Online social network Xing plans to more than double its number of members in German-speaking markets in the coming years as it expands in Europe and creates new jobs.

Xing, based in the German city of Hamburg, said on Thursday it saw sufficient market potential in Germany, Austria and Switzerland to increase the number of members it had to more than 6 million within the next few years.

This year, it would focus on increasing growth in other European countries.

Xing, which was founded by former Chief Executive Lars Hinrich, also said it planned to create new jobs. Currently, it has 22 job openings.

Xing offers its total 7 million users, 550,000 of which are paying members, services including recruitment marketing and contact finding in 16 languages, mainly in Europe. It competes with larger unlisted U.S. rival LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has more than nine million members in Europe and over 35 million worldwide.

Both companies have benefited from the economic crisis which has sparked a spike in usage of professional networks as people hedge against losing work and laid-off employees seek jobs.

Xing was the first online community to go public -- in 2006 -- and makes most of its revenues from premium memberships that offer higher-quality contact introductions and more targeted services than free membership.

Last year, it posted an 80-percent increase in sales to 35.7 million euros ($48.5 million) and core profit of 12.82 million euros, up 85 percent compared with the previous year.

(Reporting by Nicola Leske)