With CEO Satya Nadella calling it the union of the “world’s leading professional cloud with the world’s leading professional network,” Microsoft formally closed its $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn in December 2016.

The acquisition has some benefits for individual professionals – imagine automatically updating your LinkedIn profile as you tweak your resume in Microsoft Word. But the real benefits. and the real value of the acquisition for Microsoft – may be in the enterprise space.   Tweet This With so many small businesses already invested in the Microsoft ecosystem, there are a number of new opportunities that may be worth exploring. Public statements about the acquisition from both companies offer a roadmap of these opportunities.

Networking

Microsoft is a networking giant. Besides its Outlook and Exchange email services it owns Skype, intelligent search agent Cortana and a range of enterprise networking products. Now LinkedIn’s network and information about its more than 430 million members will be integrated into Microsoft’s suite of tools, providing deeper opportunities to connect around common professional interests and challenges. Some networking may even become automated. For instance, the Office suite of products might identify professionals from the LinkedIn network with expertise in the specific projects you’re working on.

Business Intelligence

LinkedIn has long provided extensive content on virtually every business topic imaginable, often written by and for members. It has compiled rich data on what kinds of content matters to which professionals. Combined with Microsoft’s own business resources, this will mean richer, more targeted sources of information, including customized newsfeeds based on your industry and current work.

Marketing

The flip side of LinkedIn’s opportunities to create content is the ability to use it as a way to establish yourself and your company as experts in your field. In addition, the integration of Microsoft’s own content ecosystem – its MSN network reaches 120 million people monthly – offers vast reach for sponsored content and other marketing opportunities.

Professional Learning

In 2015, LinkedIn boosted its training and professional development offerings through its acquisition of Lynda, which offers more than 4,000 online courses in business, technology and creative skills. Now opportunities for companies to help their employees develop professionally can be embedded within Microsoft’s suite of software itself, where there’s a definite need. (LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner has said that six of its 25 most popular online courses are related to Microsoft products.)

Talent Management

LinkedIn has been called “Facebook for job seekers.” But the combination of Microsoft’s and LinkedIn’s networks and technology have company leaders envisioning new offerings that go beyond recruiting to “create value for any part of an organization involved with hiring, managing, motivating, or leading employees,” as Weiner put it when the acquisition was announced in June.

Social Selling

Both Microsoft and LinkedIn already offer services focused on customer relationship management (CRM). The companies see the combination of LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator and Microsoft’s Dynamics as an opportunity to leverage their 430 million member professional network in new ways. That means more than just connecting a lead’s name with the photo and information he or she provided on their LinkedIn profile.

A deeper understanding of leads and the companies they work for can help turbocharge social selling, helping businesses identify new prospects and understand their needs before – not after – the initial contact. Targeted data mining will work to help small business build more valuable relationships in the future.

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