Facebook has been a forerunner in personal networking.  As more companies have joined Facebook, the applications utilizing personal and professional information are also on the rise. Two years ago we saw this same process within Twitter as more and more developers saw a way to profit and join the network. However, an important question is arrising: Is Facebook trying to be too much to too many people? I’ve seen the fads come and go, (Farmville, Mafia Wars, Questions.) The latest additions to Facebook are professional networking platforms.  BranchOut and BeKnown are the first two I’ve tried.  I’ve noticed it’s a battle to leave my Facebook Wall uncluttered. Head to head, which professional application on Facebook is truly the best? This week, I’m looking into BranchOut.

BranchOut


BranchOut boasts hidden job opportunities with top companies and over 20 million connections…

First and foremost, BranchOut has some powerful statements about their application and they want you to know their roots, backing and intention.  On their About Page they boast, “BranchOut was founded in July 2010 by CEO Rick Marini and a team with deep experience in social media, online recruiting, and Facebook applications. BranchOut is backed by some of the best investors and advisors in the world.”  ReadWriteWeb cited BranchOut as a break-out hit. Branch out certainly has the backing, but does their application incorporate 3 standards in development?

  • Ease of Use: Even social media enthusiasts are now lazy. We want our programs to connect automatically via algorithm and we want it to import our information. What good is a program that has us retype our resume when LinkedIn holds our information? BranchOut understands the Ease Of Use mentality to a ‘T.’ I can either import my profile via LinkedIn or Monster.com and it uploads my already inputted information from the job descriptions and titles I have on my Facebook profile. What troubles me about 3rd party applications is that I have to disable my ‘https‘ connection.  With Facebook, the option to browse and use an ‘https‘ connection is a major factor for me. To utilize BranchOut, I have to disable my security. It’s understandable, as the application is a messenger for back and forth information, however: My security trumps what I need from Facebook. My rule is: If it needs to be unsecure, it is also unsecure and I really evaluate my decision to utilize the platform. In addition, it’s time for Facebook to re-think their ads to the right of everything. Not only are the ads distracting, they offer no real value to me as I scroll. (As a rule, I never click on a facebook ad. If I find something I like? I’ll go and type their information in Google. It saves the cost of a click!) One great thing BranchOut has going for it: Applying is a single click. I applied to a ‘Front End Development’ position at a Minneapolis company. I only had to click once for the recruiter or job poster to know I was interested in the position.  The best part? I could get an introduction, (for FREE,) and find someone in my network that would alert the poster I was interested in another single, click.  A large downside I see is that Google isn’t pulling results for people using BranchOut. I can’t type in someone’s name and instantaneously know if they are using the application. It seems too personal and one-dimensional to attract the job seekers it intends to. If BranchOut wants to be more successful, it should see about offering a tab on someone’s public profile so a recruiter could automatically click and see that the user is utilizing the tool.

 

This is a screenshot of my main page. Just like LinkedIn, it offers endorsements, community status updates and jobs. It's a dashboard, much alike to LinkedIn. With the way it's laid out, (complete with ads to the right side,) it would be hard to follow once a user received a large feed.


  • Value: Value isn’t tangible.  What I may undervalue someone else may not be able to live without.  For me, I have a solid Facebook profile and I utilize the space given to speak professionally about my business, past opportunities and who I am as a professional.  BranchOut enables me to get ‘endorsements,’ just like LinkedIn offers recommendations.  The endorsements I’ve seen on BranchOut tend to be a less professional calibur than LinkedIn, shorter and to the point.  Will it offer value if a company ONLY posts on BranchOut for it’s job? Sure. However, I can’t imagine most companies would ONLY use BranchOut to post their available opportunities. Just like social media itself, I think BranchOut offers a new alternative to LinkedIn, but it seems very one-sided.  I’m a little cynical: If Facebook is offering a new application where you can post your company’s open positions or look for jobs, they HAVE to be making money off it, (rightfully so.)  There are two ways to look at VALUE on BranchOut.  One is from a networking perspective and one is from a business perspective.  As a networker, it’s a free tool that basically allows you to place your LinkedIn profile on your Facebook. However, it’s not easy to find. BranchOut doesn’t have it’s own tab, nor can I pull up JUST my BranchOut from my own profile. I have to utilize it as an application.  If a hiring manager wants to find me on BranchOut, they might be unsuccessful. BranchOut has this to say about people searching for your profile: From a business perspective: The job postings feature seems silly.  They will offer me a job posting for free but it will just be visually-available to those in my network.  If I wanted to post a job, I’d have to decide to pay per job, ($49) or post ONLY to my network for free. The free option is great for small to mid-size businesses with a very low budget for talent acquisition, and the paid feature is low enough that it wouldn’t stir the pot. But how many people are truly using Facebook for their job search?

“While unlocking the power of your network, BranchOut creates a safe environment to utilize your network by only showing your name, profile picture, work history, and education. By only using this information, BranchOut eliminates the possibility of employers or recruiters seeing private pictures, posts or other information, thus keeping your private life on Facebook and your professional profile on BranchOut.” In short: Recruiters and hiring managers need to know your name to find you.

You have two choices when posting a job: You can post to BranchOut for free, (while only in your own network,) or pay $49 to advertise to all of Facebook. This feature might be great for hard to source positions.

 

  • It Has To Be Pretty: The truth of any site/application or software is that if it isn’t visually appealing, even good programming may alienate consumers from using the product.  Is BranchOut appealing? Absolutely. Because of the functionality within Facebook, it achieves the goal of acting like a website within a website. In fact, it’s self-sufficient and even has it’s own privacy settings. The downside I see is that it’s housed ONLY in LinkedIn.  I did The jobs that came up when I did a search were minimal, but it was apparent recruiters were already on top of the technology.

 

I did a quick search with the Minneapolis zipcode, "55403." This is what it returned.

 

Conclusion and Caution: For those looking to utilize Facebook as a platform to find jobs, it might be a good tool to become acclimated with while still utilizing other platforms. Since profile and photo are available, (by default to everyone,) when you give the application permission; it’s important to remember to be professional online. The world is changing and Facebook is no longer the bar it once was. By having a solid and professional presence on all networking sites you can expect greater success. For recruiters and hiring managers, BranchOut offers a less-expensive option than other leading Facebook job posting applications.  I see BranchOut being another Application Tracking System that someone needs to monitor, but a faster process to apply for open positions.  Many years ago, we had different search engines for different jobs.  I see a flow backwards to creating industry-specific ways for job seekers to apply and creating more work for both posters and job seekers, themselves.

Overall Grade: B-