Now that Microsoft has agreed to purchase LinkedIn, the world’s most popular professional networking platform, for a mammoth $26 billion sum, the business media is abuzz (once again) about the role and value social media can play in the next era of business.
According to reports, Microsoft’s plans for LinkedIn – the largest-ever acquisition in the company’s history – are bold and boundary-pushing. While it’s too soon to tell just how far Microsoft will go, it’s clear the company has big-picture innovation in mind… and the company’s intentions may be indicative of a more integrated “enterprise” future of B2B social media at large.
Putting Social Media in the Conference Room
In the short-term, Microsoft’s product plans with LinkedIn largely involve to-be-expected, “two-becoming-one” benefits: By integrating Microsoft Office with LinkedIn, the software giant will provide its users with smarter social media feeds, integrated calendar tools, and new functionalities.
But in the long-term, Microsoft’s roadmap is much, much bigger. CEO Satya Nadella has gone so far as to imagine the data-powered meeting of the future, in which Cortana (Microsoft’s artificial intelligence assistant) digitally briefs a professional as he enters the conference room:
“Imagine you are walking into a meeting and Cortana now wakes up and tells you about the people you are meeting for the first time,” Nadella has said, “(and) tells you all the things you want to know before walking in and knowing someone because it has access to the professional network.”
Automatic, AI-powered introductions are a futuristic vision, but also a telling one. Consider all of the issues and underpinnings involved in the scene painted by the above quote: Location tracking, data sharing, device specifications, network compatibility, and consumer privacy concerns are just a few of the concerns that would have to be addressed to make Nadella’s dream meeting a reality… and it’s not just Microsoft that would address them.
More than Just Branding and Messaging
At any company that wanted to embrace Nadella’s socially connected vision, almost every department would be involved – IT, management, operations, compliance, and more – which represents a game-changing shift from the current B2B social media reality.
At most B2B startups and technology companies today, social media is mainly (if not entirely) managed by the marketing department. While some companies take a sophisticated approach to social media – using it for lead generation, customer service, content distribution/promotion, and digital advertising purposes – most use it in a rudimentary manner, keeping it largely separate from the rest of their enterprise processes.
But that approach is already outdated (even with Nadella’s LinkedIn-AI vision years away) because it keeps social media siloed from the rest of the business. To be successful with social media, B2B
companies need to link their social efforts to larger goals, and business objectives –and that requires stronger collaboration, alignment, and technological integration across the various departments of any B2B company.
A completely connected future is still very far out, but B2B companies should prepare for an enterprise social future by getting started now. Especially when it comes to IT, businesses should be seeking smart ways to support social media by finding (or creating) stronger synergies with their other office systems. For example, by linking CRM solutions with social feeds for customer service monitoring, or tracking business development outreach, engagement efforts, and results with social analytics.
To date, many B2B companies have treated social media like something they have to do, but that provides little long-term value. As Microsoft plots its moves, however, we may be entering an era where social media makes a lot more happen than just messaging and branding. Here’s hoping a bolder future of B2B social media makes more stakeholders, marketing and otherwise, invested in driving stronger social outcomes across the enterprise.