Wednesday, February 22, 2012

LinkedIn Competitor Branches Out to 300 Million Users

BranchOut, a professional networking app built on Facebook, said it has 10 million registered users that– through Facebook connections–reach 300 million people on the social network.
While trailing far behind its biggest competitor, LinkedIn, in the number of registered users, BranchOut CEO Rick Marini said the site is now taking advantage of Facebook’s network effect to reach hundreds of millions of users, and double the number of users reached through LinkedIn.
It works like this: If someone signs up for BranchOut, all their Facebook friends are immediately put into the apps’ database. This allows BranchOut members and recruiters access to see connections of 300 million Facebook users. Still, the site only has 10 million people who have actually registered full professional profiles.
In essence, BranchOut has taken a bet, similar to companies like social game maker Zynga, on riding Facebook’s 845 million users rather than build an audience from scratch.
The success of companies like BranchOut is important to Facebook, which bases part of its pitch to potential shareholders in its IPO documents on the idea it can serve as a profitable platform for other companies. For example, Facebook currently takes a 30% cut on what Zynga makes using the site, which now amounts to 12% of Facebook’s total revenue.
Marini said BranchOut, which helps link recruiters and job seekers, has experienced rapid user growth. “It’s a network effect business and once you hit a tipping point, then everybody piles on,” he said.
But Marini admits that although BranchOut has a large number of connections, only about 4 million users come back to the app every month.
“If we’re sending people relevant jobs, that’s going to get people to come on a regular basis,” Marini said.
Recruiters also continue to flock to LinkedIn to find job applicants, and the numbers are growing. Last year, 87% of recruiters used LinkedIn, up from 78% the year before, according to data a survey conducted by social recruiting platform Jobvite.

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