Microsoft is in the process of acquiring the business social network LinkedIn, and it’s a really good thing. Let me tell you why.
Microsoft Outlook defines essential business software and, even for power users, dozens of helpful features remain underutilized or unused. It is not so much that the functions are overly complicated; it’s that they require active user input.
Let’s talk first about contacts.
Contacts can be very insightful and handy. A well-maintained and updated contact list forms a strong backbone for business development.
My best contacts include information beyond names, emails and companies, such as:
- Assistant’s name and email.
- Twitter handle.
- Notes ranging from personal (is watching HBO’s Deadwood) to professional (does not want alumni magazine contacted with news).
Each time I interact with a contact and gain new information, I try to incorporate this data into their entry. However, the reality is that a lot of unnecessary steps take place and – even with my best efforts – information becomes out-of-date. It’s also a lot of work and time-consuming.
Here is where LinkedIn comes in to play. With LinkedIn and Outlook connected, I should be able to seamlessly flow contacts from the social media site into my address book and vice versa. In addition, when a contact on LinkedIn changes positions, the shift is reflected in both places the next time I log in – leading to a reduction in the number of bounced emails and eliminating the need for me to do a deep-dive on Google to find out where someone went.
Microsoft, assuming the purchase is approved, can potentially offer users features that were previously only available to contacts via a costly customer relationship management system (CRM). One of my mantras as an in-house LinkedIn evangelist has long been that the network is a free, relatively sophisticated CRM program. And now, it will be that much easier to use it as such.
Don’t forget the calendar.
I love the calendar in Outlook. In addition to having a robust agency calendar, my personal calendar has all sorts of reminders – “Check In,” “Look For,” and “Due,” are peppered throughout. Again, thinking about the data that we see every day, calendars can be used to track things such as birthdays and when contacts will be on vacation.
With LinkedIn integration, users could add scores of birthdays (often featured on LinkedIn profiles) and create new touch-points based on published updates (e.g. “Offered a Presentation on Effective Negotiation to the State Bar,” “Published an Article on Tax Fraud for Nonprofits,” “Attended the National Bio-Science Industries Conference”).
But wait, there’s more!
After the news of the Microsoft-LinkedIn marriage was announced, NPR ran a story unpacking what it might mean for users. It mentions Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana and quotes Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella:
Just imagine a world where [Cortana] wakes up just before I enter a new meeting with people I’ve never met before.
And thanks to integration with LinkedIn, it can arm you with powerful insights into the individuals with whom you are meeting, Nadella details:
Oh, wow, you went to school with this person, or you worked at the same company. One of your colleagues at my – in your company, in fact, knows this person.
The Microsoft-LinkedIn connection is a good one for users, and it – hopefully – will reduce the number of times I hear, “I don’t see the value of LinkedIn.” With Outlook and Cortana integration, LinkedIn’s depth of knowledge really gets a chance to shine.