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