This month has been a busy one in the world of social media — particularly within the realm of how social media platforms are delving more deeply into big data and data analytics. Though ad selling does generate a substantial amount of revenue for the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and others, the real money lies in the data.
On April 9, LinkedIn announced their $1.5 billion purchase of Lynda.com, which is being billed as a partnership to offer better services to both Lynda users and LinkedIn users. But that isn’t fooling anybody. These partnerships stand to be immensely lucrative to social media platforms, as companies seek to acquire the data that generates leads and drives sales. Lynda.com is LinkedIn’s largest acquisition so far in its 12 years of operations.
What is Lynda.com?
Lynda was founded by Lynda Weinman and her husband, Bruce Heavin. This website offers video courses on a variety of subjects, including business, technology, software, photography, design, and more. Lynda currently boasts 4 million users, who for just $25 per month can get unlimited access to almost 3,500 courses at a variety of skill levels from novice to advanced taught by “expert instructors”. Lynda.com is accessible by both desktop PCs and mobile devices, meaning students can learn literally anywhere, anytime. Lynda partners with a collection of corporations and schools via subscriptions.
Why Did LinkedIn Purchase Lynda?
What does LinkedIn need with an online school? It’s all about the data. Lynda holds an immense data set on students, in other words: potential buyers of online education, potential job candidates, etc. This data can be used to advertise classes to LinkedIn users, to tip recruiters off to potential job candidates based on the courses users are taking, etc. It’s not a selfish relationship, however. The users benefit from learning about courses and job opportunities available to them, the recruiters get great data on potential job candidates, and LinkedIn cashes in on the value of all that rich data.
The acquisition took the form of both cash buy-in and stocks, and is expected to be finalized this fiscal quarter. Most of Lynda’s employees will become employees of LinkedIn. LinkedIn is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the symbol LNKD.
What’s the Future of Such Acquisitions?
How does this acquisition fit into the bigger picture of big data and social media? Good thing you asked. The real issue is how social media platforms will monetize their products. Until recently, their primary revenue stream was derived from selling advertising to their users (Twitter has just fewer than 3 million, while Facebook boasts almost one and one-quarter billion and LinkedIn lays claim to 350 million users).
The future of social media worth, however, lies in the super jackpot of data they hold. LinkedIn perhaps holds even more potential for B2B marketers than consumer-oriented platforms like Facebook, because it is a business-oriented platform.
Twitter, for example, has aggressively bought up third-party resellers of its data streams (known as the Twitter Firehose), and just recently announced plans to cease its partnerships with Firehose resellers like DataSift and the Japanese Twitter data analytics firm, NTT Data. Twitter, like LinkedIn, sees their potential value going forward as a direct distributor of data rather than just an advertising platform.
What Does this Mean for Data Marketers?
Partnerships and acquisitions like those forged between LinkedIn and Lynda.com are a treasure trove for data marketers. Timely, relevant data on students, their educational and career interests, their completed coursework and other related issues are exactly what is needed to produce better marketing automation efforts, predictive marketing, and analytics and marketing campaigns.
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