Guest post by Mike Del Ponte, BranchOut Marketing Manager
In July 2010, San Francisco based entrepreneur Rick Marini got a call from a friend who was looking for a sales lead at a particular company. Marini thought he knew someone at that company, but he couldn’t remember exactly who it was. He tried searching for the company on facebook; however, facebook did not provide this kind of search. Marini had one of his engineers build the functionality he desired. When he saw the results, Marini immediately recognized the potential of using facebook for professional networking and BranchOut was born.
BranchOut leverages the social connections of facebook’s nearly 700 million users to provide unprecedented reach to job seekers, recruiters, and sales people. In addition to general information about people and businesses, facebook offers social insights, such as a former colleague’s recommendation for a job candidate or crowdsourced evaluations of a company’s office culture. On the back of facebook’s infrastructure, Branchout has enjoyed explosive user growth:
- Facebook usage has increased, while privacy concerns have decreased: The average facebook user spends 7.5 hours on the site, and over 57% of users (i.e., almost 350 million people) log into facebook daily. While these numbers point to facebook’s ability to build an addictive product, they are also related to an important shift in user attitudes and behaviors. Namely, users are less concerned about privacy than they were in the past. A key reason for this is that users now have more power to control who can see their personal information on facebook. BranchOut adds to this control by offering a professional profile. For example, if your boss wants to keep in touch, he can be your BranchOut connection on the facebook platform without having access to your personal facebook profile.
- A next wave of big companies on facebook will be utilities: Social gaming was the first category to take off on facebook. Today, people no longer see facebook as all fun and games. Users want to do other business on the facebook platform. This is partly because it is convenient, but also because the facebook friend graph adds a social element to activities, ranging from shopping to dating to professional services.
- Gamification drives growth and incentivizes good behavior: Gamification describes the use of game mechanics for non-game activities like how credit card companies use rewards programs to change consumer behaviors. BranchOut has incorporated skill-based badges, a leader board showing how connected you are, career quizzes, and a contest that helps students land internships at Google, facebook, Nike, and other top companies. By pairing gamification with facebook’s viral channels, BranchOut has found a way to grow its network while adding value to its users.