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Did LinkedIn give in too soon to Microsoft?

News broke last night that Microsoft is looking to snap up LinkedIn for US$196 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at US$26.2 billion, and memories of all such massive acquisitions came back flooding in the minds of all.

This one tops them all, over and above the most hyped in recent times was the Facebook-WhatsApp deal in 2014 which was valued at US$19 billion – let alone the acquisition of Instagram in  2012 for US$1 billion.

Gary Teo, head of technology at VML SEA & India, was of the view the move was a “brilliant one” despite the price bump. He added the steep pricing is justified given how Microsoft will now have a clear strategy in creating an end-to-end journey of business materials creation, planning, communication, sharing and in the longer run monetisation. “It is in line with recent Microsoft’s acquisition interests such as Salesforce and Slack,” he added.

In a conversation with Marketing, James Hawkins chief digital officer for the Dentsu Media Network Asia Pacific, said this is a “real show” of Microsoft’s appetite to get a foothold back in the community business. Having recently sold off Skype, Xbox, MSN Hotmail to AOL, Microsoft need a social play.

It is interesting for them to go for LinkedIn, as neither party has been strong on the monetisation play. The reach is massive but let’s see how they ‘productise’ it.

A wave of social integrations to come?

Ben Crawford, implementation director, IPG Mediabrands, added this is no doubt a big strategic move for Microsoft due to its long-standing strength and history. LinkedIn, on the other hand, offers access to a highly affluent, professional community interested in business-to-business engagement, with social media and (shared) content at its core.

As such integrating the two opens up a number of opportunities for advertisers in allowing access to data driven targeting and engagement across a highly valued audience.

Rachit Dayal managing partner at Happy Marketer added that the deal was a great one for Microsoft and in the future, the business community can expect that they will integrated it with their suite of products as well.

But did LinkedIn give in too soon?

Teo who added a wave of social integrations across Microsoft Product suites could be anticipated if Microsoft gets its game right, explained that LinkedIn is already aligned to some of Microsoft key Product Lines: Office, O365, Bing, Dynamics and Skype.

However, he was quick to add that what remains unclear is how the acquisition will support a targeted and sustained growth of any of their key business value propositions (Ads, Premium Users Subscription). “The challenge will come in how LinkedIn will continue its product core focus and growth after this acquisition. But for the time being, shareholders can celebrate,” he said.

Prantik Mazumdar, managing partner at Happy Marketer said he was “dampened” by the deal:

I am confused, puzzled and a bit dampened to think why LinkedIn would sell out so quick in the game when it’s the only solid player out there in this space.

According to Dan Bieler, principal analyst at Forrester, LinkedIn’s status of trusted independent platform for professional information exchange could be undermined by the deal.

“While it helps Microsoft to strengthen its social networking services and professional content, there will be LinkedIn users who are not keen to become sucked into the Microsoft ecosystem as part of their social collaboration activities,” he said.

Bieler also urges that Microsoft be faster in deciding on LinkedIn’s strategy than it did with Skype.

It took Microsoft five years to define its strategy for Skype (and Yammer for that matter). This slow response to sort out Skype’s place in the Microsoft family slowed down Skype’s momentum significantly.

“By the time the new Skype strategy was announced, most of the hardcore Skype users had migrated away towards other social collaboration platforms,” he added.

He also suggests that the tech giant redoubles its mobile efforts as a large part of LinkedIn’s activities are mobile based. “Microsoft’s weak position in mobile ecosystems could dramatically undermine LinkedIn’s longer-term opportunities,” he said adding that:

If Microsoft underestimates the mobile dimension for LinkedIn, the future for LinkedIn could be very questionable.

“Users are fickle and there is no loyalty to outdated social media platform,” Bieler said.

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