Now A Facebook Connect App, BranchOut Builds A LinkedIn Competitor

The professional social network built on top of Facebook is trying to make it as a standalone site. But do we really need another place to share?

BranchOut, the professional social network built on top of Facebook to help users leverage their friend networks to find new jobs and make professional connections, is no longer going to live on Facebook.com. Users will still be required to use Facebook to access BranchOut, but it will now live on a standalone site at BranchOut.com and will focus on more deeply engaging its existing users rather that acquiring new ones.

The new BranchOut is looking to become the go-to destination for professionals who find LinkedIn a bit lacking in terms of the tools it offers to share all the little moments that make up the narrative of your career. So it now offers different sections for you to share your résumé, career highlights, and a Facebook-style timeline of your professional moments, as well as an activity section that feels like Facebook NewsFeed and a Pinterest-style Discover section that collects tidbits shared by other users.

It's an interesting shift for BranchOut, which had previously been so committed to building out its Facebook app that it even created RecruiterConnect, a tool for recruiters and hiring managers to search their Facebook connections that was also the first software product for businesses ever built on top of Facebook. Last year, BranchOut CEO Rick Marini told Fast Company that he saw a huge amount of potential in the ocean of users on Facebook, versus the relative pond of LinkedIn.

“Facebook has the strength of connection that LinkedIn doesn’t have,” he said at the time. “LinkedIn is someone you met at a conference. Facebook is your true support network."

Though Marini's views on the stiffness of LinkedIn-forged connections don't seem to have changed, now BranchOut's goal is about how to foster deep engagement over user growth. The problem is that the new site doesn't employ any of the viral social hooks it would need to gain traction and stand on its own. For example, the new standalone BranchOut doesn't allow you to cross-post content you're also pushing to Facebook and Twitter, meaning it's essentially forcing people to create new content just for this new network. As AllThingsD reports, just 3.4 million people are monthly active users, of 30 million total. Even if user growth is no longer BranchOut's main focus, that's a tough sell when you have no shortage of options for places online to share pieces of yourself.

And just as not everyone is constantly on the hunt for a new job, not everyone is obsessively updating their résumé or sharing niche content about their professional lives. So it's unclear how much engagement BranchOut will see out of this. After all, do we really need another semi-intimate, vaguely Pinterest-meets-Facebook social network to share yet another compartmentalized silo of our lives?

We'll see.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that BranchOut.

[Image: Flickr user Amy the Nurse]

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