Make social media work for your business through a more focused and business-oriented app.

By Amy Willard-Cross (Founder & Editor-in-Chief, VITAMIN W)

Count up all the people you know on LinkedIn, Facebook, or G+ — or at least the ghosts of those people. It might add up to four digits. But can they really help you in your grail quest?

The folks behind new app Broadli don’t think networks work well. So they’ve made their own.

What Does it Do?

1. Limits your network to 150 people

2. Sorts them into four categories – with a fun kind of eenie-meenie game

3. Lets you help your contacts with specific goals or missions (or vice versa)

Broadli offers a new way of interaction. It digitizes the philosophy of five minute favors that people do without any expectation of immediate return.

Mary Abraham, one of the founders, says, “So much of the way we’ve been taught to network is very me focused — it’s what do I need, who do I need to meet? We tried to flip networking on its head, we want to build and deepen relationships of equal worth.” And it just might unleash the full force of your network.

Part of the Broadli idea is based on the work of Robin Dunbar, who found the human brain can’t be in relationship with more than about 150 people. We run out of room in our neocortex after that – sort of a social harddrive.

After signing up, you sort your contacts into four piles like Halloween candy: Inspired, know, want to know, don’t know. Abraham explains that the app helps you identify the top of mind contacts. “You can see what other people in your network want help with, and you can introduce them to people in your network.”

Then you post a mission — something that you want to do. Intead of blasting the message to many people, Broadli will bring you people who could help.  A friend of a friend could help find someone with a particular expertise. The founders have seen it at work already once: someone was looking for an expert in a new way of legal practice, and within days, another person using big data in law appeared to them through a shared contact..  You don’t know what knowledge is available to you until you unlock it — or so says the field of knowledge management. And if you help a lot, you’ll get a high impact score. Sort of like a gold star or connector’s smiley face.

“We think this form of networking could plug some gaps in the offerings of other networking platforms,” says Abraham.

Broadli was founded by a team of gender-diverse accomplished networkers — Ale Lariu of the SheSays Creative Network; Claudia Batten, serial digital entrepreneur; designer John Weiss; and CTO Matt Null.

They all had the same pain point. Abraham explained, “Lots of people who wanted 5 minutes of our time, we were trying to manage all this through our inbox. We think it will make the experience better and more productive.”

Broadli has just a few thousand users and building community support. For it to work, you’ll need to have at least three friends to join you. For now, it’s at the app store, with an android version on its way. Some early users have reported bugs on the app store and elsewhere. Abraham says, “We’re eager to follow guidance of our users. We were struck by how the founders of Twitter have allowed users be the lead in their development road maps.”

In Silicon Valley, people apparently used to say, “What do you want?”

Now that’s changed to, “How can I help you?”

Broadli could help you help.

This post previously appeared on VITAMIN W.

Have you benefited from online networking in your business?

amywcrossAbout the blogger: Amy-Willard Cross is a former magazine editor, writer, and founder of VITAMIN W, who started the online opinion website Women Make News. Amy has worked as a senior editor at national magazines where she developed book projects and produced award-winning features.