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Satya Nadella speaks at Microsoft Ignite 2016 (GeekWire Photo/Kevin Lisota)
Satya Nadella speaks at Microsoft Ignite 2016 (GeekWire Photo/Kevin Lisota)

ATLANTA, GA. — Microsoft’s ambitious acquisition of LinkedIn raised some eyebrows with its $26B price tag. Monday’s announcement of a strategic partnership with Adobe’s Marketing Cloud technologies may give clues to Microsoft’s larger strategy with LinkedIn and how it plans to unlock the value of the corporate social network provider.

Adobe’s Marketing Cloud, formerly known as Omniture, is heavily used by large corporations for sales and marketing automation. It allows companies to monitor and analyze online behavior and book and track customized advertising based on that data. Microsoft itself has no such solution, but clearly has a complementary set of tools like its Dynamics CRM and ERP tools that are used to track customer relationships, product orders and financial performance.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen announce partnership at Microsoft Ignite (GeekWire Photo/Kevin Lisota)
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen announce partnership at Microsoft Ignite (GeekWire Photo/Kevin Lisota)

Integrating LinkedIn social network data into a corporate sales and marketing process makes a lot of sense for corporate customers, and Microsoft and Adobe are likely trying to exploit this. Corporate sales and marketing teams want to stay updated on what their customers are doing, and surfacing information on job changes and professional connections in LinkedIn makes that easier to accomplish.

LinkedIn CEO, Microsoft Satya Nadella and LinkedIn Chairman Reid Hoffman. (Microsoft Photo)
LinkedIn CEO, Microsoft Satya Nadella and LinkedIn Chairman Reid Hoffman. (Microsoft Photo)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella outlined a new Relationship Assistant for Dynamics CRM at the Microsoft Ignite conference this week showing how this would work.

“When you login to a CRM system, what you’re going to see are these cards. Cards that allow you to take action inside the system based on activity that is happening outside,” said Nadella. “It will know because of its ability to crawl the web about changes that are happening with your customers, changes that are happening on LinkedIn on one of your prospect’s job titles, and so now you can go change the information in context with things that are happening on the outside. So the web graph informs your CRM actions.”

By partnering with Adobe’s Marketing Cloud, such a system could easily add data around online behavior along with advertising campaigns and results, giving deeper insights in customer relationship and triggering contextual actions that help with the sales process.

For consumers, Facebook has created a very unique ecosystem for advertisers that has an unprecedented amount of demographic data that can be used for targeted advertising. Microsoft does appear to be taking steps to replicate a corporate version of that same environment with some of it developed in house, some of it acquired and some achieved through partnerships.

The Adobe partnership could even lead to an outright acquisition of Adobe, or at least an acquisition of their Marketing Cloud assets, to fulfill this vision. However, the large-cap software provider is trading at all-time highs that may simply be too expensive at the moment.

Microsoft wasn’t specifically talking about LinkedIn plans this week, as they are in a quiet period waiting for the transaction to close, but from what we saw at Microsoft Ignite, we’re guessing that there is quite a bit more to come on the software giant’s plans for the social network.

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