On December 9th, Microsoft announced closure of its $26.2 billion LinkedIn acquisition following EU approval. The full approval process took just about six months. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is “even more enthusiastic” about the transaction than he was in June.
Nadella listed the following “immediate term” integration scenarios:
- LinkedIn identity and network in Microsoft Outlook and the Office suite
- LinkedIn notifications within the Windows action center
- Enabling members drafting résumés in Word to update their profiles, and discover and apply to jobs on LinkedIn
- Extending the reach of Sponsored Content across Microsoft properties
- Enterprise LinkedIn Lookup powered by Active Directory and Office 365
- LinkedIn Learning available across the Office 365 and Windows ecosystem
- Developing a business news desk across our content ecosystem and MSN.com
- Redefining social selling through the combination of Sales Navigator and Dynamics 365
The emphasis on expanded opportunities for individuals to learn, compete, network, collaborate, and find jobs was a key justification of the merger. “While technology tools are not a panacea for current economic challenges, we believe they can make an important contribution,” said Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith. “Microsoft and LinkedIn together have a bigger opportunity to help people online to develop and earn credentials for new skills, identify and pursue new jobs, and become more creative and productive as they work with their colleagues. Working together we can do more to serve not only those with college degrees, but the many people pursuing new experiences, skills and credentials related to vocational training and so-called middle skills. Our ambition is to do our part to create more opportunity for people who haven’t shared in recent economic growth.”
LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner views the transaction as an opportunity to expand LinkedIn’s Economic Graph “and ultimately help create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.” LinkedIn will operate as an independent division with “the same mission and vision, the same culture and values, the same brand, and the same leadership team.”
Weiner reiterated LinkedIn’s commitment to its members, their privacy, and information security. The firm “remains focused on growing LinkedIn and creating value for our members and customers with a focus on integrating LinkedIn products with Microsoft.
The EU placed a few requirements on the deal, but did not view the transaction as anti-competitive, a position held by Salesforce.com. The EU evaluated the impact on professional social networks, CRM solutions, and API access. As an accommodation, Microsoft committed to a five year period in which it will
- Ensure that PC manufacturers and distributors would be free not to install LinkedIn on Windows and allowing users to remove LinkedIn from Windows should PC manufacturers and distributors decide to preinstall it.
- Allow competing professional social network service providers to maintain current levels of interoperability with Microsoft’s Office suite of products through the so-called Office add-in program and Office application programming interfaces.
- Grant competing professional social network service providers access to “Microsoft Graph”, a gateway for software developers. It is used to build applications and services that can, subject to user consent, access data stored in the Microsoft cloud, such as contact information, calendar information, emails, etc. Software developers can potentially use this data to drive subscribers and usage to their professional social networks.
Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy, said: “A growing number of Europeans subscribe to professional social networks. These networks are important for professionals to connect and interact and to find new career opportunities. Today’s decision ensures that Europeans will continue to enjoy a freedom of choice between professional social networks.”
LinkedIn has 467 million global members and supports two dozen languages. The firm continues to add members at the rate of two per second. Last quarter, LinkedIn earned $960 million across three divisions: Talent Solutions ($623 million), Marketing Solutions ($175 million), and Premium Subscriptions ($162 million).
LinkedIn rolled out a new Conversation Starter feature to promote system messaging via a lightbulb icon. The feature analyzes the target individual’s profile to provide a series of conversational options. After selecting a potential opener, the user can modify the text to their voice. Starters include recent profile updates, work anniversaries, recent posts, mutual connections, and shared backgrounds (e.g. alma mater, former employers, groups).
“We know that reaching out to reconnect, ask for advice or network for potential job opportunities can be intimidating, so we’ve added personalized conversation starters in LinkedIn messaging to give members authentic ways to break the ice,” the company said in a blog post.
Unfortunately, the Conversation Starters on their marketing video are mostly focused on connections. This could result in a spate of similar sounding openers that could quickly become SPAM. This focus could be simply a marketing oversight, but variations on “Hi Suzi, I noticed you have X connections at Google. Have you heard…” seem like a weak set of Conversation Starters. While better than cold messages such as “Hi Suzi, I’m reaching out to you because my company…”, their sample seems uninspired. Furthermore, the Conversation Starters do not contain any stored messages from the sales rep to expedite the message creation process.
LinkedIn will soon be rolling out a bot to assist with multi-party meeting scheduling.
Decommissioning Professional Edition Features
According to Intero Advisory, a LinkedIn coaching service, LinkedIn is looking to migrate sales clients from their Professional edition to Sales Navigator. As part of this effort, LinkedIn is dropping two features from the Pro service: 1) Premium Search Filters and 2) Notes and Tags for connections. LinkedIn said these features will be available through the end of March. Users have until then to download any Notes and Tags. To help accommodate users, LinkedIn is offering a free three-month trial of Sales Navigator which includes the transfer of Notes and Tags.