LinkedIn is the most widely used business networking site on the planet with more than 433 million worldwide users, including 128 million in the United States. The platform was launched on May 5, 2003 in the living room of co-founder, Reid Hoffman. By the end of its first month it had 4,500 users. Today, LinkedIn reaches more than 200 countries, adds more than two users per second, has 100 million unique visitors a month and 57 percent of companies hire from LinkedIn in the U.S.
LinkedIn is a platform for businesses and organizations to find suppliers, customers, investors, post jobs and look for potential employees and board members. For individuals, it’s a place to network, find potential employers and find a job. It has one of the largest blogging platforms, “Pulse,” on earth. They are so large we can call it “game over” for any social network that would want to compete with LinkedIn.
Well, not so fast. There are some troubles in LinkedIn land.
There are many complaints over how difficult the platform is to use and search for things. Users complain they have no clue how to set up their profile, how to make it look attractive or how to get noticed by employers. There are seemingly secret algorithms (a la Facebook) at work which make some posts and people more visible. Speak to most regular users and they will immediately start cursing if you mention the LinkedIn messaging system -- which seems to be borrowed from AOL, circa 1999. Their mobile app is well known for sucking (the Pulse app gets 2 out of 5 stars in the App Store) and in fact they have at least 10 different mobile apps. Yikes!
For those that use the LinkedIn blogging platform, Pulse, you will hear cries about how no one sees their posts (that darned algorithm thing again). Many top bloggers were invited to contribute to the platform in early 2014. LinkedIn promised them that the connections they were building would be notified when they post a blog. For a while that was true. Then, without notice, LinkedIn stopped notifying a writer’s entire network when they publish. LinkedIn’s Executive Editor, Daniel Roth, announced the change in a blog post early this year. Now, only a small portion of a writer’s connections are notified when they publish. This not-so-subtle change has had a huge negative impact on views and engagement for independent writers.
Yet somehow, the ones they call “Influencers” get thousands of views. And of course no one seems to know how to become an Influencer. One insider told me, if you are the president or dictator of a major country (emphasis on major) you will be considered.
To make it all seem so much worse, users and companies have to pay to access many extra features in LinkedIn, including the ability for the folks to get their profiles to the top of job requests they apply for. The price for these features seems to be going up each year too. It appears LinkedIn has become too big to even know these issues exist. But that’s to be expected when there is no competition to keep them in check. No competition until now, that is.
Madrid-based beBee has attracted more than 10 million users in its first year and has more than doubled its user base in the past six months. With 4.5 million users in Spain (compared to LinkedIn’s 8 million) and 3.6 million users in South America, the start-up platform is creating some buzz in the United States and is on target to add 40,000 new users each day in the U.S. by the end of this year.
What sets beBee apart from other networking sites is that it builds business relationships, not just contacts, by connecting people based on their shared interests or hobbies. This platform allows a user to display their personal brand in addition to their professional profile. Thus potential employers have an opportunity to see the whole person -- not just a digitized representation of their resume. It also connects users not only on profession and skill set, but also based on mutual interests. This sharing of common personal and professional experiences with others (i.e. “engineers who are into running, or marketing directors who are into photography”) -- what beBee calls “affinity marketing” -- allows for relationships to be developed rather than just adding layers of connections.
beBee was founded a little over a year ago by Javier Cãmara and Juan Imaz, a pair of digital marketing experts who have enjoyed great success on the net with Mixmail, the first free email based website in Spanish which was sold to Ya.com (currently Orange); and the email marketing company Canalmail, which they sold in 2008 for $66 million.
“Being able to interact with people one does not know but who have the same interests is something new and it works,” said Cãmara, who along with Imaz invested $11 million to create and launch the social network in February 2015.
User groups, called Hives, which can be created by any user to allow posts in group with a specific interest like marketing, accounting, finance, health care, photography, etc. beBee has a more robust and fair blogging platform than LinkedIn, allowing users to find and display content that is actually relevant to them. And their mobile app (only one) is lightweight, user friendly and works well.
beBee is also appealing to younger audiences, which are used to living their lives online, and more than half of users to date (55 percent) are women. beBee is completely free to use for individuals looking to find jobs and organizations looking to hire top candidates. And their business model is to always be free to everyone.
beBee’s goal is to exceed 40 million users by 2017. That will make beBee about 10 percent as big as LinkedIn. So the competition has begun. Will LinkedIn take notice and get better? It may soon not matter because beBee is buzzing in to save the day.