For those of you working in a German speaking market, or working with clients, suppliers or freelancers in either Germany, Austria or Switzerland, then Xing should be on your radar, it is the German language equivalent to the business networking portal, Linked In.
Now personally, I think going into these portals can be a bit depressing. To me logging into Xing, is like going to visit someone in a hospital or old people’s home. Why? On the one hand you are looking forward to seeing your friend or relative but that lethargy and blandness, as you approach the reception desk (or log in to Xing) seems to zap your enthusiasm.
It’s the same at Xing, once you see the faces of your expert friends and business pals and start engaging in conversation, you’re over it and engrossed in business solutions, suggestions and approaches but for me logging into Xing does require a certain degree of “Ueberwindung” or will power – similar to sport actually.
But ultimately, networking, whether it be in person or online is absolutely necessary. After all if people don’t know you exist, how the hell are they supposed to get to know you, your approach and ultimately buy your amazing products and services?
In the good old days networking was a purely face to face thing, so you might have had no idea that there was a stay at home mum, creating incredible graphics in the next village, if it weren’t for the fact that your daughter went to the same school or someone happened to rave about them. A huge element of chance was involved and it was irritating as hell for instance if you discovered someone’s expertise, after you had agonised over finding a workaround yourself, having wasted hours of time in the process.
Internet has changed the landscape considerably. As a uni student as a “Spätsunder” or late developer (that sounds so much more forgiving in German, don’t you think?) I had to focus on my studies in the last year if I was going to come out with a top grade, but would have liked some TLC. Now pragmatic as I am ,from time to time, I remember thinking that online dating made a lot of sense actually. I just wanted to meet a normal guy without emotional baggage to make me feel special and give me plenty of hugs. The problem with online dating was the stigma around it at the time and I don’t think they have a hugability tracker anyway.
I would have loved to have got to know them virtually first, without the logistics of getting there, (in Hull where I studied t was inevitably going to rain) making up an excuse to get home early if the guy was a loser and basically being there in person.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hermit and I love meeting new people but a date is loaded with expectations, which seems to magnify the whole situation with forced laughter, over politeness, show off tales. Do you see where I’m coming from?
Similarly a business network also has a distinct whiff of hidden agenda. Everyone knows that networking should be about making professional contacts and sharing knowledge, yet too many people find it incredibly difficult to find the fine line between sharing and selling. Those people are are to Xing, what ‘dead or nearly dead’ smells and white grubby walls are to an old people’s home. You know that you’ll have to encounter it when you go in but the trick is to rush past and get to who you really want to see.
Groups on Xing or Tappedin are a great way to fast forward into excellence.
9,2 Mio. members makes for a wide range of business partners, advocates, expert and clients – but talk about finding a needle in a haystack! With 74.000 Specialist groups according to Xing you have no shortage of opportunities but where will you find the time?
Hint: Less is more, zone in on brilliance and back out quickly if the group isn’t hitting your knowledge spot. A client of mine who limits her social media purely to Xing says that she only engages in one group, Women on Boards.
As XING members we can all join groups and post, join the discussion and make recommendations, yet how many of us actually do that?
The web certainly makes networking faster and easier. Interesting contacts are just a click away but equally our messages in moments of “information overload” are just seconds away from being deleted too, so we need to keep our messages concise and to the point.
That is generally good business communication practice but if English is not your native language, even more so. The less you write, the less mistakes you can make, which is why I recommend Twitter for newbies to professional business writing.
Using the PRESENT tense and SHORT messages is a good way to keep messages as mistake free as possible in English, should you want to expand your reach in English on Facebook or Twitter for instance.
In the social media era it is easy to connect with someone that posted an interesting question at an event or seminar you attended. Exchanging ideas, problem solving and being able to talk about business related issues with other entrepreneurs or industry specialists can make self employment more sociable but also more productive.
If nothing else, then please take 20 minutes to invest some dedicated time (that means closing all of those windows and ignoring messages and calls) in getting your profile to be as professional and informative as possible, it’s the digital equivalent of your business card, but can be so much more powerful in terms of tempting potential contacts to find out much more about you, without having to get in touch.
Connect with me on Xing or Tappedin today and we’ll get past that eery feeling together.
Oh and don’t forget, I’m on Blab every Tuesday at 2pm CET so see you there!