Sure, you know how to send an invite to other LinkedIn members, but making the most of these valuable connections involves more than just adding them to your network. The real key to maximizing your LinkedIn membership is to employ the same techniques during online networking that you’d use for face-to-face interactions. That often means asking the right networking questions when interacting with others individually and in LinkedIn groups.

Here are five questions that will help you build familiarity, provide insight and get more connected.

1. 'How did you get started?'

There’s no better way to get a conversation started than asking, “What do you do?” But, for obvious reasons, this and other similarly phrased networking questions simply don’t work on LinkedIn.

Instead, ask how your connections found their current position or how they began in the field. You’ll gain information about a person’s unique experiences and give them an opportunity to talk about their careers (and who doesn’t like talking about themselves?). This inquiry could be especially fruitful if your contact is in a field you’re trying to break into.

2. 'What is your biggest challenge at work?'

This question can be particularly effective as a post in a networking group. For one, it’s a great way to build camaraderie. Asking for comments and sharing your own challenges helps those in the group bond over shared experiences. It also provides an opportunity for people to assist each other by describing strategies they’ve used for overcoming on-the-job difficulties. If you’re struggling with something at work or want to offer yourself as a resource, consider this query.

3. 'What are your thoughts about ...?'

Fill in the blank here with the industry’s latest buzzworthy book, breaking news about the field or a blog post that’s making the rounds. The point is that questions that address changes in your profession are almost guaranteed to get a response and generate discussion.

These types of networking questions also help you accomplish two things: First, a question like this shows your contacts that you’re clued-in to the latest trends — you’ll score extra points if you offer your own opinion, of course. Second, it helps you gather insight into the impact of new developments.

4. 'Can you recommend other people or groups I should connect with?'

The most effective networkers are always looking to make new connections and uncover useful resources. And this question helps you do just that. After querying your contact, offer to return the favor. And be sure to thank him or her later, even if the recommendation did not pan out as you’d hoped.

5. 'How can I help you?'

This question gives people an open opportunity to ask for what they need — and allows you to position yourself as a possible solution. Even if you’re not able to help outright, you’ll know what your connections are seeking. And the next person with whom you connect may have the perfect solution to the last person’s problem. Introduce them, and you’ll quickly become the most popular kid in class.

Although having a few networking questions in mind to get the ball rolling can be useful, always remember to let conversations unfold naturally. Make the effort to be genuinely interested in what your connections have to say and respond accordingly. It’s a surefire way to establish a strong relationship, instead of just an acquaintance.

What networking questions do you like to ask on LinkedIn? Share them in the comments section.

More advice on LinkedIn and networking

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How To Network With Limited Free Time