by David Graham
To date, LinkedIn  has been the social network of choice for business professionals. According to Socialbakers , there are 1 575 842 registered LinkedIn users in South Africa. If you compare this with the 4 745 920 registered Facebook users in South Africa, should LinkedIn take the new kid on the block, BranchOut , seriously?
BranchOut is a Facebook app which enables users to present their résumé (current job, work history, summary, specialities and endorsements) and form connections with Facebook users, using name or company as search criteria. In addition, you may also request introductions through existing connections.
For those of you not familiar with it, BranchOut, in essence, is a networking application that uses information from your Facebook friends that are already on the application to help make introductions to others in companies that you might be interested in. Since it’s built on top of Facebook, BranchOut is sitting on top of a potential gold mine of professional connections, utilizing the site’s extensive user base. This is what the developers of BranchOut foresaw and this is why this late bloomer is often considered a threat to LinkedIn. Add to the fact that people spend more time on Facebook  than anywhere else, so it makes more sense for some people to use BranchOut rather than LinkedIn.
BranchOut is extremely user friendly, has great features and functions and provides access to a much larger user base than LinkedIn, but here are some considerations:
BranchOut very clearly positions itself as a tool which enables users to:
- Discover where your friends work
- Find connections at top companies
- Post jobs to the BranchOut network
- Post jobs to your Facebook page
Apart from being able to showcase your professional qualifications and work history, ask for and provide endorsements, find jobs, post jobs and grow your network, this is where it ends.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, provides all the above and more importantly, provides a range of features and functions that cater specifically for businessmen in order to make their jobs easier. These include access to the likes of the e-Bookshelf  with rich business content across all business disciplines and industries, LinkedIn Today , which pushes recent articles from all the top business publishers across a range of industries (eg. Wall Street Journal, CNN, Harvard Business Review, Business Week, CIO.com), Answers  (where you can pose questions or respond to questions that have been asked) and the extensive LinkedIn groups  where like-minded professionals can have discussions, post jobs and do promotions.
While BranchOut may have the upper-hand in terms of pure numbers, you would need to have a closer look at the demographic on Facebook and LinkedIn and the propensity for people to want to move from LinkedIn to Facebook. In terms of my B2B social media marketing role, most of the business decision makers I want to connect with do not go anywhere near Facebook. For those that do use Facebook they have indicated quite clearly that Facebook is reserved for family and friends.
I predict that LinkedIn will to continue to flourish and that, at best, users will use both applications. Afterall LinkedIn can pride itself on the fact that it developed its social network specifically for business professionals and that it’s not attempting to be everything for everybody.
The Skills feature of a LinkedIn profile is one of the most often overlooked features, but one that is critical to anyone leveraging LinkedIn to develop a social network or look for a job. In addition to listing your education and experience, the skills section can help your profile by adding tags that ensure your profile is more attractive to search engines and easier to locate for those using the LinkedIn search. The Skills feature let’s you select up to 50 different tags that describe your skill sets and experiences.The program is still in beta, but it’s definitely worth the five minutes it takes to set them up.
To add skills to your profile, follow these steps:
1) Log in to LinkedIn
2) Visit the beta page for the Skills feature athttp://www.linkedin.com/skills/your_skills
3) Search for, and add up to 50 different skills to your profile. Note that when you find a specific skill, related skills are listed on the right side of the page. So if you search for”social media” as a skill, you will also see related skills like blog, blogging, blogger relations, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
4) Once you have added the appropriate skills, you can then view your profile and they should be listed just below the “Experience” section and just above “Publications” (if you have publications).
By Sean R. Nicholson
With the addition of two new features announced last week, business owners can now find even more ways to take advantage of the marketing prowess of LinkedIn.
The first of the new features is LinkedIn Targeted Updates. This gives you the ability to target status updates to followers based on criteria like industry, job function, company size, etc. Similar to the way you can target Facebook updates to certain Lists or by demographic, now you can do the same on LinkedIn. This is particlarly helpful if you are a consultant trying to increase your client base in a certain industry.
The other new feature is called Follower Statistics, which will provide detailed information about your follower base. For example, through the self-service dashboard you’ll have access to stats about demographic information, engagement, comments, follower counts, shares, etc.
The new tools mentioned above will no doubt be welcomed by companies who use LinkedIn to build relationships, create new partnership, and even to scout for employees. If you’re not sure why someone might be looking to interact with you on a business network, consider this:
- They’re looking for partnership/vendor opportunities. By “getting to know” you first via LinkedIn, it gives them the chance to make sure your values align.
- They’re keeping an eye out for future employee opportunities.
- Because you’re an expert in an area that they’re not (yet), but that is useful to them. They follow you for the knowledge transfer.
- Because they work for a company that sells to companies like yours and this is a way into understanding your company’s thinking.
- You answered their question on LinkedIn Answers & now they trust your view of the world.
- They’re focused on connecting with companies for business, but don’t want the social updates more common to Facebook and Twitter.
People follow you on LinkedIn when they’re interested in your business and when they’re interested in doing business with your business. This is what you need to be thinking about developing your LinkedIn profile. These are the people watching. What benefits is your LinkedIn profile giving them?