IT ALL started as a simple hashtag, created by a businesswoman who craved some personal contact, but now it's taking the business networking world by storm.
And the LinkedIn Local movement has hit Portsmouth, with the first two events proving extremely popular and the third looking likely to be a sell-out.
The last LinkedIn Local event in Portsmouth saw more than 200 people gather at the Village Hotel for an evening of informal networking, accompanied by some live music, canapes, drinks, a few short presentations and fund-raising for charity.
The evening was organised by Ian Gribble, from Gosport, who runs office printing, photocopying and scanning facility firm Clarity Copiers, and Carl Hewitt, from Portsmouth, who runs marketing start-up DigitalDinos.
They saw the movement online and wanted to get involved.
Ian said: ‘Having attended many business events over the last few years, the intention was to create something that was relaxed, informal and with a loose structure, no 60 second pitches etc.
‘In the digital age we seem to be talking face to face less and so this event is about taking your social media off line for a couple of hours and getting to meet the people that we interact with online.’
The LinkedIn Local idea first arose in May 2017, when businesswoman Anna McAfee was keen to meet some of her LinkedIn connections for coffee in her local area, Coffs Harbour in Australia.
She posted on LinkedIn, using #linkedinlocal, and the idea took off.
On her blog, she said: ‘To my surprise, a lot of people reacted to the post, not only the 18 people who showed up, but also people in other cities around the world.
‘One of them was Erik Eklund. Within an hour of posting he wrote me saying he would host a similar meetup in Brussels, Belgium. After him, Alexandra Galviz in London, United Kingdom, and Manu Goswami in New York City.
‘The word spread quickly. One of Manu’s post about the concept became one of the most viewed posts on LinkedIn with 1.4m views. Alexandra, voted one of UK’s top Influencing voices 2017, engaged the world in her monthly meetups, and together with Erik’s video from Barcelona, LinkedIn Local went global.
‘People were calling, emailing and messaging us from Sydney to Rio de Janeiro, asking to join the movement.’
To date there have been more than 150 meetings across the globe - a number growing exponentially - and it is LinkedIn's longest running campaign.
Anna added: ‘We had no idea what we had set in motion, but today I look back and smile. What once upon a time was a simple hashtag, is today in 100+ cities worldwide.’
In Portsmouth, the third event is due to be held on November 22 – and tickets are already selling fast.
Ian said he was delighted – and a little amazed – at how positively the city's business community has reacted to the movement.
And he said he was pleased to see so much raised for charity – the first event raised £1,080 for Breast Cancer Haven and the second raised £1,500 for Pompey in the Community.
Ian added: ‘The previous events have created a community feel and relationships have been formed which has resulted in business being done.
‘The good thing about the events is that people meet and then continue that relationship back online.
‘The LinkedIn platform connects people in different ways and is being used more and more by people to provide some insight about them, their background and how they can add value to other people's businesses.
‘It’s great that it’s taken off.'