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Microsoft Buys LinkedIn: Why Is It Awesome?

Jason Kolb explains the advantages for Microsoft after its acquisition of LinkedIn and and how to leverage data from the world's #1 professional network.

· Big Data Zone

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Every once in a while I run into someone who has resisted joining LinkedIn. And almost universally they all regret it and are planning their belated entrance to the platform.

I think this is interesting because it speaks to LinkedIn’s virtual monopoly on the professional identity space. Nobody else is even in the conversation. And, in case you missed it, Microsoft just bought LinkedIn.

If you look at Twitter, there’s a lot of collective cynicism out there about this. People are collectively yawning over it.

I thought this was interesting because I think people are missing the potential ramifications of this. I’m even a bit excited over the potential things Microsoft could do with it.

I personally believe that data is far more important than software and much harder to replace. And LinkedIn is one of the most data-rich companies out there. They have a monopoly on the professional identity space.

Regardless of your opinion about LinkedIn (I know there are a lot of haters out there), you can’t deny that it has a virtual monopoly on the professional space. Your LinkedIn profile IS your resume now. There are still pockets of resistance out there, but they’re small and shrinking all the time.

So Why is This Awesome?

There are a few key features I’ve been waiting for LinkedIn to roll out for a long time. I’m impressed enough with Microsoft’s leadership group to believe that they also see these opportunities. But even more interestingly, I think Microsoft has the opportunity to use the LinkedIn network to grow their platform business tremendously.

Professional Identity -> Microsoft ID

First, for Microsoft, this is an opportunity to be the definitive identity provider for professionals. If Microsoft is REALLY smart, they will ditch their lame “Microsoft ID” and just move entirely to LinkedIn. There’s no way their Microsoft ID network is anywhere close to as rich as the LinkedIn graph.

Think about how valuable this button is (which I see EVERYWHERE around the Web):

As of today, Microsoft is on an even playing field with Facebook and Twitter. Microsoft isn’t anywhere on that screen. At least, they weren’t, until today….

So if Microsoft now owns the best professional social graph out there, what can they do with it? First, I would keep the LinkedIn brand. Turn it into the Microsoft social network. Why not? And then…

If I Were Microsoft…

I would immediately begin taking advantage of the LinkedIn data goldmine. This means:

  1. Fold their CRM product (Dynamics) into LinkedIn. Make this integration tight and make it work well. Then…
  2. Provide free personal CRM to LinkedIn members to get their pipeline and networking data. I would use this today, and it would immediately take over the market that Contactually and Nudge are playing in, and the product could be WAY better.
  3. Integrate LinkedIn data deeply into Dynamics. Start upselling augmented lead intelligence capabilities and instantly be the most intelligent CRM product on the planet.

I would actually rebrand Dynamics as LinkedIn CRM, and make it another premium service like Recruiter. The LinkedIn brand is much, much better.

But aside from the integration angle, there’s something even more interesting here. Namely, the opportunity to…

Turn Azure into a Social Platform

Most interestingly, Microsoft now has the potential to leverage this massive social graph to turn Azure into a platform to rival Facebook.

If you think about the platforms that are out there right now, they’re all competing on the same battleground: Features, services, speed, security. Only Facebook is playing a different game by allowing access to its massive social network.

If Microsoft plays its cards right, they can turn this acquisition into a moat around Azure that nobody will be able to compete with.

By moving up the stack a bit and adding LinkedIn data to the equation, they may now have a platform that Salesforce and Amazon simply cannot compete with.

As a entrepreneur, I think this prospect is really exciting. I would build on this platform. And I hope they don’t waste the opportunity.

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big data,microsoft,linkedin,identity,market competition

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