Is Branchout On Its Way Out?

If you quietly wanted to change the direction of your business and were in the recruiting space, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better time than the past few weeks. With conferences like HR Tech, LinkedIn and TRC, most pundits were enthralled with anything other than the latest pivot.

Enter Branchout. Earlier this month, they announced some big changes to their business. Silicon Valley standards like Techcrunch and All Things D picked up the story.

Basically, the site that made its name on Facebook’s platform is a lot less interested in a Facebook storefront. The site will still leverage Facebook Connect for its onsite data, but it sounds as though reliance directly on Facebook real estate will wane.

The good news, though, I guess, is you’ll still feel like you’re on Facebook – or at least Pinterest – while you peruse the new Branchout.

Or, dare I say, feel like you’re on LinkedIn?

The downfall of Branchout with recruiting folk has been fairly well documented. Their CEO even went on Bloomberg and talked about the challenges they were facing, which amounted to him claiming they had grown too fast to really figure out a sufficient business model.

Of course, a fair question might be whether or not they really care about building a company for employers as opposed to the higher growth potential of a consumer model that builds supporting service around the main property, similar to Facebook and LinkedIn.

However, the question of whether Branchout will justify their millions in funding and survive to see another day or whether or not this pivot will be the magic elixir they need to rock the recruiting world is probably secondary to “What is the future of social recruiting?”

By racing to 30 million users in what seemed like the blink of an eye, Branchout made Facebook’s platform look like the future of recruiting, while making LinkedIn look old and outdated in comparison. And although countless employers “manage” Fan Pages on xFacebook that resemble ghost towns with few fans and activity, Branchout seemingly figured it out.

But being beholden to the whims of Facebook and hoping to maintain traction as a jobs destination where baby pics and the latest Kardashian meme rule the day, the earth moved on Branchout very quickly.

Just ask game-maker Zynga about the perils of relying on Facebook.

Social recruiting software providers like JobMagic and Work4Labs are apparently doing pretty well as B2B solutions, but Branchout’s B2C model looks like a complete dud as a Facebook-only offering. Worse, it looks eerily like Jobster’s not-so-distant cousin – a mishmash of profiles, jobs, tags, pictures and who-know-what-else around the corner?

“We have 30 million users. We have $49 million raised. We’re going for bold,” Branchout CEO Rick Marini told All Things D, who commented that “it was a tall order” to “ask users to visit a brand-new site and create novel content that fits into a personal-professional-public hybrid.”

Yep. Tall indeed.