As Maslow theorized, the ultimate potential of your marketing or human self-actualization couldn’t be achieved until the most basic human psychological needs such as breathing, eating, sleeping, and sex were first met. In fact, safety, love, and esteem all come before transcendence.

Now, before I edge too close to the deep end here, I’m simply comparing what I think is a bit like progressing up the social-marketing hierarchy.

Most small-business owners should look at the following progression or hierarchy as they move deeper into social-marketing tactics. So, jump in, but do it in this order and don’t move on until you have the basics of each stage down and working for you.

  1. Blogging: The foundation of the pyramid. Read blogs, comment on blogs, and then blog. This is the doorway to all other social marketing.
  2. RSS: Aggregate and filter content around subjects and use RSS technology as a tool to help you repurpose, republish, and create content.
  3. Social Search: This is often ignored in this discussion, but I think it’s become very important for small-business owners. You can participate and should stimulate and manage your reputation here.
  4. Social Bookmarking: Tagging content to and participating in social bookmarking communities can be a great way to open up more channels to your business as well as generate extra search traffic. But it takes work.
  5. Social Networks: Branching out to take advantage of the numbers of potential prospects that you might find in sites such as Facebook or MySpace will frustrate, at least as a business tool, if you don’t have many of the above needs met. These networks take time to understand and thrive on ideas and content. You’ve got to have much to share if you wish to build a business case.
  6. Micro: Platforms such as Twitter, Thwirl, Plurk, and FriendFeed have become a very important part of the social media mix as they allow for quick tracking, joining, and engagement. However, they still reside at the top of the pyramid because without content, such as that created on a blog, the engagement on Twitter may not go very  deep.

This article is part of the cover story for the February 2011 Issue of PC Tech Magazine