Microsoft’s announced $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn today will not only net the tech giant the top business-oriented social network, but the move could have several ramifications for email users and email marketers. Here are five possible scenarios to watch for:
1. LinkedIn messaging replaced by Outlook 365
LinkedIn messaging has rather limited functionality, but that could change in a big way. Under Microsoft, it’s likely that LinkedIn messaging could be largely replaced by Outlook 365 functionality. Microsoft is currently consolidating all of its various email platforms onto this single email rendering engine, so it would make sense for them to extend this to LinkedIn as well, rather than operating that messaging platform separately.
That would bring much more robust messaging capabilities to LinkedIn, with some of the more advanced Outlook 365 capabilities reserved for LinkedIn Premium users as an additional upgrade incentive. Plus, LinkedIn could provide a huge boost to the Outlook 365 user base at a time when Microsoft is trying to compete more effectively against Google, which has a dominant market position with Gmail.
2. LinkedIn contacts integrated into Outlook address book
Given how often people change jobs, especially in certain industries like tech, email address books can quickly become out of date. The integration of LinkedIn into Outlook’s address book functionality could help solve this problem by auto-updating contact info and company affiliation. Plus, there are opportunities for Microsoft to suggest alternative potential connections by using company names and titles when the contact a user has is no longer relevant.
3. LinkedIn and SlideShare interactivity within Outlook email inboxes
Google has integrated Google Plus and YouTube functionality into Gmail, allowing users to confirm Google Plus connections and watch YouTube within an email without leaving Gmail. Microsoft now has a similar opportunity with LinkedIn and SlideShare.
For instance, when LinkedIn users receive a connection request in an Outlook account, Microsoft could make it so they can confirm or deny that connection right in the email without forcing users to click through to their LinkedIn account. Similarly, Microsoft could enable SlideShare embeds in emails when viewed in Outlook.
Taking a page out of Google’s playbook, these kinds of integrations would help strengthen the Microsoft email ecosystem and give business users more reasons to stick with or return to Microsoft.
4. Better spam protection on LinkedIn
Aggressive use of LinkedIn for prospecting has led to a significant rise in spam on the social network. Microsoft’s extensive expertise in controlling email spam should help them clean up some of this behavior on the social network.
5. Skype and Calendar integration into LinkedIn
Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype could enhance communications within LinkedIn. In addition to being able to send messages to contacts, users would be able to initiate calls to those contacts. The integration of Outlook Calendar into LinkedIn would make this functionality even more powerful since users would be able to schedule calls and send invites all with the same platform.
So beyond getting Microsoft solidly into the social media industry after a few failed attempts, their acquisition of LinkedIn could bring new functionality and new users to its core Outlook product at a time when they’re accelerating their transition to the cloud.
For email marketers, this union could make new inbox functionality and interactivity available that could be particularly attractive to B2B marketers. Also, this could be a catalyst for market share growth of Microsoft’s webmail clients and some upcoming rendering and support changes as the integration takes place. Marketers should pay extra attention to how their emails render in Outlook 365 and Outlook.com in the months ahead.
This acquisition takes place as Gmail has established itself quite dominantly in the webmail category. Nearly 16% of all email opens occur in Gmail, while under 4% occur in Microsoft’s webmail clients like Outlook.com and Windows Live Mail, according to Litmus’ latest email client marketing share data.
The acquisition also takes place as Verizon and others vie for Yahoo’s web assets, including Yahoo Mail. Verizon acquired AOL last year and adding Yahoo Mail to its webmail and mobile assets could create another wave in the email landscape.
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