(This article originally appeared in Forbes)
When Microsoft first purchased the professional social media site LinkedIn back in 2016 I remember the excitement amongst my Microsoft Dynamics clients. LinkedIn was, and still is, the holy grail of social networking in the business world. It’s basically a giant customer relationship management (CRM) database of business professionals that not only includes vital demographic information about these people (marketers love this) but the ability to communicate with anyone both in and out of your network.
Expectations were high back then. Many people I know were hoping that Microsoft would basically turn LinkedIn into another CRM offering and build deep integration with its existing CRM applications so that users could access its treasure trove of data and leverage it for prospecting, sales and marketing.
Well, it’s been almost five years and guess what? That didn’t happen. For now, Microsoft Dynamics and LinkedIn are still separate, mostly-independent entities.
There is a LinkedIn for Microsoft Dynamics CRM application that will allow users who own both Microsoft Dynamics and LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator application to view LinkedIn information about leads, contacts, accounts, and opportunities directly in Microsoft Dynamics. The company touts this as a benefit because it avoids having to “switch between multiple tabs and browsers to gather key profile, connection, and activity information about your leads and accounts.”
But that’s not such a big benefit. Any CRM user can already easily switch between browser windows. There are also plenty of tools available – such as Zapier and Workato – that will scrape individual data from LinkedIn and bring it into another CRM database. And although the Microsoft integration will allow users to send messages directly from Dynamics it’s really just providing a quicker access to LinkedIn’s already built-in messaging features.
What’s missing is the data. The history of employment. The prior activities and messaging. The contact information. The connections. This is the golden information that I want to bring into Dynamics so that I can source prospects and then reach out to them. I want all of my activities with a LinkedIn connection to physically be in my CRM database. I want to get all those people who I don’t know (prospects) but are connected to people I do know into my database. I then want to be able to share all of this information with my team. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Why?
Because Microsoft knows that giving its Dynamics users too much access to LinkedIn is going to ruin LinkedIn. Right now I like LinkedIn because it’s mostly devoid of ads and spam. True, I do get unsolicited messages from consultants, business coaches and experts promising to “grow my profits” or asking for a chance to “connect and discuss mutual opportunities.” And yes, there are ads. But the company has done a good job at keeping these things in check and right now those messages aren’t too intrusive. Once the site turns into a free-for-all marketing and advertising circus because its data has been opened to CRM users many of its members – like me – would likely depart it for something else. And there will go the value of LinkedIn.
“We have a members-first approach,” LinkedIn Executive Chairman Jeff Weiner told CNBC at the end of 2019. “So it’s all about making sure we’re maintaining the trust of our membership. Microsoft has a very similar ethos with regard to how they secure the data of their customers, and just being very thoughtful in terms of the right way to roll this out and make sure that we create the right experience.”
So if you’re hoping for a deep integration with LinkedIn where troves of data can be dumped into your company’s database, you’re going to be disappointed. For now, Microsoft seems to be prioritizing LinkedIn’s learning and recruiting features. There will certainly be more integration in the future with other Microsoft products like Office, Teams and certain Windows applications. But when it comes to Dynamics and other CRM offerings, I don’t see much changing on the horizon, other than what’s available right now.