5 Comments

BranchOut Responds


I recently featured a guest rant from Dutch blogger Marc Drees, entitled “Hey Blodget, you better shut your pie hole.” with apologies to Marc, the title should have concluded “before LinkedIn does it for you!”. The gist of the post was comments on the significant decline in monthly average users of  the Facebook recruiting app BranchOut, during the month of May. Having achieved a figure of over 13Mn users up to the month of April, the decline was almost as quick. numbers from AppData showed a loss of 5.5Mn average monthly users, and the slide was showing no sign of abating. Marc was suggesting that the numbers could fall to zero by mid July. You can read Marcs full post HERE.

In the interests of open conversation, I invited BranchOut to respond with a post of their own presenting their own thoughts on this. I was contacted by Sarah Patterson, the Enterprise Director Of Product Marketing at BranchOut, and after a conversation over what i was looking for, Sarah contributed this post, which sheds some light on their thoughts:

“BranchOut’s top priority is to provide the best experience that ultimately helps our users create and grow their professional networks through Facebook.Companies, regardless of what industry they serve, are lucky if they experience periods of rapid growth. In our case, our growth was fueled by broad mobile adoption and from a diversity of international markets given key overseas partnerships. BranchOut quickly grew to more than 25 million registered users by this spring, as people discovered the value in having a strong professional presence on Facebook. By the end of April, we had 13.9 million monthly active users and over one million daily active users according to the appdata.comfigures.We are the first to recognize that all companies experience cycles of growth, which often will ebb and flow. But at BranchOut, we concentrate on long-term value. Specifically, we want to provide the best experience for people to build their professional network on Facebook. During periods of growth, start-up companies need to make choices on where to allocate limited resources. While this rapid growth certainly caught the attention of those within the professional networking industry, adding a significant volume of active users to BranchOut strained our resources. This strain meant our team needed to focus on scaling BranchOut to ensure we continued to provide an ideal user experience. As this growth plateaued, we saw an opportunity to shift our focus to build an even more engaging experience for our 25 million, and growing, professional users to network and find new business opportunities.

As an app developer, we have a huge opportunity to build our product on a platform of more than 900 million people on Facebook. We’re able to adapt the BranchOut experience quickly, and remain committed as we move forward to introduce changes based on feedback from our loyal users.

At BranchOut, our mission is to positively affect the trajectory of people’s lives by enabling them to network and job hunt in a safe and secure professional environment. Startups are a rollercoaster ride, and it can be mirrored by the highs and lows of our user growth. At the end of the day, our priority is on providing a great experience for our users – that’s never going to change.”

You can interpret that as you see it. Reading between the lines it looks like BranchOut were as surprised by all of us in the meteoric rise in monthly users. It may be that the platform couldn’t support the sudden hike, or it may be that the ease of inviting 50 people at once by mobile and other means provided a hike that no one could have predicted or expected, as has been suggested elsewhere, perhaps it was just too easy to invite and accept without any real interest in the platform.
I have been following the numbers closely to see how they are changing each day. As of today, the average monthly users stand at 4.5Mn. Thats a drop of 2Mn over the last 7 days. Interestingly,  daily average users reverses the decline, standing today at 120,000, a rise of 20,000 today and 10,000 over the last week. This figure has remained fairly consistent over the last few weeks. The drop in monthly average users and daily average users also shows growth, rising from its lowest point of 1.5% on the 31’st May, back to just over 3% and rising. These 2 numbers should be encouraging for the business, and suggest the free-fall could be over and is now bottoming out. It will be interesting to see how the numbers change over the next few weeks. My feeling is that this is probably the realistic position for the platform, and averages will rise to 5%, with the daily average users remaining around 130,000, with a slower decline on the monthly figure to around 3.8Mn. Taken in context, that is not bad numbers for the start-up, if we ignore the previous growth. Lets all watch closely to see if this is the real position for BranchOut, and what the promised improvements for users might be. The long term test will be if the lost users are willing to return albeit at a slower pace. That said, with a one time high of  25Mn users, that still leaves a massive number who could be convinced in the future. If I was BranchOut, I’d be looking to change the way invites go out in batches with one click, and perhaps ask new users to do a bit more, just to get the commitment. I wish them well in their endeavors.
Bill

5 comments on “BranchOut Responds

  1. […] een hilarisch stukje nietszeggendheid verwijs ik graag ook nog even naar de ‘reactie’ van BranchOut op mijn artikel op het weblog van […]

  2. I have two main issues with BranchOut and to me those issues amount to BranchOut being unable to deliver on its central value proposition which renders the service, for me and for many others, next to useless.

    Issue 1. In BranchOut’s most recent update they stripped out core functionality, like an easy way to check the size of your extended network and even removing the ability to post a status update.

    Issue 2. One of the much heralded advantages of BranchOut has been it’s ability to give it’s users a way to scale their networks massively because every time you connect to someone you gain the ability to see, search, and potentially, connect with their extended network; their extended network being their BranchOut connections PLUS their Facebook friends. In my experience this just isn’t true, it doesn’t work and I’d like to illustrate with an example.

    If I do a search on BranchOut for ‘Ritz Carlton” it returns a total of 4,131 results. Of that 4,131 I have 181 1st degree connections. Now on any other network that would add thousands of 2nd degree connections in that company to my extended network wouldn’t it Bill? Well on BranchOut it gets me a grand total of only 216. On XING I have about 40 Ritz Carlton 1sd degree connections and they yield me over 600 2nd degree connections and XING is a lot smaller than BranchOut. Anyway, lets dive a little bit further into that search result again.

    BranchOut returned a total of 4,131 on the search “Ritz Carlton” and we know BranchOut’s big strength is its ability to discover its members Friends on Facebook and include them as 2nd degree connections so let’s check how many of those 4,131 are NOT BranchOut members but have rather been discovered via BranchOut’s ability to leverage being built upon FaceBook. The answer: 96!!! Yup of the grand total of 4131 returned in the search “Ritz Carlton” a staggering 4,035 are BranchOut members while only 96 are non members. If BranchOut really can and does leverage FaceBooks social graph then what’s going on here? Also how can it be that I have over 14K first degree connections but, last time I checked, only about 33K total network size i.e. 1st degree connections + 2nd degree connections? I’ve asked BranchOut these questions countless times and have yet to receive an answer which passes the laughter test.

    Bill that last search scenario isn’t an isolated result I have replicated that type of test dozens of times over with identically disappointing results. There are crippling technical problems with the platform in my experience and attempting to get satisfaction from dealing with the “support” is a pursuit I’d recommend only to masochists as their default position is to blame your browser, your ISP, your computer etc etc.

    The BranchOut idea is fantastic but the execution is shocking. The VCs who pumped in $49 million need to schedule a few meetings and fast if course correction is to be done on time. Sarah Patterson seems to be pitching us on the idea, all of a sudden, that we’re only little ol BranchOut, but the fact is that BranchOut is two years on the go and has sucked up $49 million of other peoples money. It’s about time it grew up and started delivering.

    In summary I happen to agree with both you and Marc Drees. I agree with you that BranchOut’s slide into the abyss will be checked and stabilize, it’s not going to hit zero but I certainly agree with Marc when he says “… it is possibly not too late to start focusing on bringing actual value to registered users instead of focusing on media appearances. The $49 million in funding can be put to use to build something useful instead of daydreaming about an IPO and cashing in big. It requires real work, focus, and total user centricity. Then and only then is there a slim chance that BranchOut can become something of a LinkedIn challenger. Now it’s just a loudmouth brat with nothing to show for. There is still time to avoid the Deathpool, but time is running out fast.”

  3. David,
    I’m with you on the features, and the loss of useful features. I’m not an agent of BranchOut. like you, I’m more interested in the potential of building on the Facebook social graph. I don’t see branchOut as a rival to LinkedIn. Different channel, different purpose.If you ever want to guest blog on the topic to continue this discussion, be glad to host you.
    Bill

  4. Thanks Bill, I just might take you up on that offer. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve worked BranchOut to within an inch of it’s life in an attempt to extract value so I know it inside out.
    I too see it as an alternative to LinkedIn (or XING and VIADEO). I’ve developed quite high octane networks, in my field (Chefs) on both XING and VIADEO but when I breakdown those networks I find that my connections are all very high level.

    This is great is I’m getting loads of assignments for Head, or Executive, Chefs for Five Star Deluxe properties, or Michelin Star Restaurants every week, but I’m not (when they do come more frequently I’ll be ready though, that’s for sure). In theory BranchOut offers a means to find and connect with all those other positions, which I’m asked to fill all the time, I can’t get to on those networks. Hense my disappointment in their delivery. I probably will take you up on that offer Bill because I have thought of writing about it on my own blog but decided against it because it would be a bit “off brand.”

  5. […] I am not going to talk about apps like BranchOut, as my own usage as well as others reveals that search results are largely restricted to BranchOut users on Facebook, which represents an infinitesimal fraction of all Facebook […]

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