‘BranchOut’ Through Facebook: dynamite or dud?

With 500,000 users already, BranchOut, a new application available through (not by) Facebook, is setting the curve and changing the way people can use their friends as well as their friends’ connections to find a job through social networking.

While in theory creating a profile for this site seems the same as LinkedIn, looking at the application closer allows one to see the ‘fine print’ of the marketing tool they have chosen to sign up for.

Before you can even make a profile, the app asks if you will allow BranchOut to share “all of your available information” with other job seekers, employers, and companies. (Their marketing materials state that it will only pull your professional-related information.) It also asks if you will ‘allow’ BranchOut to post promotional marketing materials on your wall, mini-feed, etc... whenever they choose to do so. Already I see multiple red flags and I haven’t even made my profile yet.

If you do click ‘allow’ and continue to make your professional profile, it automatically redirects you to a page asking if you want to save time and upload your LinkedIn profile. Admittedly, this is a clever ploy by BranchOut, and helps the user. But at this point, I pause and wonder why I’m not just sticking with Linkedin…a site that has millions of users interested in networking, mentoring and business partnerships.

As a young job seeker, it seems, at first, to be smart to have as many professional networking outlets as possible; however, the unnecessary pop-ups and petty questions that are linked to your profile such as, “Who would you rather work with friend A or friend B?” are unprofessional and seem to alienate your possible contacts rather than help you connect with them. Settings like these are what separate LinkedIn (a professional site), and BranchOut (a not so professional site).

Below are some actual quotes from users of BranchOut, the good, the bad, and the ugly…

“BranchOut enables you to personalize your professional profile in a way that reveals what makes you essentially you! Employers are most likely going to look up your web presence, regardless of how private you try to keep it. Whether you have work experience or not, with BranchOut, you can accentuate your involvement-and the things that make you ‘special’” - Nancy L. Blanks                     

“With ninety million professionals who can help you instantly with your career-LinkedIn is the app to use for this purpose. Facebook should be a more consumer to business platform. Let’s wait to see what this develops into.” - Charlene Woolley

“It’s not the idea that I’m bothered about, it’s the approach. The demise of BranchOut will come from the way people are ‘spreading the news’. BranchOut has some merit but it should allow us to learn about it naturally like blog posts, testimonials, and general wall conversation, not having it shoved down our ‘virtual throat’. If I could give it a negative star I would.” - Max Haim 

While my research is still new and fairly vague, it has still left me skeptical to BranchOut’s overall professionalism. Posting unnecessary information to my wall, asking questions about my Facebook friends, and asking me to spam others’ walls with their marketing ads seems like more work on my end than theirs.

BranchOut has really made me question how I want to develop MY social media presence… personal and professional. How integrated should they be? How much of my privacy am I willing to give up to ease the process of networking in an incredibly competitive job market?

What do YOU think?

CDS Intern ‘11

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