For all of us who use LinkedIn to expand our professional networks, there is a new kid on the block named BranchOut whose membership now numbers ten million registered users. BranchOut is a professional networking app built on Facebook which takes advantage of Facebook’s social network effect to reach hundreds of millions of users and, according to its CEO Rick Marini, double the number of users reached through LinkedIn. The aforementioned ten million registered users have 300 million connections through their Facebook friends.
BranchOut’s app leverages the power of Facebook in the following manner: users signed up to BranchOut automatically have all of their Facebook friends placed into the BranchOut app’s database. This expanded network base has allowed BranchOut members and recruiters access to the connections of the registered users’ 300 million Facebook friends.
BranchOut’s app is brilliant. Instead of building its audience from nothing, it has bypassed the problem altogether by piggy-backing onto Facebook’s 845 million users to quickly build its professional network. Zynga, the social game maker, has used a similar approach to building its membership.
Does Facebook care about the success of companies like BranchOut? It sure does. Just look at Facebook’s much bally-hooed IPO. In its IPO documents, Facebook promoted the idea that it can serve as a successful platform for other companies. As just one example, Facebook takes 30% off of what Zynga makes using Facebook. That amounts to 12% of Facebook’s total revenue. For a company the size of Facebook, that is not exactly chump change.
This does not mean that LinkedIn should be counted out just yet. The number of recruiters using LinkedIn to find job applicants jumped approximately 9% last year alone. LinkedIn believes that it will continue to be a driving force in the professional networking arena because, it believes, most people want to keep their social and professional lives separate. In other words, there is plenty of room for both Facebook and LinkedIn.
BranchOut’s CEO, not surprisingly, contends that this is a non-issue because BranchOut allows Facebook users to keep their social and professional lives separate. Its app allows Facebook users to create a separate professional profile to connect with professional contacts, companies and recruiters.
Only time will tell if BranchOut proves to be a colossus in the professional networking world the way LinkedIn is today.