Identified Hits 1.5M Active Users, 202M Profiles, But Can It Beat BranchOut (Or LinkedIn)?

The professional networking space has been heating up over the last few years, with a number of players vying for control of our digital resumes, job and employment searches, and career buildings. For all intents and purposes, LinkedIn controls the mindshare, but a couple of newcomers are beginning to give the leader a run for its money. The first is BranchOut, the professional networking service built on top of Facebook, which, like everything Facebook, has been growing like gangbusters since its inception in 2010.

Then there’s San Francisco-based, a professed “data and analytics company” that developed its eponymous “Identified Score” to measure how “in demand” users’ professional backgrounds are to companies — in near realtime. Of course, both companies have a long way to go before they catch up to LinkedIn, which, going on Q4 numbers has a membership of 150 million-plus registered users. (Not to mention that Viadeo has over 40 million.)

LinkedIn, though, has been the prime mover and professional networking platform of record, surprising many with its continuing, steady growth (and beating Wall Street’s expectations) as a public company.

Of course, in comparison, BranchOut has the benefit of the behemoth that is the 850 million-strong Facebook network to help bring to its professional networking service to the masses (now at 300 million profiles and 10 million registered users). But Identified Co-founder Brendan Wallace is asking questions: Do we really want to use Facebook for professional networking? Do Facebook profiles make for good resumes? According to Wallace, only 8 percent of Facebook profiles have enough information to make them valuable sources of recruitment.

Using Facebook profiles as a launchpad is important, but the Identified Co-founder wants to leverage Facebook data to turn its profiles into more complete professional profiles by adding the educational, employment, and demographic data Facebook is inherently missing. By using Facebook Connect, Identified has been scaling its own roster of profiles very quickly.

The co-founder says that the startup’s database has been growing at three to five percent per day and is doubling in size every three weeks (and they will soon be growing their staff from 35 to 65), today standing at about 180+ million profiles. Of course, it’s one thing to pull Facebook metadata and turn those into Identified professional profiles that are largely static, it’s another to be drawing active, engaged users — these users have to be adding the kind of educational, employment, and demographic data that turns them into something more.

While still small compared to LinkedIn and now even BranchOut standards, Identified today claims to have 1.5 million+ active users. Which, in contrast, is something considering the startup launched 5 months ago.

What’s also of note? Competitive interest. Wallace says that the company has seen more than a few LinkedIn employees sign up for and become active on the site. In fact, according to its data, 165 LinkedIn employees have logged into Identified and created profiles in the last 30-days (81 in the last week). This includes Founder Reid Hoffman, CEO Jeff Weiner, and Steve Cadigan, Head of Talent. UPDATE: LinkedIn has since told us that these individuals haven’t logged into Identified in the last 30 days. Clearly, there’s something fishy going on here, and we’re looking into it.

For the uninitiated, Identified analyzes the work history, education, and demographic data of Facebook users, tracking the hiring behaviors of a slew of companies to measure what’s currently “in demand” through its ranking system, which gives a unique score to every user based on how appealing their metaprofile will be to employers.

It can be reductive in a way familiar to Klout, but the intent is to bring an element of gamification to the site, allowing people to pit themselves against their friends to become the top ranked engineer or blogger in their respective categories, for example. That’s how they encourage people to come to Identified and get excited about maintaining their profiles, adding data, and using it as a true hiring platform.

The reason they’re porting Facebook profiles to their own database (Identified is going to continue until they have all 850+ million, by the way): Again, Facebook is one of the biggest platforms in the world, period, but obviously in terms of professional information, it’s still pretty shallow. It has the largest professional network (in terms of ported profiles), thanks to BranchOut, but most people don’t like the possibility of marketers and employers looking at their information on Facebook, seeing what they’re sharing among friends, etc. Some feel that the two are too intricately connected.

So, while the metadata from Facebook becomes a great foundation for professional information, taking care of the basic stuff, but it doesn’t approximate a resume. Along with accessibility through Facebook’s API, the reason that Identified wanted to start with Facebook, says the co-founder, is that Facebook “had the millennials.” LinkedIn’s professional network tends to have a higher average age (for users), and Wallace said that he wants to go after the young professionals, which, on average, have far more connections and are more diligent about forging those connections than older users.

Of course, while Identified would like to compete toe-to-toe with LinkedIn, it doesn’t want to go too far. Because this business, really the consumer web, is all about data, and LinkedIn has a large and very valuable data set. If Identified is able to gain access to LinkedIn’s data in the same way it has for Facebook, its own resource will increase exponentially in value. Of course, it may have a difficult time convincing LinkedIn that this is a good idea. LinkedIn did just acquire Rapportive … acquisition material, anyone? Better that than stealing more of your employees.

Really, to continue its growth and become an actual competitor, Identified has to provide that extra context around user profiles, and enable users to get feedback from employers on what they’re looking for, and what they think of their profiles. The gamification layer has to go above and beyond the other two, so that engagement stays high, and young people continue competing with their friends to improve their professional footprint, and perceived virtual reputation. Again, it’s a fine line to walk, but certainly possible, and it’s off to a pretty good start 5 months into the race.

For more, check out the company at home here.