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BranchOut – A “LinkedIn” of Facebook?

January 15, 2011 6 comments

Really? Well, this is what attracted to me to have a look at BranchOut. I think Facebook has a big potential in candidate sourcing due to the size of its network and number of unique visitors. LinkedIn has 12.5 million unique visitors and Facebook has 25 million (exactly double). Ideally, Facebook and Twitter should be number one choice of any recruiter. Unfortunately both these social networks are not easily searchable. In contrary LinkedIn has done a phenomenal work in this area. They have also take social / professional networking to more profitable recruitment business (sadly!).

 

I’ve recently posted about how to search twitter bio. Though it is not a complete way to search twitter – but some attempt to dig deeper. In the same way – I have been searching for a good solution for Facebook and BranchOut attracted my attention.

 

What is BranchOut?

BranchOut is a Facebook application (not created by Facebook) to expand your career network to include anyone you connect on Facebook. In simple words – you can share your jobs, jobs of your connections to your network. You can create your profile, list jobs and invite your connections to become part of your network. This way you and your connections can view all the jobs in your entire (2nd) degree network. You can also search people by companies and by keywords as well on their bio / title.

 

Features – BranchOut

  • In BranchOut – your network is limited till 2nd level; unlike till 3rd level on LinkedIn. You can easily view all the jobs posted in your network by location and keywords.
  • Once you open any jobs – it also allows you to view any other people in your network within same company. Objective is to gain references. Most of the jobs today are filled by the references.
  • You can also invite all your network people to join your network. This will help you to expand your network and gain access to their network.
  • It also allows you to search people by company.
  • BranchOut has a facility to import your resume from LinkedIn. This helps profile to become richer and easily searchable.
  • Your jobs are also become visible to 2nd level contacts as well. Better visibility.

 

OK – so this is like a LinkedIn of Facebook?

 

Well, that is what they intended; but unfortunately not close enough. LinkedIn is in an elite league and currently has no competition; not even from Facebook OR Twitter. Though I must admit that BranchOut surely has a potential in future to make the entry in elite league.

 

So – what’s not in favor of BranchOut?

 

Why BranchOut doesn’t really work?

  • BranchOut on the outset is really a Jobs/Career network application. The main objective is to distribute jobs in two degree connected network. This really does not help much in proactively sourcing candidates.
  • LinkedIn primarily started as a professional networking site which then turned to emphasize more on jobs/recruitment. Hence, it attracted a big group of professionals with clear intention of networking, idea exchange, sharing knowledge etc. BranchOut starts with career/jobs network – which does not generate much interest between common users.
  • In contrast to LinkedIn – it only reaches to 2nd degree. LinkedIn works because of mainly its 3rd degree network. This way LinkedIn allows us to reach network outside our industry; as most of the second degree contacts tend to be in our industry itself (recruitment/staffing).
  • To gain an access to second level contacts – it requires that contact to be subscribed in BranchOut. In my experience – a large group of BranchOut contacts are Recruiters. This does not help me in searching candidates.
  • As my most of the 1st and 2nd level contacts are recruiters; I can only gain references from my closed community. This does not open a layer of industry professionals as they need to sign-in BranchOut. However, BranchOut does not serve any good purpose for them to join in.
  • It does not have any good facility to search candidates directly. This is where LinkedIn scores in a big way. It depends on its members to provide references and do not have any proactive approach.
  • The biggest failure for me is that even after sitting on such a huge data-bank like Facebook (larger than LI) it only has relatively small percentage of people using them. It fails to attract non-recruitment audience which defeats the entire purpose of using this.

 

This is nothing against BranchOut as an application; this merely serves for example. The other applications like HirePlug which are quite similar; however ground reality is they are more of jobs spreading application than entire social media recruitment.

 

The big question however is how Facebook and Twitter will compete against LinkedIn on social recruiting front? I can think of two approaches out here: –

 

Building your network for longer run

As oppose to LinkedIn where you have a ready-made database with access till 3rd connection users – Facebook apps will require building their own network. LinkedIn too require building their own network but it’s more established, well-known, sourcing user friendly approach than Facebook apps. It’s a “Pull” approach where you need to attract people and enroll with your own efforts to gain any advantage in longer run. Don’t expect BranchOut to give similar results and different contacts than LinkedIn in near future. It’s not a replacement of LinkedIn but it will work as support tool to extract more data from Facebook which might be different from LinkedIn.

The biggest advantage for BranchOut is that it has a great (better than LI) database; however not a great mechanism to use it.

 

Can Facebook itself venture?

I’m sure at some point of time Facebook will go LinkedIn way. Currently there is no way you can search the existing data of Facebook profiles like current employer, job title etc. You have to use apps like BO OR Advanced Search 2.2 beta which needs to build their own database with opt-in option which does not work on mass-basis. Why Facebook can’t provide a good way to search people with their own methodology? I believe that will be a great boom in sourcing; ditto for Twitter.

 

Social Media Recruitment is presently more of “Push” approach which means you have a lot of recruiters pushing their jobs and praying for response. In that case this is just a natural extension of job board? Is this what SM recruitment means? I disagree…

 

Ideally Social Media (Twitter/FB) should be used to build your own targeted network which will allow you to network your jobs to gain referrals and increase visibility into who’s who of your industry. If someone is actively looking out for a job and respond to your ad on Facebook – is this really a value add? You can find this guy on job board as well. While BranchOut is a good effort to start this initiative – it will take a long time to gain ROI for tools such these.

And why Branch-Out against Linked-In?? Sound similar 🙂

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