Microsoft has announced that it will acquire LinkedIn for $26.2B ($196 per share) pending regulatory approval. For Microsoft, LinkedIn will provide a strong foothold into social and professional content; LinkedIn has 433M users in 200+ countries.
WHY THIS IS A GAME CHANGER
Microsoft and LinkedIn are an ideal union. LinkedIn has been focused on generating professional insights and relevant content for its users. This is illustrated by LinkedIn’s 2014 acquisition of Newsle, which notifies users when someone in their email and social networks is featured in the news. This pursuit of enhanced relevancy was critical to LinkedIn’s identity as it differentiated itself from social networks like Facebook.
Once LinkedIn’s professional user base is connected to the intent queues that Microsoft gathers across its products—such as Bing, Cortana, and even Xbox—Microsoft has a new tool in its battle against Facebook and Google in the pursuit of creating the most relevant experiences.
PERFORMANCE MARKETING IMPLICATIONS for BRANDS
For marketers, LinkedIn’s unique insight into consumer intent could be incredibly valuable in creating richer, more contextually relevant experiences across Microsoft properties:
Bing Search + LinkedIn Ads Connection
- Expanding LinkedIn Ads to Bing: Through a connected advertising infrastructure, brands could potentially extend the reach of their LinkedIn ad efforts to Bing. To illustrate, many B2B advertisers have effectively leveraged LinkedIn to engage B2B decision makers. LinkedIn is especially powerful in B2B performance marketing through targeting options like job title or company. Through proper privacy constraints, this deal could enable search marketers to layer LinkedIn targeting data into Bing/Yahoo search marketing strategies:
- Serve Bing search ads only to people with certain job titles or from certain companies
- Target search ads based on other LinkedIn targeting options like company industry, size, job function, seniority, skills, schools, gender or age
- Customize bids, copy and landing pages based on LinkedIn user data
- Exclude searchers based on LinkedIn targeting options
This could be a powerful differentiator for Bing against Google.
- LinkedIn Profiles in Bing Search: The joint Microsoft-LinkedIn announcement noted that the deal would “increase Bing engagement with the best professional search.” This means that LinkedIn profiles could start to appear more prominently on the Bing and Yahoo search pages. If Bing does indeed become a source of “professional search,” it opens up the potential for advertisers to expand the reach of their LinkedIn recruitment ads to Bing search. Currently, “Talent Solutions” make up $2B of LinkedIn’s $3B 2015 revenue.
Unified Media Buying
Although likely further on the horizon, Microsoft and LinkedIn could eventually unify their ad buying marketplaces. For instance, advertisers may be able to buy LinkedIn ads within Bing Ads. Joint management and reporting could make it easier for advertisers to test LinkedIn, which would lead to more LinkedIn advertiser investment. Conversely, advertisers could port LinkedIn sponsored content to relevant Microsoft native ad opportunities, creating a boon for Microsoft’s native business.
Paid Social Advertising Impact
Individuals behave differently at work vs. home. Technology, and social media in particular, has been blurring the lines between these two worlds. However, our professional identities may still have different goals and intention than our personal ones. A seamless integration between productivity tools and connectivity tools that align with the professional mindset will empower individuals to accomplish more than ever before. The eventual opportunities for marketers to tap into mentally-active professional mindsets with professional content—relevant to intent—will be significant.
To illustrate, Microsoft’s announcement points out that, “Today, since information lives in silos, professionals miss relevant news and waste time.” The deal paves the way for the creation of a more relevant and informed social news feed. For instance, the LinkedIn news feed—through integration with Microsoft properties like Outlook—will now incorporate what’s happening at work, like upcoming meetings. In a world where social news feeds are becoming overwhelming and less relevant, a feed that integrates your day-to-day (Outlook) and professional social networking (LinkedIn) is compelling. This could increase LinkedIn news feed user adoption, giving advertisers bigger LinkedIn audiences.
Voice Assistant Impact
The Microsoft/LinkedIn connection also creates a better Cortana. Cortana will now not only tell you that you have a meeting coming up, but also convey information about the people in that meeting (where they went to school, who they’re connected to) as derived from LinkedIn. A more useful Cortana fits the macro-trend of voice assistant growth (along with Apple and Amazon). As consumers start to do more with voice (including search), advertisers should be thinking about voice assistant content strategy.
At Performics, we’re excited for the new performance opportunities that Microsoft/LinkedIn can provide. As the deal closes and integration occurs, we’ll provide more updates.
For more information on the implications of Microsoft acquiring LinkedIn, please contact your performance account team today.