If you’re advertising on LinkedIn – or considering the notion – Microsoft’s purchase of the network must have left you wondering. It feels like a long time since we considered Microsoft a genuine competitor to Google in online advertising, but could this mark a comeback for the firm behind Bing?

More to the point, you have to wonder what this all means for the money you invest into LinkedIn ads and the return you can expect. So what does Microsoft buying LinkedIn mean for advertisers?

 

Advertising isn’t the main goal here

If you’re worried about what this deal could mean for LinkedIn ads, you can relax. Above all, advertising isn’t the main stream of income for Microsoft nor LinkedIn. This is actually one of LinkedIn’s most desirable traits, as we’re not held hostage to its advertising profits (at least, not to the extent of Google or Facebook).

With this in mind, it’s easier to understand the purchase has far less to do with advertising and more to do with marketing for Microsoft itself.

We won’t go into too much detail –  because you’re no more interested in Microsoft’s brand marketing than we are – but it all comes down to data acquisition and expanding across another platform. LinkedIn brings a serious amount of corporate data to Microsoft’s already impressive collection and this is the main motive behind the purchase.

 

What are Microsoft’s intentions?

So ads aren’t the objective here, but what has Microsoft got in mind? Well, TechCrunch seems to think it’s got more to do with enterprise content:

 

“Today, Microsoft is focused squarely on software (and some hardware by way of its very downsized phones business). But LinkedIn will give Microsoft a far bigger reach in terms of social networking services and professional content — developing the early signs of enterprise social networking that it kicked off with its acquisition of Yammer for $1.2 billion in 2012.” TechCrunch

 

Meanwhile Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, speaks of richer integration of LinkedIn content and ads into Office and other MS products.

 

LinkedIn Ads will still be affected, of course

While we’re not expecting Microsoft to overhaul LinkedIn ads, there will of course be changes made. In fact, there’s already one notable difference: LinkedIn sponsored posts now reach Microsoft users on various platforms.

This isn’t technically a change to the ads themselves, but it does mean your posts are going further – and that can only be a good thing. It’s also perfectly inline with what CEO Satya Nadella said about the acquisition.

That’s all we’ve seen happen so far, but there are a few changes we would like to see:

 

  • We’d love to see Microsoft improve the ad management side of LinkedIn – not only the interface but also the management options available. You can still only run on the CPM (cost per thousand impressions) model and display ads are heavily restricted.

 

  • LinkedIn also feels way behind on its mobile ad delivery and this is something that needs to be addressed asap.

 

Those are the to big areas LinkedIn needs to catch up on and after that things get pretty debatable. Could LinkedIn do with a real display network? Maybe. Does it need more targeting options? Perhaps. Does it need to compete with Google and Facebook in terms of ad revenue? Maybe not.

Either way, it will be interesting to see what changes Microsoft deems necessary over the coming years and how drastically it decides to shake things up.

 

What does this mean for Bing Ads?

When you first find out about Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn, it’s difficult not to wonder what it’s got in mind for Bing Ads. The rise of social advertising kind of put Microsoft’s ad network on the back foot and it could certainly do with a jolt.

However, PPC advertising isn’t Microsoft’s main concern, but this doesn’t mean it hasn’t got plans for Bing Ads. The key in all this will be B2B advertising and the new pool of data Microsoft is now the proud owner of.

This could (and probably should) give Bing Ads a much-needed niche advantage to exploit that the big two don’t have the same access to – at least not yet. But this would mean Microsoft finally giving Bing Ads the resources and funding it needs to have a crack at fighting Google and co. So for, we’ve seen no signs of this happening and this is a real shame.

 

For what it’s worth, we don’t expect any drastic changes to LinkedIn advertising just yet. More integration with Microsoft products seems like a dead cert and we anticipate this will be where the majority of changes take place. That said, we have a number of areas we would like Microsoft to address, so we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed all the same.