I'm a great believer in networking! Maybe it's an Irish thing, maybe it's just that I know a lot of people ...
Focus magazine in Germany was impressed enough to write an article about my networking activities:
Dutzende von Unternehmen aus der Internet- und Software-Branche hat Colm Toolan schon beraten. Dennoch war der in Kiel lebende Ire sehr verwundert, als sich vor wenigen Monaten der Norweger Kyrre Roksund bei ihm meldete und ihn als Berater für sein Software-Haus gewinnen wollte. „Er hatte mein Profil im Kontaktnetzwerk LinkedIn gefunden – und ich war genau der Mann, den er suchte“, erinnert sich der 48-Jährige. „Wir haben einige Mails ausgetauscht, telefoniert, und nun beraten mein Partner und ich die Norweger beim Vertrieb und Marketing“, freut sich Toolan. „Ohne das virtuelle Business-Netzwerk wäre dieser Auftrag nie zu Stande gekommen.“
[Colm Toolan has advised dozens of companies in the Internet and software industries. Nonetheless, the Irishman who lives in Kiel was quiet surprised when, some months ago, the Norwegian Kyrre Roksund approached him and asked him to provide advice for his software company. "He had found my profile in the LinkedIn network - and I was just the guy he was looking for" remembers the 48 year old. "We exchanged a few e-mails, did a few telephone calls and now my partner and I are providing sales and marketing consulting to the Norwegians" says a delighted Toolan. "Without the virtual business network, this agreement would never have happened"]
Currently I'm an active member in LinkedIn and Xing, both of which I find useful. At LinkedIn, the emphasis is more on doing deals and finding the people to help you do so. The geographic emphasis is mainly US, although Germany seems well represented. OpenBC appears to have a more european slant - but maybe that's only because I use the German langauge interface. The emphasis here is more on exchanging opinions and information, as well as catching up with ex-colleagues etc. The "connectivity" is also handled differently on the two networks: LinkedIn allows linking by recommendations from common acquaintances, OpenBC's policy seems more relaxed. However, the principal is the same for both - membership is by invitation only, so everyone there has been recommended by someone else; you will only be contacted by people who have been facilitated by intermediaries and - most importantly - communication is managed indirectly through the network infrastructure.
One problem with networking is that people keep moving around and contact details tend to become outdated very quickly. Plaxo offers a nice silution to that problem, with real-time updates whenever anyone's details change.