Between February and March this year (2012) the Facebook application for professional networking, called Branchout, went from 2.7 million active users to over 5.5 million active users. As far as social networks go, this is quite impressive.

It took Facebook four years to get to 60 million users, which averages out to 15 million a year. At this rate, Branchout will beat Facebook’s growth rate in its second year of operation. Sure, Facebook has done all of the heavy lifting. But the need that Branchout fills is long overdue.

If you aren’t on this professional network, now is the time. I suspect that Branchout will become a common name for any Facebook user serious about career management. Afterall, what do you do if your boss wants to connect…why not put him in Branchout.

Branchout is an application that adds a professional networking layer on top of your Facebook account. You can use Branchout to add new, professional, contacts to your network without having to let them “inside your house”.

The genius of this app is that you can invite your private contacts into your professional Branchout network so that you can ask for help in networking from your friends and family. So where before, asking your cousin to introduce you to his boss was awkward, with Branchout, its quite easy. 

In addition to the types of features you might expect with a professional network (resume-like profile page, recommendations, degrees of connection, etc.) you can see what companies are represented by people you know in your private network. You may have friends in your network who are working at target organizations and you might not even know it.

Branchout boasts of listing over 3 million jobs. Most of these are entry level, but I suspect that this will change in the next year or so.

When you sign up for Branchout, you’ll take the usual steps of approving permission for the app to access your profile data. I would suggest holding off inviting your friends to join you until you’ve filled out the profile completely. If you have a LinkedIn profile, Branchout will actually import it for you.

Remember that even though you are still on Facebook, you should behave just like you are on LinkedIn. In particular, follow LinkedIn etiquette while:

  • asking for introductions
  • asking for endorsements
  • posting status updates
  • using pictures
  • writing your headline and summary

Now, you can read all that juicy LinkedIn advice, and apply it to your Branchout network and get double your benefit.