By Jeff Wilson, APR (@wilson0507)
It seems that every few months there is a new social media darling that becomes all the rage. Right now, it’s Google+. While folks are starting to set up Google+ “circles,” there has been another social media player that has stealthily been invading my Facebook newsfeed.
Slowly and steadily many of my Facebook friends have begun asking me to BranchOut. Launched about a year ago, BranchOut is a professional social network that allows you to find jobs through your friends on Facebook.
“BranchOut’s Facebook app lets you search for companies and then shows you all your friends who either work there or know somebody who does. The application does what LinkedIn hasn’t done with Facebook – it unlocks the massive amounts of career data about your social graph on the world’s largest social network that was just impossible to get to before,” according to TechCruch.
But does BranchOut have the muscle to take on Linkedin – with its 100 million users – and make a name for itself in a crowded social media landscape?
Several investors seem to think so.
BranchOut recently raised $18 million in Series B funding led by Redpoint Ventures with Accel Partners, Norwest Venture Partners and Floodgate also participating in the round. This investment brings BranchOut’s total funding to $24 million.
If You Build It, They Will Come
But it’s not just investors flocking to BranchOut. It now has more than 3 million jobs listing, including 20,000 internship opportunities, and 3 million users, according to Rick Marini, founder and CEO of BranchOut.
But long term, the verdict is still out on whether people will want to mix their business and personal networks.
“If BranchOut can overcome this concern, it could become a viable alternative for those who are comfortable using Facebook for professional networking or don’t want to build a new professional network on LinkedIn,” reports Forbes.
And don’t think LinkedIn is taking this new threat lightly. Once, LinkedIn was criticized for being too static. For most users – like me – it was a place to maintain a resume and view other users’ resumes. But that was it.
But the company extended its offerings to better engage its users, most notably with the runaway success of LinkedIn Groups in August 2008 and more recently the launch of LinkedIn Daily in March of this year. The user base interacts more frequently on LinkedIn now, reports ere.net.
LinkedIn is so confident in its future, that it launched an initial public offering (IPO) in mid-May, where its shares jumped 80 percent. So far, so good. It’s stock was trading at $95.52 yesterday.
Besides trying to take on the well-established LinkedIn, another issue that BranchOut – and all the other new social networks face – may be “social media fatigue” from users. Personally, it can get pretty time-consuming having to update my status and create posts on so many different platforms.
Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. YouTube. Foursquare. Now Google+. The list goes on and on. Do we have time for BranchOut, too?
Marini is optimistic.
“LinkedIn is a great service. [BrandOut is] addressing a different market. LinkedIn tends to have the top 10 percent, white collar, managerial roles. We’re trying to address everyone else. The other 90 percent. The college students. The hourly and temporary workers. Nurses. Teachers. Fireman. Military coming back and getting into the workforce,” Marini told ABC News. “We’re trying to address a market that really has never been spoken to before. All of these users aren’t on LinkedIn. They’re on Facebook. And we have the ability to give them a professional voice on Facebook.”
In the end, BranchOut isn’t focusing on fun and games. It’s about networking and getting jobs. And in this economy, that might just be the hook to make it a hit.