Five years ago that I started using LinkedIn’s search engine to find “investors” with whom I could establish new relationships. My ultimate goal at that time was to attract cash buyers to south Florida (where I live) to purchase undervalued residential properties.

I knew then that I was embarking on a new and challenging adventure into social selling but I was optimistic about my chances. After all, Florida was one of the most extremely distressed real estate markets back in 2008 and 2009. I was convinced that many investors existed that were savvy and ready to pounce upon the right deal.

Over time, my desired target market became clearly defined–investors that lived in the northeastern U.S. and in eastern Canada. Climate and home value differences clearly played in favor of my future success.

I quickly identified 3 categories of home buyers and investors. First, was the second home or vacation market. (Florida is heavily populated from November to April every season with affluent “snowbirds” escaping the cold, northern weather.)

Second, seniors have been permanently retiring to southern U. S. locales such as Arizona, southern California and southern Florida for many years—and that trend continued uninterrupted.

Lastly, long term ROI (return on Investment) investors were eager to find rental properties that would provide cash flow in the short term and price appreciation in future years. This group was the most intriguing because I realized that I could benefit three ways financially by managing their purchases, placing tenants, and collecting a finder fee for the original purchase! In hockey that trifecta is called the “hat trick”.

The current C.E.O. of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, has commented recently that social selling involves three stages: finding, connecting and engaging. Since my geographic market was clear, I then went on to focus upon the finding activities by using LinkedIn groups.

LinkedIn currently has around 2 million groups but even five years ago there were over a million. By seeking and joining real estate-related groups I was able to find a significant number of professionals to pursue. Since I prospected exclusively on LinkedIn I enjoyed the benefit of an audience of business professionals that were familiar and largely open to investment opportunities.

I loved LinkedIn’s groups (and still do) because the email addresses of those with whom I sought to make a connection was not needed. LinkedIn waives that requirement if a group is shared in common! The added fact that 50 groups can be joined provided me with tens of thousands of potential leads.

Engaging was not difficult since I had the advantage of holding a Florida real estate license since the late 1990s. Without that credential it would have been much harder to establish that same level of credibility in order to close deals.

Investors started to come from states like Minnesota, New Jersey, Connecticut and Wisconsin as well as the cities of Montreal and Quebec. Some purchased properties from me; some have me managing their properties and some have me looking for additional deals that meet their criteria. Some have referred their friends to me.

Even though current home prices in south Florida are higher now I would still undertake the same strategy (that worked so well in 2008-9) were I to start fresh today. Social selling still contains the same three stage process and LinkedIn has gone on to greatly enhance their #1 status as the vehicle of choice for conducting business with professionals worldwide. It’s time to keep on cashin’ in.

By Gary Kissel | LinkedIn Strategist | Speaker | Author