Having been on Xing for awhile, I am exposed to various types of networking strategies that people use to find new contacts and further their business goals. I see all sorts of strategies that people use. Some have failed and some have succeeded. Most people are somewhere in between and the above scenario happens to alot of people. More than most of us care to admit.
In collaboration with Maria Sipka, director of online communities at Xing, I want to share what we feel are best practices to networking on this wonderful platform. Regardless if your goal is find a new job, find a partner, a supplier, or develop new business leads, Maria and I have compiled what we consider to be a list of best practices to help you achieve your goals on the Xing platform.
Admittedly, I got sick and tired of all the people who sent haphazard nonsensical connection requests to me that went something along the lines of;
“Hey, let’s connect.”
Grrgghhh. Not very useful.
It is our goal to make sure that the greater Xing community is better informed of what they should or should not engage in when trying to accomplish their own business networking objectives.
The first 10 tips are mine and 11-19 are Maria’s. For all things related to online community building, check out Maria’s Community Girl site. She’s on the verge of greatness, I tell ya.
To your online networking success,
~Maria and Dean
- Don’t be a promiscuous connector. This means that you really don’t need to connect to every person you run into. Business professionals value their connections and they don’t want be connected to someone who is connected to everyone. It creates the perception that you just consider people as another number. Be focused on the type of vertical or professionals that you believe can help you best. Maria would also add that your network becomes your most valued asset. Try to connect to members that are of genuine interest to you personally or professionally. Don’t become a connection collector. It weakens your network.
- State your reason for connecting. Nothing is more annoying than to receive a connection whereby we don’t know your reason for connecting. Generally speaking, when someone wishes to connect, it’s usually because there is a commonality b/w the two of you. If that’s the case, state it so that the other person knows. Stating commonalities and mutual interests are solid ways to building up a relationship with another person especially when all of this is virtual. But please don’t sit there and request contact with someone with a one liner of “Hey- let’s connect.”
- Know your goals. Online networking can be the greatest tool in the world or it can be the biggest time waster. This is all decided by how focused and strategic you are with your online networking activities. Are you looking for clients? Suppliers? Partners? Which industry are you targeting? Working out a basic framework of who your ideal contact is will result in more efficient networking.
- Pay for Premium membership & use the search agent tool. It only costs 6 Euros or $7USD a month for premium membership. My favorite feature of premium membership is the search agent tool. Imagine a tool that notifies you of when someone who is a desired business contact joins Xing. That’s the search agent tool and it’s probably one of the most efficient networking tools available.
- Complete your entire profile. I know this can be cumbersome and tedious to some but it’s important to fill out your entire business profile. Having a half empty profile makes it hard for others to figure out if you are someone they wish to do business with. Be as comprehensive as you can in filling out what companies and associations you have belonged to. Be sure to include your business interests and what you have and want as well.
- Participate in a few forums. You don’t need to join every forum and post all the time, but participating in a couple forums every now and then helps build exposure to that business community. You create awareness, exposure, and credibility by responding in a thoughtful and intelligent way.
- Volunteer to become a co-moderator of a forum. Find a forum whereby the membership consists of the type of people that you want to network with. Ask if you can become a co-moderator to the forum. You would be surprised as to how many moderators truly want the help especially if they have a busy forum. Congratulations- you are now in a position of credibility. As the moderator of a forum, you can now leverage your position by reaching out to new and existing members who can possibly further your business goals. People are always more susceptible to responding to a person in a position of power such as moderators of the community to which they belong.
- Build commonality in your first encounter. The success of any relationship is built on a level of commonality that exists between two business people. I always get request from people wanting to ‘connect’ with me. Their request is a couple of sentences and that’s it! Where’s the real connection? Where is the commonality that exists between the two of us so that we may explore how strong of a relationship that we can truly build with each other? Make mention of what you believe we have in common and why we really really need to connect. That will surely stand out more than another request to ‘connect.’ Whatever that means.
- Seek synergies, not sales. People don’t like to be sold to. Don’t bother emailing people with your services. It’s annoying and it rarely works. Instead, use Xing as a marketplace to connect with professionals who may work with the same target market as you do but provide different services. Seek collaborative partnerships with others on Xing. I love Akhil Shahani’s profile. In his ‘wants’, he states that he desires “co marketing opportunities with providers of products & services to entrepreneurs.” Now that’s a great invitation to start a conversation with him. There are alot of professionals on Xing who offers services to entrepreneurs and if they look at Akhil’s profile, they may feel tempted to reach out to him and explore any possible synergies which will lead to sales.
- Tag for the future. Overtime, your network will grow and it becomes more difficult to manage your contacts. As soon as you add on a new contact, tag this person into various categories so it’s easier to keep track of her in the future should you need to get in touch. You can tag according to the vertical industry they work in, their profession, their expertise, or any other imaginable categories that you can think of.
- Upload a photo of yourself that reflects the impression you want to create. People truly underestimate the visual impact of a photo. Response rates and clicks to your profile are always higher when you have a photo.
- Check your privacy settings: Go to the ‘My Profile’ tab and then ‘Change my privacy settings’ in the bottom of the box on the left. The most important ones are the two at the bottom in respect to who can send you private messages and who can view your contacts
- Set your info box options. Again, go to your ‘My profile’ tab and select from the left hand box ‘change info box settings’. My personal options include upcoming birthdays, quick search, group articles and events.
- Contact information. Remember that you grant the level of access you are comfortable with to any member that wishes to connect to you or you to them. Unless you release your details, no member will be able to contact you.
- Anti spam! One of the best experiences you have on this site is the lack of unwanted emails you get. Depending on your privacy settings you can choose who you want to be contacted by. If for some reason, you receive an email from an unwanted member, you can simply select ‘Block Messages from User’ in the left hand box featured when you view the message from the member.
- Introduction tool. This is Maria’s favourite! Introduce your contacts to other contacts using this cool feature. What’s great is your contacts can view each other’s profile including yours which enhances their initial experience. When you’re viewing a member’s profile or message select the ‘introduce this person’ tool. The rest is simple. Be sure to include some nice remarks about each person.
- Who’s been looking at my page! The coolest feature on Xing! This feature was created by a good friend of mine when openBC first came to existence. It was inspired by the dating sites and has become the most used feature on openBC. Go to the ‘Search’ tab and select ‘Members who have visited my contact page recently’. You can also set up an RSS feed that will automatically inform you when somebody has been looking at your page.
- Include your website URL’s. Surfing through member’s profiles is like sorting through resumes. People generally look at the photo to get a first impression, then who the person is connected to followed by their company. Often the member will click on your website to get a feel for the company you are representing. Make sure your link is active. You’d be surprised how many aren’t.
- Be found by the right people. Ensure your WANTS and HAVES reflect the type of people that you want to be contacted by. Members search for key words to lead them to the right person. Include all the key words that are relevant to you.