Whether you are using LinkedIn to generate new business or improve your industry network, it's ideal if those online relationships eventually develop into face-to-face interactions that improve your professional life.

LinkedIn recently updated its Terms of Service and announced a new feature that could help you move your networking capabilities from the digital sphere to real life quicker than ever.

LinkedIn's Latest Feature: "Discover Members Nearby"

"Discover Members Nearby" allows LinkedIn (in conjunction with your mobile phone) to pop up the names and profiles of your first-level connections who are nearby based on your current location.

Getting Real Time With LinkedIn

"We're constantly exploring new ways to help you maximize the benefits of LinkedIn. One of the features we're excited to be working on is the ability to find other LinkedIn members nearby using your mobile device," LinkedIn noted in announcing the new technology. "This feature will provide you with opportunities to network with other LinkedIn members at conferences, events, and more in your proximity."

For your privacy and safety, this will be an opt-in feature that you must choose to enable on the LinkedIn mobile app, and you can also control how long your location is shared with other members.

For example, you could turn this feature on during a conference or trade show to help you meet up with LinkedIn contacts also in attendance.

(Here's more info from a LinkedIn Help page explaining how it all works.)

LinkedIn's New Feature: Creepy or Creative?

LinkedIn is all about leveraging a treasure trove of personal and professional data to practice one-on-one, personalized marketing.

And if your goal is landing new business, that process often involves meeting with and talking to people in real life, not just on the Web.

If that describes your situation, then you'll definitely want to jump into LinkedIn's Discover Members Nearby feature so you can start taking advantage of timing, location, and circumstances more often.

Building Trust and Likability

The great thing is that LinkedIn can help you facilitate business conversations at any stage of professional relationships.

For example, if you want to message and connect with someone you don't know, you should take a quick scan of that person's profile and find a way to break the ice using a conversation starter that doesn't have anything to do with business.

Maybe it would be where he or she went to school, or where he or she lives. The idea is to find a unique and personal way to begin a new conversation.

The same is necessary if you want to connect with a contact in person. For example, you can use Discover Members Nearby and see a prospect pop up when you're working at a coffee shop. You can ask him or her to meet up. Before the person gets there, you can look over his or her profile to get the scoop on who the person is and what the person does, and discover some icebreakers to kick off the conversation.

Moreover, when you ask someone about his or her hobbies, passions, and interests outside of work, it helps build a relationship and context around something important to him or her, which again helps you stand out in that person's memory. It also paves the way for future conversations as a friendly, nonwork theme you can weave into each one.

LinkedIn = Bigger and Better

With 500 million members, LinkedIn is the place where your ideal customers are already hanging out looking for resources, news, training, potential vendors, and more.

Since Microsoft acquired LinkedIn in 2016 for $26.2 billion, the two companies have promised to integrate as many of their products and services as possible, meaning more innovative features and enhancements are likely on the way.

Make sure you stay on top of the latest developments, because new features like Discover Members Nearby are designed to make it even easier for you to find, engage, and win new business using LinkedIn -- both online and in real life!