Though smaller than LinkedIn, BranchOut is growing fast and positioned to become a major player among professional networking platforms.
With 25 million users (versus 150 million for LinkedIn) it might be easy to dismiss this relative newcomer as a lightweight. In reality, since it rides on top of Facebook, it could pick up vast quantities of new users in a heartbeat. BranchOut is raising money hand over fist, too, with a recent addition of $25 million in Series C funding according to BusinessInsider. The company introduces itself as “The #1 professional network on Facebook” and promotes job search, getting introduced and recruiting as its major selling points. Clearly, LinkedIn is in its crosshairs. Rick Marini, the company’s founder and CEO explains the positioning relative to LinkedIn this way in an article on TechCrunch:
“LinkedIn is a great company, and I think they do a really good job of addressing the ten percent of the global workforce that are white-collar executives. And we, of course, address that market as well. But if you think about the other 90 percent, these are the people on Facebook. So it’s anywhere from a recent college grad, maybe returning military [personnel], cashiers, customer service, all the way up to accountants, software engineers and CEOs. All of those people are on Facebook, and what we’ve done is finally given all of those people a professional identity for the first time.”
What’s in it for you? Well, finding a job, creating a professional network and recruiting new employees for starters. The main difference between BranchOut and other networking sites is that since it’s a Facebook-based application, your network is pre-built with all of your Facebook friends as connections. When you search for a company, BranchOut shows you which friends and friends of friends work there. It can be a great way to begin a job search through a person rather than hitting the personnel department as a total stranger.
Other distinguishing factors are the amount of activity on their mobile application (45% of visits) and the substantial influx of international users (half of new members). They have also launched a partnership with CareerBuilder, so when you find a job you’re interested in on that site you can use BranchOut to see who you may know at the hiring company. Finally, there’s a Recruiter Connect application to help hiring organizations source the right talent.
There are numerous ways to find a job or someone to fill one online today. If you’re among those who spend a lot of time on Facebook, have a zillion “friends” or simply feel more comfortable there than on LinkedIn you may want to give BranchOut a whirl. I’d suggest doing so rather quickly for a chance to get the experience before Facebook or LinkedIn buys the networking upstart. Neither has announced an intention to do so, but it seems like something that could conceivably happen soon.