These six steps were born out of common frustrations I hear from people about understanding how to market online.

Does this sound familiar? “I know I need to figure out all of this social media stuff, but it’s all piecemeal now and I just don’t know where to start!”

You may have noticed how some small business owners seem to attract clients and customers online almost effortlessly—while others struggle to keep their business afloat. The reason is that they are following a proven business model to market their business.

The six steps outlined here not only incorporate that proven model, but show you how you can supercharge it by adding social media tools and techniques—leading to more clients, customers and sales.

Without further ado…

Step 1: Understand what social media is and the benefits of using it.

It was important to me to make this first step the foundation of the entire system. Social media marketing is not “hard selling.” It’s businesses having conversations in the online communities where their prospective clients and customers hang out. Why is this so beneficial? In a nutshell, it’s a no-cost way to connect with your customer or client base, establish expertise, drive traffic to your website, and communicate your value.

Step 2: Get a blog.

Think of your blog as your social home base. You can be out utilizing all of the social media platforms in the world, but if you don’t have anywhere to send your friends and followers to outside of those platforms, your efforts will be in vain. Blogs are ideal because they tend to rank higher in the search engines and help foster a sense of community around your business.

Step 3: Build your social media profiles.

You don’t need to have a presence on every social site under the sun! There are only a few sites that I encourage most business owners to have a presence on: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. You may find that some of these are not a good fit for you while others are. That’s ok! Know that if it is working for you, then you should continue using it. These sites are simply the ones that my clients and I have had the most success with and the ones I feel are a good representation of the social media landscape.

Step 4: Make your blog social-media friendly.

Having a blog is a great step in the right direction if you are looking for ways to dive into social media. However, there is a lot more that you can do once you’ve got your blog up and running. You can think of your blog as a hub connecting all of your social media activities—and you’ll want to encourage visitors to interact with you socially in as many ways as possible. Some of the ways you can do that include badges, buttons, widgets, an RSS icon, commenting tools such as Disqus, and of course—good, share-friendly content.

Step 5: Build relationships with your target market.

Ok, you have at least one or two social media profiles set up and you’re ready to rock—but what now? The next step is to start using social media as a way to facilitate relationships with people who might potentially become your clients or customers or your strategic alliances. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the technical details involved in social media, but you want to remember that at its heart, it’s really all about people.

Step 6: Show me the money: turning friends and followers into clients and customers.

Twitter and Facebook are not the only game in town. To achieve the best results, you will want to have a varied mix of marketing tools in play all at once. Online, much of your job centers on driving traffic to your site so that prospective clients or customers can find out more. One of the best ways to increase the chances that someone will eventually buy from you is to build an email list. Essentially, you want to have a way to capture a person’s email address and name so that you may keep in touch with them, build trust, and make offers in the future.

Social media is only one way to drive traffic and build your list. The idea is to be a “well-rounded” marketer. Using sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube along with the other online marketing strategies will maximize your results—and more traffic, more subscribers, more clients, more sales and more money will certainly follow.

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