows them the potential for another income stream from subscriptions to the service coupled with the potential to serve, through, Microsoft-specific training programs. This would result in increasing Microsoft's clout in an already crowded digital space. The difficult decision Microsoft made to lay off many people from its smartphone unit now may look prophetic; professional services, training and networking is something of which Microsoft can take a strong level of ownership.

There's interest brewing for digital remote training and schooling. People are using the Internet to not only bolster their own skills, but connect with prospective employers and former co-workers around the world. Full Sail University and the University of Phoenix, while still fightingsome skepticism, allows people flexibility in enhancing their own marketability and skill set. Concurrently, places like Oakland University and Syracuse's Newhouse School of Marketing have begun to embrace a fully digital syllabus, allowing students to take classes from anywhere in the world.

Microsoft is betting that this is less a trend and more a new standard, and I agree. LinkedIn provides a unique look into how people are looking at themselves professionally and where they want their careers to go. It's not a stretch to consider a future where Microsoft and LinkedIn create standalone, sponsored courses through the LinkedIn or Lynda platforms that directly address some of these desires. Seeing people clamoring for coding training? Develop a "Microsoft Coding University" with introductory courses available for sign up only through LinkedIn and more in-depth training available via Lynda.

For advertisers, Microsoft's acquisition likely changes little about the view of LinkedIn, at least in the short term. LinkedIn has had trouble in the past making their benefit for brands apparent. During my time at Horizon Media, I worked with LinkedIn to develop a sponsored content hub for Capital One's Venture Card unit. Its stated benefit was to provide travel tips and editorial for the business traveler. The potential was high, but the resulting execution of it proved to be challenging. At the time -- this was about 4 years ago – the standard bearer for this type of tactic was American Express' OPEN Group and the Capital One sponsored group couldn't quite live up to that. LinkedIn would go on to shutter this particular segment of their advertising business. Still, Microsoft's scale and power could allow LinkedIn to re-launch a version of this that's a little more useful for brands looking to advertise their company and its culture, and not necessarily their products, to business professionals and recent graduates.

The most interesting thing that could come out of this is whether or not some of the other tech giants like Google and Facebook will now look at sites like Glassdoor, which provides Yelp-like employee reviews of companies, individual jobs, and executives, to counter Microsoft's acquisition. There are no shortages of professional services resources on the Internet and the race to tap into the data that some of these companies have may just be starting with Microsoft getting ahead of the gun with this move.