Background: I'm a mathematics student in the US who plans to finish my PhD this year, and I'm currently applying for jobs at small liberal arts colleges throughout the country. I already have some acquaintances throughout the math world, either from grad school, REUs, conferences, etc, and some of these people are at schools to which I'm applying. They would definitely remember me, but I would be surprised if they knew/remembered anything about my work.
There seems to be relative agreement that knowing someone at a school to which one is applying for a job is a good thing, but I have a few questions related to that situation.
How do you go about telling such an acquaintance that I am planning to or have already applied? Is it acceptable for me to simply drop them an email? Is there anything specific I should tell them?
Most schools list a designated contact person within the department. Would it then be inappropriate for me to ask my acquaintance questions about the school or position?
One of these acquaintances works at a school that is far from the region I would like to end up living someday, and I believe that they are aware of this. How will this impact my chances at that school? Would it still be beneficial to make them aware of my application?
I am aware that a similar question already exists, but I was hoping to get more general information than what was discussed there. Any advice or insight is most appreciated.