Why Branch Out Instead Of Linking In?

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While LinkedIn is at present the most popular social media network for professionals with approximately 135 million users, Facebook’s base of 800 million users seems to offer some potential competition for professional networking. There are already several networking-related applications on Facebook, but none seem to be as powerful as BranchOut for helping you expand your professional network building. I get asked a lot about BranchOut and whether or not it give LinkedIn any serious competition or not, so I thought this was a good time to introduce this to my readers as well as give my opinion for those of you that are already using the application.

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’s sales pitch is “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!” You build your network on your connections and the connections of your connections. If you build your system through your group of friends, then you can expand that to access your friends’ network and their employers as well. Through the system you create, you can endorse people, provide references, post notices, follow companies, and even start your own job board as well. The best thing about BranchOut is that your profile automatically mirrors the information you already have in your Facebook profile such as work history, job positions you held, and even former and current employers, so building your professional profile is a breeze.

Building a network is easy: add your friends, then your friends will add their friends; and you can then add the friends of your friends, and so on. You will see your network grow from a few people to a tens or hundreds of people in no time! Since almost everyone is on Facebook, by establishing a professional presence on BranchOut, you clearly have an edge due to the number of users already on the site. If used intelligently, the potential is there get inside connections to jobs and sales leads that you can never easily find elsewhere.

That being said, does BranchOut really compete with LinkedIn? In social media marketing, I teach my clients that everyone has their own preferred social network, and they use it in their own particular way. For that reason, while these communities don’t really compete with each other (unless you look at ad revenue competition from their owners), I believe BranchOut is a natural complement for those who want to use social media for professional networking:

  • Perhaps someone is on LinkedIn but spends more time on Facebook, where you might be able to access them easier through your BranchOut network
  • Many of your casual friends might not be on LinkedIn. If they are on Facebook and in BranchOut, you can now get access to a very personal network of invaluable connections that might not appear as 2nd degree connections on LinkedIn.
  • Many younger professionals are intimidated by LinkedIn but very active on Facebook. Since the trend is that they are also becoming “friends” with their family, you just never know where their network might lead you

Many others in the blogosphere are more bullish about BranchOut:

Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, stated that BranchOut allowed him to access different companies and find out who among his network of friends works with whom at a particular company. He also added that he would definitely post jobs at BranchOut. Others have said that while LinkedIn has long been the preferred choice for recruiters and job seekers, BranchOut’s social approach might start to usurp LinkedIn’s dominance. The friend-of-a-friend mechanic also makes introductions and personal recommendation between job hunters and job posters easier. In addition, a few commenters in this Quora thread have high hopes for BranchOut. One in particular said that while Facebook has richer content versus LinkedIn since it’s more fun to use. Facebook also reveals a side of a person that’s different from what he or she shows in a professional setting.

LinkedIn research indicates that 85% of employers admit that a positive online reputation influences their decision to hire a potential employee. You can use this to your advantage on Facebook and expand your professional network by using BranchOut. The best part is you can use both of these services together to grow your connections professionally, letting your reach out to more professional opportunities.

There is no competition between BranchOut and LinkedIn: they only complement each other.

Have you used BranchOut? What has your experience been?

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer


Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness & @socialtoolssmmt | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker
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  1. Sharon Hill says

    Comparison of the two is apples to oranges. The job level is much narrower in LinkedIN, and someone just starting out in a field is going to be frustrated there I would think. I talked to folks at Monster / BranchOut and reviewed the product as well, for AIMGroup.com and its Classified Intelligence Report, and have my own profile on BeKnown. Perhaps the best use of BranchOut is to take your Facebook profile off the less-than-professional activity you typically post there and lead them to your professional presence while still taking advantage of the connections you’ve made on Facebook. Of course, BranchOut as well brings in Monster job postings which LinkedIN can’t begin to compete with. But the most important point, and I think the best answer to your intro question is “why not both?” Any job seeker would be foolish to forego one powerful social resource for another. They both should be used well and often. 

    • says

      Agree that they are two different platforms and your question “why not both?” I think they complement each other nicely, and at the end of the day power Facebook users will probably feel more comfortable with BranchOut. This is not putting job feeds into consideration, of course.

  2. says

    From a recruiting standpoint, its much easier to post jobs on BeKnown, it’s free to your own network for 30 days and easy to find on your dashboard. BranchOut requires a monthly subscription to post jobs and search resumes; which may be a good investment in the future, but I think at first it should make its services more accessible before people buy into the idea.

  3. Anonymous says

    Neal – great piece.  I interviewed Mike Del Ponte of BranchOut last year as part of a series on Practical Networking Advice.  I’ve included a link to the video on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mg5RtUnvuls

  4. FarwellKim says

    I’m just trying Branch-Out – subscribed in the last week and sent out requests to hand-full of friends.

    First off, while I like the idea that BO would automatically update from my FB – it actually doesn’t. After I signed up for BO, I changed my city and company on FB but it still shows the old information on BO. I sent in an email asking why this is happening and the instructions they gave back still haven’t resolved the problem. So I’m left with the feeling that I now have another social media network that I need to update, maintain and communicate independently – not in an integrated manner.

    Secondly I’m a person who likes to keep their personal and work life separate, to a certain degree. And to be honest, I feel a bit uncomfortable how BO could really blur this line. When following people via Twitter for business reasons – when some of their tweets are personal (i.e. “heading off to bed now”) for me it lessens the value of what they tweet. I’ve even stopped following people because of this. So it should be interesting to observe how BO evolves and the type of information people put out.

    And lastly, a bit around the second point – some of my friends are just my friends, Love them, always enjoy their company – but I wouldn’t necessarily want to do work with them, or even make a connection for them that is about business. I hear so often about connections that are made through LinkedIn and how more and more people are getting annoyed with this since the relevance is low and the person asking for the connection doesn’t always know their stuff. So you run the risk of it affecting your reputation as well.

    So I agree that BO does complement LI – and only time will tell the value that people will get out of BO and if the desire to maintain yet another profile will be high enough to make it grow.

  5. JasonBee says

    Three words: Postive Online Reputation.

    From whose mind would this emanate? Professional reputation and personal reputations are two different things. Imagine a relative posts something on someone’s FB wall indicating that they owed them 10’000 dollars or they accuse them of some form of harassment or worse. People can have odd, messy lives, while their professional lives remain organized and clear of hassles. Why on earth would you try to mix those together, or even try to use that information as a metric ranking potential hires?

    I don’t mean to harp on the potential issues, but we can either take this as a LinkedIn killer, or a Facebook killer. If they succeed beyond their wildest dreams, then your future employer’s research will include your FB life (people beging to massively sanitize their online presences). If they fail, it’ll mean an exodus from FB to other networks that act a safe harbours, or FB users login less and less or move to using aliases where they can get away with it.

    I see many friends doing the latter as they’ve begun to use FB as a whitewash – one persona that is nice and organized, and tells the story they want to tell, vs the offline persona where they act themselves.

    The recent brouhaha over online tweets about Trayvon Martin, or the racists meanderings people made about the Hunger Games are two examples that come to mind. People tend to filter themselves , or at least try to when within the walls of work. FB is where people go to let loose, an yet some are still being fired for speaking their minds about the workplace they spend their days at. Either Branchout wins and FB loses, or both lose (people could leave both).

    I agree this is all an interesting development…the optimist in me sees these kinds of partnerships as the path towards zero discrimination work and life – everyone starts to loosen their prejudices and see people and potential workmates as humans again. I’m not so sure it’ll go that way when a secretly prejudicial recruiter notices how many non-white friends I have.


  6. says

    Thanks for your thoughtful commentary Jason, and you bring up some interesting points about the general use of Facebook in our society.

    I couldn’t agree with you more about using social media with a “nice” persona. I call it one’s “public persona,” and I come from a generation where you try to avoid putting anything private or that could be considered sensitive up on to the Internet. Facebook, and all of our friends, beckon to us to post things that we might later regret – and unfortunately no one is looking out for us…so it is a matter of self-discipline and changing one’s habits. It really does come down to creating – and maintaining – Positive Online Reputation.

    An employment lawyer on this blog recently wrote about how there are a number of issues that should be preventing employers from using social media to screen clients (http://windmillnetworking.com/2012/04/06/employers-be-cautious-using-social-media-to-screen-job-applicants/). I don’t think this will stop the flow of recruiters viewing our Facebook profiles, but let’s hope that things change for the better from a privacy and discrimination perspective.

    Regardless of these issues, and getting back to BranchOut, I do believe it is a useful tool to be able to see how your friends map out throughout organizations that you might be interested in should you have the need for it.

  7. Kannan says

    I personally don’t share my professional information on Facebook. Also I am not friends with most of my coworkers on Facebook. I like to keep my work life and social life separate, and for that reason prefer LinkedIn over Branchout for maintaining professional connections.

  8. says

    Thanks for the comment, Kannan, and I believe that that is the standard way most are using LinkedIn and Facebook. If that remains the same, I don’t see BranchOut getting much more traction … it will be interesting to see how things develop!

  9. Mandy says

    BranchOut doesn’t let you edit your Education entries. So now I have one degree listed twice. But I’m hopeful BranchOut will lead to a new job for me.

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