Microsoft buys LinkedIn: What does this mean for the Entrepreneur?
The news that LinkedIn has been sold to Microsoft is still relatively fresh as I start to digest exactly what this will mean in the long term. In our immediate future -not much- as even the employees of LinkedIn have been told. However, change is inevitable, but will we all be happy with where it takes us?
The purchase of LinkedIn is Microsoft’s biggest-ever acquisition to date coming in at $26.2 billion. So far the suggested benefits of the merger all lie with the Microsoft user. With 1.2 billion Office users, the view is to increase engagement between LinkedIn and Office 365. According to Nadella’s internal memo, LinkedIn will become the central profile that will be surfaced in apps like Outlook, Skype, Office and even Windows. They will become a “newsfeed into an intellectual stream of data that will connect professionals to each other through shared meetings, notes, and email activity”.
It is suggested that the newsfeed will stream articles related to keywords in projects you are working on, plus it will suggest experts you might need to meet.
With LinkedIn being the professional network, Microsoft has taken major steps forward in expanding into the social workplace ahead of its rivals Facebook and Google. By purchasing LinkedIn and adding it to its family, Microsoft now has a huge social network to fend off advances from Google who has its own suite of productivity services which users can use for free.
This interesting development should be a cause of concern for businesses that are not Microsoft users. The integration will take a long time to pull off and users won’t see major changes for a while yet, but the marriage between these two companies and the proposed benefits are heavily stacked in favour of the Microsoft user.
I’ve always been a fan of LinkedIn and this is because of the advantages it provides businesses that traditionally were non-existent.
Beginning my business eleven years ago we didn’t have the advantages available to us today. Networking meant attending events multiple times to become familiar and trusted by people, and to get your message out there required a website. Moreover, making a video required taking your tape to the shop to be transferred to a CD-ROM.
The time investment was high and the skill of breaking into an already established network was a challenge. If you were entirely new to business, still defining who you were and the value you provided to customers, it meant investing heavily in printed media which was a costly investment that was unlikely to provide ROI. Further to this unless you had web skills and the ability to throw together a quick landing page and drive traffic to test your ideas, the road to build a business was hard.
Then came LinkedIn. It changed the game.
Unlike Facebook that was quickly understood by every man and his grandmother, LinkedIn took a little longer to find its place. It is only in the last few years we’ve seen people fully understand that LinkedIn is more than a place to find a job or be found by recruiters.
When I had the opportunity to first sell LinkedIn training and then help people write their LinkedIn profiles, I knew I had started a business that would make a difference. Having struggled in my early days in business, I quickly recognized LinkedIn as a powerful – free – platform that would allow me and my clients to stand out in our network, get known for what we do and leverage the trust in our network.
It meant, and still means, the ability to start a business with no investment.
Of significant importance too is the fact that the cost of entry to business is dramatically lower than it once was.
In fact, I know because I did it.
In 2015 I signed a contract for a job paying £50k per annum and expected to be financially set, but within a week I had to walk away. Thrown into building my own business with absolutely no notice I had to make a pay cheque and fast.
I got onto LinkedIn.
I updated my profile, set items in place, called a few people I knew and asked to speak at their events, leveraged the platform before, during and after the talk and within 6 weeks I was fully booked. I was also new in town infiltrating a brand new market place.
LinkedIn gave me a platform and the tools that I needed to establish myself as a credible expert in my industry and bring in new business. In fact, I continue to do this now, and still haven’t spent a penny on marketing. These are the skills I teach my clients on LinkedIn that I use every day to build and sustain my business and my reputation.
I believe in LinkedIn.
And when it comes to Jeff Weiner’s and the LinkedIn team’s objective to connect the world’s professionals and make them more productive and successful, and to create economic opportunity for every member – I can say I am an example of this.
However, I’ve always felt that building your business brand and reputation as an entrepreneur on LinkedIn, as a happy afterthought to its recruitment arm where it generates its revenues. I’ve never gotten the sense from LinkedIn that they really understand us, who we are as solo-entrepreneurs and start-ups and what we mean for the economic success of our generation.
Now with this purchase by Microsoft, I become more concerned that the platform will become less user-friendly and less advantageous. Personally I am an Apple Mac user (and just as their brand encourages with the bite out of the apple, I am a rebel working against a system that has always tried to lead us down the well-trodden path). For me LinkedIn matched the spirit of what it meant to be an Apple user, which leads me to wonder what the future holds for the free spirited, self-employed, entrepreneur whom I know LinkedIn wishes to support, as things become predominantly Microsoft focused.
Added to this, many attempts in past years to bring free and accessible software to individuals, schools and business start-ups have been thwarted by this giant, so what can this mean for us now? Does their ethos really blend or is it a contradiction? Are we returning to a corporate governed world or one where the free spirit can successfully break-free and dictate their own life on their own terms?
I am not so sure.