With the recent acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft, B2B marketers have been asking what the implications are - particularly companies like Chicago-based agency Slack & Company which was early advocates and avid users of the platform.
On Monday, Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that "it is really the coming together of the professional cloud and the professional network". Many in the B2B sector agree that it is, although it is undeniably a 'data' play too. Slack also asks "this can't be about advertising, can it?" With a recent announcement by LinkedIn that is monetizing its 400 million members by introducing programmatic ad buying to advertisers, the new partnership appears to be tapping into the power of sponsored content on a larger scale.
The Slack article states that data is key and being able to augment data in Microsoft's CRM, Dynamics is better in terms of quality and functionality while also allowing digital marketing system (DMS) for programmatic advertising to compete more effectively with Google. The article also suggests that LinkedIn data can now feed the Dynamics CRM software while educational videos can be embedded into Microsoft documents. Microsoft can even push LinkedIn as an embedded publishing service by attaching it as an API to its existing products the article suggests.
Additionally, according to this recent article Microsoft is paying $26.2bn for LinkedIn, a 50 per cent premium on LinkedIn’s stock price at the time that is seven times LinkedIn’s 2016 revenue run rate, considered to be a very healthy valuation.
When it comes to advertising, the story gets more interesting for B2B marketers. The article claims that much of what LinkedIn does going forward will remain autonomous from Microsoft. Meanwhile, advertising on LinkedIn social media platforms is advancing into more programmatic advertising and native advertising such as Sponsored Updates will likely continue to be an effective tool in reaching the huge business demographic targeting that LinkedIn provides. It claims that the backing of Microsoft may strengthen both, and will enable more availability of behavioral targeting that both Microsoft and LinkedIn lack. LinkedIn does lag behind in the area of predictive marketing with its demographic and firmographic needing an upgrade, the report suggests, while it is possible that Microsoft can provide that.
However, the article continues to say that unless LinkedIn is added to Microsoft's portfolio of Yammer, Skype, SharePoint, Dynamics, etc. to offer a potential for a seamless connection of data and tools, LinkedIn’s ad revenue may not increase significantly.
Additionally, the article states that because Microsoft has already indicated that LinkedIn will be integrated into the Office product suite - the 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.
LinkedIn accounts will become more transparent and will reflect the way an organization is perceived by the clients and prospects. It remains uncertain how it will impact the B2B marketing space, but look for enhanced firmographic and behavioral data, better demographic targeting, more tools, and greater ways to engage with each other. This also means that within the context of LinkedIn’s current mode, recruiting is a growth areas around vertical content, subscription services to active groups and the mapping and mining of very specific skills, projects, papers or posts. With the acquisition, there more room for a specialist area where hiring outpaces the supply of talent.