You’ve probably heard of LinkedIn—with nearly 150 million members worldwide, LinkedIn has established itself as a useful professional networking tool. So far, LinkedIn leads the industry in business social networking. However, Facebook is trying to give LinkedIn some competition recently with its network BranchOut, whose membership has doubled in the last month and has about 10.9 million monthly active users. According to BranchOut, if you factor in the friends and connections of those 10.9 million monthly users, the network has the potential to reach over 300 million people. That amounts to about 36% of all Facebook users worldwide and gives recruiters and businesses a huge opportunity to access the talent pool.
How It Works:
When a person signs up to use BranchOut, all of his or her Facebook friends are immediately put into the app’s database and sorted by high school, college, and employers (past and present.) This allows BranchOut members and recruiters to see the connections of hundreds of millions of Facebook users even though only 10 million users have full professional profiles. The service imports all of your work and education history from your Facebook profile but not all of your other personal information. BranchOut imports and analyzes the data of all of your friends to create a network of first degree connections. The first degree of separation data is extensive, assuming you have hundreds of friends, but where the network effect kicks in is at the second degree, where you can see the thousands of companies where the friends of your friends work.
Keeping work and play separate:
Off the bat, people assume that they would need to be friends with their bosses and coworkers in order to optimize their BranchOut experience. Not so; BranchOut allows users to create a separate professional profile where they can connect with work contacts, companies and job recruiters. Thus, your not-so-PC photos from college are safe from corporate snooping.
Why it’s succeeding:
BranchOut is built on the notion that people who lose their jobs turn to their existing connections for help—friends, family, and close relationships. Similar to the way LinkedIn allows users to request an introduction, BranchOut allows users to request referrals from their friends. Facebook messaging is not as cluttered as traditional email inboxes and thus connections are expected to work better and happen faster.
What kind of employers/job hunters are using the site?
The top 5 categories where job seekers and employers are connecting are high tech, medical professionals, education, media, and consulting, and BranchOut claims to have a much broader array of fields represented among Facebook networks than on LinkedIn. For example, JCPenney says it’s hard to find local Santas during the holiday season. On BranchOut, there are currently 160 Santas available for hire!
We will definitely keep an eye on this rapidly growing network and its usefulness for brands. Have you created a profile on BranchOut? Would you consider using your Facebook friends for professional referrals?