Industry Professionals Weigh In on Microsoft's Acquisition of LinkedIn
On Monday, we reported that Microsoft acquired LinkedIn in a $26 billion acquisition. Both companies' CEOs raved about the potential for integration and innovation between Microsoft and LinkedIn. But what can you, as promotional products professionals, expect from this merger? We spoke to Dale Denham, chief information officer for Geiger, Lewiston, Maine; Mark Graham, chief platform officer for Commonsku, Toronto; and Kirby Hasseman, owner of Hasseman Marketing, Conshocton, Ohio, about how this move will affect the industry.
Hasseman and Denham agreed that, on a business level, this acquisition makes a lot of sense for both companies.
"As Jeffrey Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, said in his letter to employees, their missions are totally aligned," Hasseman said. "So many transactions like this have me scratching my head, but not this one. I think this can be of great benefit to both parties. In addition, as an active user of LinkedIn, I see opportunities."
"I see strong synergies with LinkedIn and Microsoft," Denham added. "Microsoft has been very smart under [CEO] Satya Nadella. Given the current Microsoft strategy to get Windows and Office on every desktop, this makes sense. They gain nearly (within privacy options that might change) full access to nearly every executive to influence [them] to buy more Microsoft products. Finally, they get a social network. LinkedIn isn't Facebook, but if Facebook is worth $331 billion, LinkedIn at $26 billion is a pretty good deal and it is a business network."
As the social platform evolves with Microsoft, Hasseman said that he thinks promotional products distributors and suppliers will be able to attract business.
"I have already noticed that LinkedIn is suggesting that I 'invite' other contacts to the platform," he said. "This will give the chance for many of us to grow our networks."
Denham added that by integrating with Microsoft, LinkedIn might become a more prominent tool in the industry.
"LinkedIn is underutilized by most people in the industry, as is most technology," Denham said. "As it gets more attention and perhaps integration with Microsoft, perhaps our industry [will] use it better."
Using it better is the key term there. With any social networking platform, there is a possibility that some might overuse or misuse the technology.
"The caution I have [for] sales professionals is there is a real chance to take 'spam' to the next level," Hasseman said. "We need to be very careful to continue to add value, and not just try to leverage these tools to blast our email box (and social networks) with crap. For those promotional products pros that add value first, this merger could mean great things for their growing prospect base."
Graham said that allowing distributors and suppliers to stay constantly up-to-date on data and in contact with clients could be a big difference maker.
"I think it remains to be seen, but the theory is that if Microsoft is able to augment its programs with real-time data on customers and prospects, then absolutely [it will have an effect on the industry,]" Graham said. "Now, I think the jury is still out on whether they'll be able to execute that effectively. Certainly, on another scale ... with Commonsku, I have a lot of experience in terms of how we have been able to use real-time, updated information on our network to be able to inform business decisions. It's something that absolutely works, and it's definitely a 21st century way of looking at software programs. There's no question that I could see there being huge opportunities, but it really comes down to how they execute it."
Graham's main concern was that those who already aren't using Microsoft products may miss out on LinkedIn features they currently have full access to.
"At the end of the day, it will be interesting to see how and what this does outside of the Microsoft universe," he said. "If you're in the industry and you're not someone who is an active user of Microsoft programs—let's say you're using Google programs, for example—the question is whether there will be a walled garden that will be put up and only benefit Microsoft users. Right now, LinkedIn is a platform where any LinkedIn member can get information. Obviously, you can upgrade and pay for more access, but it will be interesting to see if this means if you're not a Microsoft customer, and there's a growing number of people who aren't, … if [they] will be excluded from those programs. And my gut tells me probably yes, but whether that will make LinkedIn less effective I don't know."
What do you think? Will Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn affect the way you do business? If so, how? Let us know in the comments!