Six things I want from my network

By Josh Mait
The Brief
Networks are evolving, but inconsistently. There are a few things, however, that every professional network should be: curated, directed, secure, selectively private, devoid of noise, and data-driven. 

I think a lot about networks in my role as CMO of RelSci. More than a few of my colleagues would say I have a bit of a fetish for LinkedIn. And maybe I do. But it is both my job and my personality to want to understand how people connect and interact. After much pondering on the subject my studied opinion is this: On some days the evolution of these networks feels exciting and fresh; on other days, though, they seem to be heading down the wrong path. You might not be surprised to learn that I have more than a few ideas on how to get them back on track.  Also not surprising is that my roadmap is informed by what I have come to realize are my needs.

And so here is what I want from my network today. (Warning: It may change tomorrow.)

1. Curation
Wide-scale and widely available social networking that connects the world is a useful-enough goal, but how exactly is that translating in a business context? Right—it isn’t. What I want is something thoughtful and supervised, more organized than a LinkedIn group, not as noisy as a Quora post. A networking platform really should seem as if it actually considers its audience (and projected membership): who they know, who they want to interact with, who they might possibly want to interact with. I’m talking about the difference between, say, Yelp and Chef’s Feed.

2. A top-down approach
Look, I believe—and participate—in the bottoms-up approach of many social media platforms. I love Kickstarter, and the way it perfectly combines innovation and entrepreneurship and leverages its community so successfully. I think the democratization of interaction by the likes of Twitter and the move to open access in general has had a real and serious impact.

But some networking platforms should be designed from the top down. What I want is something that feels harder and harder to find: a place to have the kinds of in-depth and directed conversations that allow for learning and growth, both personal and organizational.

3. Safety and security
What I want is not to worry about who might be peeking at my personal data. Enough said.

4. Selective privacy
You know that lunch you’ve been having every Friday for the past 20 years with your three most-trusted advisors? What I want is that same kind of closed circle in a digital context, a place where ideas are protected and relationships can be counted on.

5. Sweet, sweet silence
In the loud, always churning professional world, there can be a great benefit in being able to learn or create or await inspiration in peace. Personally, I don’t think a little workday me-time is too much to ask. Even the productivity tool Evernote, which comes closest to offering this vision, has recently begun promoting its sharing functionality. Because that’s really what it’s all about these days—achieving virality for the business at the expense of what the user might actually have signed on for. What I want is a digital environment in which being a buffeted hub of constant communication doesn’t feel like my sole reason for living.

6. Research-driven content
RelSci is a research-driven platform. LinkedIn is user-generated. Of course I’m biased, but even I can admit that they both have their uses. That said, what I want is a world without hyperbole, where professionals are just professionals—not a preening gaggle of “esteemed, accomplished, world-class, amazing, six sigma” blowhards. I don’t want a platform that feels more like a playing field in which everyone is a competitor trying to outshine everyone else who does what they do. Sometimes plain old data still tell the best story. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want: the best story?

It’s definitely what I want (for now, anyway). 

Josh Mait is the Chief Marketing Officer for RelSci, a technology solutions company that helps create competitive advantage for organizations through a crucial yet vastly underutilized asset: relationship capital with influential decision makers. 

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