Before venturing out into the vast unknown, create your social media road map – a map of the social web as it pertains to your business. Gather all the sites that would be most interested in what you have to say and segment them by type (blogs, social networks, social news sites, forums, etc) and by target audience / topical interest. Your plan should lay out which strategies you’re focusing your efforts on – preferably the ones that put your offer directly in front of the people most likely to be interested in it. Lay out what your goals are for your marketing efforts — and how you will know if you met them. You need to offer your social media connections something that they want to buy; in fact, that offer may very well need to be the driving force behind all of your social media efforts.

You will need to respond to conversations that are already happening. To determine where conversations are happening about your brand, you will need to have some kind of buzz monitoring or online reputation management system in place. Knowing what metrics you’re going to track from the start will help you make sure that you’re consistently measuring your efforts. That, in turn, will allow you to tweak your approach to social media if you see room for improvement rather than waiting until your campaign runs its course. You’ll also want to analyze your data after finishing a campaign, to see what worked and what could be improved upon.

Finally, trust is a huge factor in social engagement. Understand that social media marketing is most effective when users in the community know you. The only way for the community to know you is if you spend a lot of time online and invest managing your social web presence across communities. Social media builds awareness and drives conversation. It’s a powerful way enable communication between the company & customer. Always remember, selling is a secondary or tertiary benefit of social media.

Blogger outreach & engagement – this is a top down, bottom up approach. To demonstrate a significant impact, this is best handled by a team. You will need to identify the A-List blogs, cultivate a positive relationship with as many as possible, persuade them to blog about your issue, or guest blog them.

You will need a team of conversation agents to fan out into the blogosphere and engage in MEANINGFUL conversations wherever conversations about your topic is happening. If you have a call to action, relevant product, or web resource you are trying to drive traffic to, drop html links with target anchor text for an additional SEO lift (a % of the sites you will be hitting will be do-follow) Disclose your identity, be courteous, informed about the subject, or you will be flamed, and that will live forever on the web.

Social networking – only hit the communities relevant to your issue, product, company, topic or you will get poor quality traffic, if any. Are you infiltrating tight-knit interest-specific online communities? If so, you will need to ingratiate yourself into the pack. Are you starting your own community on a hosted platform, like a Ning? You can drive conversation and awareness, your revenue options are limited.

Do you own the community? Great – you can drive targeted conversations and include strategically placed calls-to-action, promos, ads, anywhere. If you’ve designed your site with SEO in mind, your users will create the content, and you will had an advantage in the SERPS, especially for long-tail keywords.

Social news marketing – thru social sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Newsvine. These sites also have a unique culture and will work for you if your news item relates topics favored by the community. Digg, for example, veers towards the geeky. Write for maximum click thrus – think “linkbait”. Popular stories here can get picked up by bloggers, which will also give you an SEO boost. Traffic can be huge and fickle like a tsunami so don’t expect it to convert. Avoid marketing on social media, that is not your goal and you will be buried.

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