BRANCH – The Next Best Social Success

I had a review of a mobile app in the works for my first comeback post, until I received my invite for a new, promising social network, Branch. It’s technically, the new “Round Table.” I received an email from Princeton grad, Josh Miller (creator of Branch, some others) saying, “Zakk! You’re In!”

I jumped at the chance to say something about this because, hey.. It’s new, and I love a chance to test and review a new startup. All we’re missing from this is a mobile app!

First hearing about Branch over Twitter a few days back, It looked like this mysterious new startup that was going to take me a week to grab an invite to. Contrary to that thought, it took only 2 days. I’m glad it was quick, because once this community builds, I believe it won’t be once of those networks that folds under pressure—growing less fun and productive as the community grows.

Seeing their goal with Branch from the outside, looks promising. “We want to bring the intimacy of a dinner table conversation, to the internet.” 

After browsing around most of the ‘Branches,’ I’ve found, that’s exactly what it does. It’s quite exciting.

Tons more after the jump:

However, not everything you talk about over the dinner table is a prediction, and that’s mostly what I’ve seen, cruising through the featured Branches. Not sure if that was what they intended—or expected—but it works.

It sticks out

It actually seems quite familiar. Over a year ago, I discovered a fun little social network called, “Beansight.” That’s the first thing I thought about when seeing a description of Branch on Twitter the other day. Although, after revisiting Beansight soon after, I realized that Branch (for me at least) will be more engaging. Their business model just says so.

Beansight is very simple, straight forward, ‘Lite,’ but so far Branch seems to be booming, even with a smaller community. Once it rises, it will be on top for sure. Beansight is for straightforward predictions with a different type of user engagement. You’d have to check it out to exactly what I mean.

Branch seems more ‘Engage-Able,’ and seems pretty big in the startup world right now—some of those bigwig social media guys are on there, unlike Beansight.

Their model is quite interesting, haven’t seen much like it in the past. You actually have to ‘Ask To Join’ a branch. This allows the creating user of the Branch to customize the tone of his conversation, leading it in ways he sees fit. That’s a freedom you do not see often, (spitting out an idea and having anyone and their grandma, throw you irrelevant advice, information, etc.) This works well.

How do you use it?

I’m getting right into the features. I’ll be straight forward about it, they took a couple extra steps forward to make Branch what it is. From Branching Branches, to giving us a bookmarklet, it’s going to be productive and fun to use.

Typical Branch heading

When you click on a Branch you’d like to see, you get a header like this. (above) It shows people who are added by, in this case, “Hofstra University.” (The creator of this Branch) This enables them to join the conversation. You can either ask to join, or be asked, to join the Branch, by the creator.

I saw, that in the Settings page, you can enable an email notification for when someone declines to join your conversation. That may cause some frustration. Usually social sites stay away from allowing anyone to know who declined something from them. Such as when Facebook had to fix that bug where you could see who—in the past—has deleted you as a friend. Branch is all about it!

And below all that, starts the feed of conversation, with buttons to subscribe to the conversation, or share it via Twitter or Facebook.

Features

Remember you can Branch any comment into a whole separate one, to start a more precise conversation. I’ve always wanted this. It’s a way more productive solution than a ‘comment hierarchy’ with replies, still stuck in the middle of the list somewhere.

Throw an html Branch widget anywhere you’d like.

Some other main features of Branch.

Even if you have yet to receive an invite, you can still ‘Ask’ anyone to join a single conversation. I can’t be sure if that will be a legitimate invite to become a user, or just for that one Branch.

Overall

This site looks very promising. It’s UI is so simple, easy to use, and quite elegant. There’s no set and stone way to have a friends list, (which I address just below) but everywhere you comment, is documented to look back on, so that shouldn’t be much of an issue. It’s more of a ‘contribution’ type of deal rather than a straight user based platform. You can only log in via your Twitter account.

So, true, it is not so much as ‘user-based’ as it is just a contribution platform.

I’m going to be checking it out more and more, hopefully becoming fairly active. I surely recommend checking this out, if you want to feel more involved in pressing issues, or just plain anything you’re interested in.

Check the gallery in this post (just figuring that WordPress feature out, ha) to see more photos of Branch & Comment to let me know what you think of Branch! (Or if you hate the review and would like to bash me)

Pardon me for those stupid red borders, I’m on Windows now, and the snipping tool isn’t exactly “Grab,” haha.

Branch Gallery

Branch from Branch on Vimeo.

Update 10/15/12: Branch just gave a little update to the services’ main page. It includes a switch, to toggle between Newest and Featured posts. Also, they made it even easier to start posting, by embedding a posting form directly into the top of the main page. It’s impossible to miss. (Photo below) You can also add any Branch to your ‘Drawer’ without having to be included in the conversation. The Drawer is a ‘My Branches’ labeled tab on the left screen at all times.

Toggle switch and quick post. (Description above)

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