The conventional wisdom when using social media to promote your business is to avoid constant direct marketing plugs and sales messages. Instead, we are told to "take part in the discussion" on Twitter and Facebook. The implication is that if you are out there genuinely engaged with people, you will build trust, respect, etc. so that people may turn to you as a resource when they need help - expertise or a recommendation.
But what does that really mean on a practical level? The business only has an identity on the Fan page. The individual business owner may or may not be identified with the business. So, I can jump into whatever discussion is active, but it may not have any connection to the business. On the other hand, the business' fan page can send out random messages, but that is hardly engaging in the coversation.
So, how to we really engage with these tools without the hard sell. Any ideas?