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?