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Is BranchOut the new LinkedIn?

To date, LinkedIn has been the social network of choice for business professionals. According to Socialbakers, there are 1 575 842 registered LinkedIn users in South Africa. If you compare this with the 4 745 920 registered Facebook users in South Africa, should LinkedIn take the new kid on the block, BranchOut, seriously?

BranchOut is a Facebook app which enables users to present their résumé (current job, work history, summary, specialities and endorsements) and form connections with Facebook users, using name or company as search criteria. In addition, you may also request introductions through existing connections.

Neal Schaffer of Windmill Networking wrote an article recently where he describes BranchOut as follows:

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 is extremely user friendly, has great features and functions and provides access to a much larger user base than LinkedIn, but here are some considerations:

BranchOut very clearly positions itself as a tool which enables users to:

  • Discover where your friends work
  • Find connections at top companies
  • Post jobs to the BranchOut network
  • Post jobs to your Facebook page

Apart from being able to showcase your professional qualifications and work history, ask for and provide endorsements, find jobs, post jobs and grow your network, this is where it ends.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, provides all the above and more importantly, provides a range of features and functions that cater specifically for businessmen in order to make their jobs easier. These include access to the likes of the e-Bookshelf with rich business content across all business disciplines and industries, LinkedIn Today, which pushes recent articles from all the top business publishers across a range of industries (eg. Wall Street Journal, CNN, Harvard Business Review, Business Week, CIO.com), Answers (where you can pose questions or respond to questions that have been asked) and the extensive LinkedIn groups where like-minded professionals can have discussions, post jobs and do promotions.

While BranchOut may have the upper-hand in terms of pure numbers, you would need to have a closer look at the demographic on Facebook and LinkedIn and the propensity for people to want to move from LinkedIn to Facebook. In terms of my B2B social media marketing role, most of the business decision makers I want to connect with do not go anywhere near Facebook. For those that do use Facebook they have indicated quite clearly that Facebook is reserved for family and friends.

I predict that LinkedIn will to continue to flourish and that, at best, users will use both applications. Afterall LinkedIn can pride itself on the fact that it developed its social network specifically for business professionals and that it’s not attempting to be everything for everybody.

Author | David Graham

David Graham
David Graham's passion is business-to-business digital marketing with a specific focus on value networking and inbound marketing. He consults on business-to-business digital marketing strategy and execution, with an emphasis on building sales pipelines and generating new prospects More
  • My opinion is no. Facebook is not used as much (at all?) for professional networking, and so BranchOut sits on a coal mine as opposed to a gold mine. Meanwhile, LinkedIn grows by 2 users a second.

    But perhaps I am wrong and people are using FB more for business?

  • Same feeling as Jess.
    I received several invitation to use BranchOut but I didn’t really understand the added value of this tool regarding LinkedIn.

  • Anonymous

    I joined BranchOut donkey’s years ago and have never used it. In the beginning there were lots of invitations to connect, but that’s dried up and until I saw this piece I’d all but forgotten about it. In that sense it’s a lot like Google+ for me: I’m not in the habit of using it, they don’t get in my face (as Linked In does) and so I never think of them. 

  • Have joined both, have to say Linkedin works better for me.  

  • BranchOut will never be the new LinkedIn. People view Facebook as a social tool, and as such, won’t place much stock in it’s ability to bridge the gap and take on the role of a serious business tool. I’d wager that most of the comments here will echo these sentiments. LinkedIn has established itself as a superb tool for the job, and I don’t see it being dethroned by any pretenders.

  • I don’t like branch out as people endorse me while they’ve never done business with me.  I find it strange and disturbing.

  • Anonymous

    I call Branchout ‘Brandhout’ (Dutch), translated firewood. No, and I agree with Jess. Facebook is already a network.

  • No, No and No :) There is a very thin line between the professional and the personal today – the boundaries are merging. I would still like to keep the two as separate as possible, I see Facebook as a personal address book and LinkedIn as my business rolodex. The two do converge sometimes but that is not the norm. Why dilute the focus and use a everything for everyone approach – that rarely works. Target audience, Target content and Target engagement strategy works better for me.

    Thanks, David for sharing your carefully considered views.


  • So I take it that you are not able to review and accept the endorsement first?

  • That is the feedback I wanted to receive Warren :) Thank you!

  • Yip. Can agree with you there Fred!

  • I joined BranchOut but there is hadly anyone I know that actually use it. 99% of the invites I sent out have not been accepted whereas I have the oppsite happening on LinkedIn. Thanks for the response! 

  • Thank you Claude!

  • I think you are 100% correct with your assumptions.

  • You made me laugh when I saw your tweet :) I do not think BranchOut would like to hear that :) 

  • Thank you very much for your comments Suchitra. I do like the points you have raised and agree wholeheartedly!  

  • Petros Mihos

    Great article David.  As an Executive Search consultant I have been on linkedin for a number of years.  As someone who likes to keep things separate I have joined Facebook but have not added any friends, much to the ire of my wife whose invite I have yet to accept.

    I will now try branchout, simply because of the numbers of people involved.

  • I have 1000+ connections now on BranchOut, perhaps 25% of my Facebook social graph. I signed up early, butI cannot say that it has had any impact on my ability to network, source professional contacts or communicate effectively with them. If anything, I feel that the App is intrusive, doesn’t permit the granular control professionalism requires (for example, I could not edit and/or add any comment to your request for referral … which I think ends up making both you & I look less than professional in our engagement with prospective contacts.) The way the App ‘cons’ users into interaction with the App hasn’t won me over. At all.
    LinkedIn on the other hand does everything I require of it, as a professional network. In fact, I am a paying user of its professional services, and those services WORK for me. LinkedIn Today, Signal. Jobs, Answers, and Groups all add significant value in different ways. Value I have yet to see in any form from BranchOut.
    That may change of course. There was a time when I thought all Twitter users were twits, and today it is my most valued social tool. ;-)

  • Knowing you and your extensive participation, expertise and experience with New Media and all the mainstream social networks out there, your comment says it all. Thank you Darren!

  • Good stuff and I look forward to your feedback Petros!

  • Thank you all for all the great feedback and comments. Based on what I have read I can safely assume that LinkedIn is still the number one choice for value networking. The article I wrote only touched on some of the value-adding features, functions, tools and business partners that LinkedIn provides to its users. I very much doubt that there is going to be anything in the near future that will be considered a threat to LinkedIn.  Besides the existing functionality LinkedIn has a whole bunch of new stuff coming down the line!

  • Anonymous

    As with many social networks, it can take time for it to settle down, gain a following, and inevitably work out the kinks. I would think it wrong to dismiss it completely. I made the mistake of dismissing Google+, but you can already see how that is starting to find it’s own place between Facebook and twitter. We may find that it is not a competitor to LinkedIn, but evolves into something that has a different purpose. There’s no harm in signing up and seeing where it goes! :)

    Good article though David, definitely highlighted some of my reservations.

  • A very Informative post David, and very well researched.

    In my honest opinion, I feel that certain things
    life and on the web should be kept separate.

    Professionalism and friends/family are like oil and water to me, they
    don’t blend very well.

    I have always seen Facebook as my Social
    network where I keep updated with friends and family. Linked in and Twitter are
    where I would prefer in roam in circles of other professionals.

    I am in the predicament where clients or business associates have
    added me on Facebook. You don’t want your colleagues to be talking about your Facebook status in a meeting, do you? To avoid this, I refuse to accept any requests from my professional circles.

    Even though I would give Branch out a try, I doubt that I would
    use it much, considering the above mentioned reasons.

  • In a word….. no…

    Facebook = social and LinkedIn = business. There have been no blurred lines from either platform about trying to be that which it is not. Granted BranchOut has access to a lot more people who are interconnected; but I’m not going to enter into a business relationship with Aunty Mildrid who is friends with me on Facebook. 

    they have access to a network, but not a network that are connected for business reasons, they are connected socially and while this may be a catalyst for business engagement, I don’t believe LinkedIn need to be at all worried.

  • Like your response Jonathan thank you! Re-affirming again that Facebook should be reserved for interaction with friends and family and LinkedIn for professional value networking

  • Thank you Sue. Your comments echo those of Jonathan and most of the other responses received

  • Thank you very much for the feedback. My understanding is that BranchOut has been around for a while already. My colleague, Darren Smith, who participates on all the mainstream social networks already has over 1000 connections on BranchOut but still prefers LinkedIn. Let’s see what transpires in the medium to long term. 

  • In my opinion, the Facebook demographics place it at a slight disadvantage over LinkedIn. People join Facebook to mostly interact with family, friends, work mates and so on, in LinkedIn however, the interaction is more of a professional nature and the discussion a little bit more ‘formal’ if you may. Though the base that Branchout enjoys may be big and has a huge potential, the perception would have to change – “why do i want to join Facebook?” for it to realize its full capability. If LinkedIn had such a base, it would grow two-fold.

  • “I would think it wrong to dismiss it completely. I made the mistake of dismissing Google+, but you can already see how that is starting to find it’s own place between Facebook and twitter. We may find that it is not a competitor to LinkedIn, but evolves into something that has a different purpose.”What you say is spot on. I get fair value out of Google+, but different value than I do out of Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. It’s got better over time, but serves a very different part of my social graph. I think you’re right … the rate of change in the world of social means that it may well evolve into something with its own unique purpose. It certainly has the numbers to build on.

  • Jonhoehler

    In my view, Facebook for friends and Linkedin for Business! Especially as Branchout is a third party app within the Facebook platform.  Granted however I haven’t used Branchout (purely cause I am not a fan of Facebook apps) I still feel that Facebook is more about my friends than working relationships.

    Its about how an individual chooses to distribute of their own content, be it personal or professional.

    In my universe, Im not going to past a photo of myself at the Lions vs Bulls game cheering on the mighty Lions on Linkedin, however my friends on Facebook will find it more fascinating with the obvious comments that will come with posting content like that. My linkedin profile will however be where I post an article related to my working field (mobile telecommunications) which that community might find more interesting than my Facebook community of friends.Branchout is just another tool…. 

  •  While at the same time, I had someone tell me they didn’t want to connect with me on LinkedIn, because they wanted it for business contacts only. Which is what I was attempting to establish. I may have to use Branch Out to establish the exact same connection.

  • For me, LinkedIn is very much for business and strictly business-Facebook is more like my online diary and social bridge to, not only family and friends, but also to some companies. I think, being the Web 2.0 geek that I am, I would never say no to a treasure trove of connections, as you just never know who can help out or who has something I can learn from, so while Branch Out sounds like a great idea (and seems to be), it will not replace LinkedIn for the majority of folks. However, personally, I enjoy having connections anywhere I can-and I truly do seem to have the variety on all the main social media channels. Fascinating world we live in :). Thanks for posting, David.

  • Cedrick

    Branchout will never replace Linked in, no way, no how!  Branchout sucks for many reasons but here are my top two.

    1.  People use facebook to waste time and to not be productive… searching for a job is being productive.  “Sorry but you guys at Branchout missed this fact somewhere…”  smh.

    2.  90% or more of their jobs come from Careerbuilder.  Why not just go to careerbuilder and apply.  It seems like the logical thing to do to me.

    I also want to point out a few things from the article above that don’t make sense.

    BranchOut very clearly positions itself as a tool which enables users to:
    Discover where your friends work  – Since we are already on facebook couldn’t we just ask them, or is the app the only way to find this info?Find connections at top companies – Last I heard Google was the best place to find almost anything.  What’s the point when we’re already on facebook and can easily find this info through facebook search?Post jobs to the BranchOut network – Why would anyone want to do this?  You would get a better response on Craigslist.Post jobs to your Facebook page – Is Branchout the only way to post a job on my own personal Facebook page?  LOL… I can’t believe this was included in the article.

    Anyway, I simply find the app useless.


  • Thanks a lot for the response Jonathan. I like the reference to the “Mighty Lions” too :)

  • Many thanks Brian. If you have a good look at Branchout, when you are working with the app, it is completely separate from your Facebook page and content, but it is perceived that you are mixing business with personal. 

  • Many thanks for the concise and detailed response Cedrick. I can definitely see where your loyalties lie :) Have a good day!

  • My pleasure Suzy and thank you VERY much for your comments :)

  • Couldn’t’ agree more!

    I’m not very fond of Branchout and I like to use my LinkedIn profile as my “digital cv” together with my digital business card. As stated in the comments above, Branchout is a Facebook app and so it was designed for Facebook “users”. I don’t think Branchout will replace LinkedIn.

    I consider my network on LinkedIn as professional where my Facebook network is more for real friends and family. 

  • Thanks for the response Anton! By the way, I like the LinkedIn article on your blog! http://ow.ly/ava3r

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