So here you stand, a virtual newby to the world of social media, and it appears that you have the monumental task before you of scaling this towering mountain called developing a professional network online ... developing your social media profile. But where do you begin ... "my god this mountain is high" you think to yourself. There are so many possible paths up the mountain.

You need a plan. As an aside, it helps to recognize that plans can be either strategic or tactical. Strategic plans are the overriding plans that govern the goals and objectives of a company. I'm seen them defined as 'transforming system goals into desired system dynamics'. Tactical plans are more supportive in nature. I've seen Tactical Plans defined as 'building a sequence of actions that attempt to force the system into the desired form of dynamics'.

In our situation, developing a social media profile would most certainly fall into the Tactical Plan category ... its a supporting role that involves a series of tasks to be taken. Consider the question asked by many; how do I make myself self sufficient in this new internet space?

Objective: Eg. Make $150,000 in fiscal 2008, net of expenses.

Strategic Plan:
a) $100k from consulting
c) $50k from monetizing my blog

Tactical Plan:
Which speaks to the question, exactly how am I going to generate $100k from consulting, and $50k from my blog. So, lets chunk it down a little more; what are my sub-objectives now, and how will I accomplish those? Lets see, perhaps:
a) to secure $100k from consulting income ... here's how I'll accomplish it:
1) $25k per client x 4 clients

    a1) 1 client from my existing network of contacts

    a2) 3 clients from self promotion:

      - secure 3 speaking engagements on SMX and/or SES in 2008

        > build a social media profile that:
        - ????????

and here are the real nuts and bolts of it. The tactics and tasks you use absolutely must speak to my specific reasons for developing a social media profile ... ie. I need to be seen by the powers that be in SES and SMX. In other cases, maybe you're just looking for friends to give a thumbs up to client articles and photos you stumble. But .... IT MATTERS! Your reason for developing a social media profile is directly a function of what you're trying to achieve with that profile. In reality this means that the objectives should be top down, rather than bottom up. Don't develop a profile merely to develop one. Develop the profile to fulfill a specific objective.

That said, ensure that your objectives reflect who you want to become a part of your profile (your friends), where they should be located (if applicable), what you need them to do (if in fact you need them to take action), what social media you should be using (don't utilize Digg if you're hoping to develop a profile amongst a more mature audience), and equally as important, how do you define a social profile? Are you looking to build a network of friends for a client, whom you'll hand off the network to after the consulting gig? Are you looking to promote a given client who's targeting a young audience. Are you looking to increase awareness of you personally online? All these questions must be considered and answered!

Then, you need objectives to guide and evaluate the success of your plan. In fact, the objectives are part of the foundation of your tactical plan upon which everything else is built. The objectives of course, should be SMART:

S - Specific: The objective needs to be very specific, otherwise how will you know when you've achieved your goal. A goal of 'making friends' online is not specific. Ideally you'll want to specify a goal in terms of the number of friends, and the relevance of those friends to your industry (who needs dozens of online friends from completely unrelated industries).

M - Measureable: Can you measure your performance relative to your stated objective. If your stated goal is to make 200 friends from the search industry, who classifies as a friend. What action do each of these 200 'friends' have to take in order for you to ackowledge them as friends? If its merely the number of 'family, friends, and contacts' in your MyBlogLog profile, then its easily measured. If its, 100 people who will (hopefully) Digg on of your stories when you IM them, its more difficult to measure until after the event.

A - Attainable: Is the goal Attainable? If not, then its got to be reconsidered. Its important to note that a goal can be attainable, but not realistic. The difference is that the realistic aspect considers the resources you have at your disposal, where Attainability merely looks at what's possible. So, a goal of 1000 fans on StumbleUpon in 1 week is Attainable, but perhaps not realistic given you've only got an hour a day. 1 million fans is just not attainable since there aren't 1 million people interested

R - Realistic: Is the objective realistic? Perhaps 200 friends on Sphinn is reasonable, but maybe not if you hope to have them in place in one day given your limited resources.

T - Timely: You need to set a deadline for yourself in terms of time. When specifically do you want to have your 200 fans in place on StumbleUpon? 2008 isn't really specific enough, and should instead be by September 1, 2008.

Now that you have SMART objectives designed specifically to fulfill given tactical objectives, you're ready to proceed. The foundation upon which your strategy is built is much more sound as a result. Now, you can begin the process, and start looking for means of 'getting more with less'. I'll go into more depth about some possibilities here in a blog posting next week titled "Kickstart your Social Media Profile Development with MyBlogLog".