By Joel Elad

It’s easy to forget the importance of location when you have easy access to such a resource-rich community as LinkedIn. After all, you can communicate with your contacts through LinkedIn Messages, send recommendation requests or post questions, or grow your network without leaving your computer.

When you’re done using your computer, however, you need to interact in the real world. The best use of LinkedIn for location-based problems is this: Your network is typically spread out across the country and across the world. Therefore, not only can you tap someone’s professional experience, you can also tap his knowledge or presence in a specific geographical area to help you solve a problem. Take a look at three different location-based situations.

Building your network before moving to a new city

These days, when you have to move to a new city, you can do a lot of planning for it on the Internet. You can research the neighborhoods, look into the school systems, and shop for homes online. But what about the questions you can’t seem to answer through a web browser? What about the “local knowledge” of where to go and where to avoid? LinkedIn can help.

Every LinkedIn user has defined her location, so you can do a search and figure out which LinkedIn users live in your target area. If nobody in your network is from your target area, start networking and expand that network to include people who reside (or used to reside) in that area who can help.

Here are some specific actions you can take through LinkedIn to help you with the big move:

  • Use LinkedIn Groups to find your community. You can look for specific groups of people who share a common skill through LinkedIn Groups, join the group and start a discussion topic with your question, and see what the community says in response.
linkedin groups
Look for groups based in your target city.
  • Start as early as possible. As soon as you sense that a move is necessary, or maybe when you’re mulling over whether to move, start building your network so that you can tap those people for location-specific information before you actually move.
  • Consider Chamber of Commerce groups. These groups often have excellent resources for people who are relocating and looking to learn more about the area, especially for local business needs.
  • Look for contacts who used to live in your new city. You might try entering the location of your new city in the Keyword search field rather than the Location field. By doing so, you might find first-degree connections or second-degree network members who used to live in your target area but have since moved; they might reference their past locations in their profiles. Contact those people and see whether they can introduce you to any contact.

Arranging face-to-face meetings when traveling

A growing practice of busy LinkedIn professionals who travel is to arrange face-to-face visits with other LinkedIn members during a business trip. To bring about in-person meetings, most people either post something to LinkedIn Groups or send a message to targeted members of their networks.

If you’re interested in making your next trip more of a LinkedIn adventure, keep these tips in mind:

  • Provide enough notice to attract people’s attention. If you’re putting up a post on Monday night that you’re available for Tuesday lunch, you probably won’t get many responses in time to set up anything meaningful.
  • Don’t give too much notice, or your visit will be forgotten by the time you arrive. More than two to four weeks in advance is probably too much notice.
  • Be specific about your availability. When you contact other members, offer a few choices of when you can get together — and be specific.
  • Use your get-together to help prepare for business. Maybe you have an interview with a company that one of your contacts used to work for. You can always reach out and ask for interview tips or company background information.

Networking with LinkedIn … in person!

Social networking is a great way to stay connected, grow your personal and professional contacts list, and learn about new opportunities. Although online methods can expedite this process, they can’t replace the power of face-to-face networking.

You can find all sorts of “chapters” of in-person networking groups inspired by people first meeting on LinkedIn and then connecting in-person with people from their network at a live event.

To find or organize a LinkedIn Group from your network, keep these tips in mind:

  • Search your LinkedIn connections to see if they are involved with any local groups. Do an Advanced People search to see which of your connections are located in the city you want to relocate to, for example, and scroll down their profile page to see which groups they belong to.
linkedin group contacts
Chuck Hester is a member of several LinkedIn Groups located in different cities and regions.
  • Search LinkedIn Groups to see whether a group exists in your area. Click Groups and then do a search for terms like “LinkedIn Live” (don’t forget the quotes) to see what kinds of groups of LinkedIn members show up.
areagroups
Look for a LinkedIn Group in your area.
  • Use the Internet to look for social networking meetings. You may have to go outside LinkedIn to find an eager group of LinkedIn members. If you do a search with a networking site like Meetup.com, you will find a number of LinkedIn Groups already established in cities around the world.
LinkedIn in-person groups
Read about LinkedIn in-person groups on the Internet.
  • If nothing exists, start your own live group. Create something on LinkedIn Groups and build a core group for the first event. Send an update or message to your network members who live in the area and encourage them to pass along the message to their local friends who are LinkedIn members.