BranchOut: When Business Gets Personal

The excitement of logging on to Facebook to find new notifications has been marred recently with the rise in popularity of BranchOut the “#1 professional network on Facebook.” The company’s founders believe that the vast size of the social network’s userbase, including a large percentage of members under the age of 40, primes their application for success. The similarities in functionality with the net’s most prolific professional network, LinkedIn are obvious, but there are several reasons why Branchout may be destined for failure, the less desirable choice for job providers and job seekers alike.

LinkedIn is not at all worried about BranchOut’s growing influence. A recent Neilsen social media survey shows that people with advanced degrees are more than three times more likely to use LinkedIn. BranchOut thus far seems to lack appeal for such desirable users. LinkedIn’s distinct advantage is the comfort felt by its more than 70 million registered users revealing business affiliations and posting and responding to jobs. Facebook has garnered a reputation for sharing private information, which may be a strong deterrent to potential users.

Struggling to attract these influencers, the most difficult hurdle facing BranchOut is the quality of the prospective user base. For most users, relationships with Facebook ‘friends’ have little or nothing to do with a career field, nor do a significant number of relationships within that network have anything of value to offer. The Neilsen research also shows LinkedIn’s userbase as comprised largely of more seasoned professionals, aged 40 and up with 20+ years of experience. When it comes to introductions, networking, and ultimately job offers, these individuals, not the teenagers perusing menial status updates, are the real target.

While the immense power of Facebook, evidenced by widespread speculation about a forthcoming IPO, is largely undisputed, there is no precedent indicating how a network of this scale will behave. The going approaching this milestone will be rocky for BranchOut in terms of adoption and effectiveness. For LinkedIn users, the multiple daily requests popping up urging them to join the growing masses will continue to be politely declined.