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.