1) Get your products into the hands of the right people (both on- and off-line media). When making your pitch, don't write a bunch of technobabble, what you say needs to inspire busy people to put aside a small piece of their day to take a closer look at what you are offering. (Don't just ship product on the hope that someone will look at it either; get a committment before sending your product out.)
2) Offer incentives. Proven things that will motivate people to be more interested in your product include decoys, incentive pricing, seeing that your product is neither the most expensive or the cheapest. Don't diminish the value of your product by giving it away, but it may help to give something away for free (think Amazon's free super saver shipping offer). Free is in its own special class when it comes to incentives that work.
3) Explore opportunities for marketing alliances. (We have an article on marketing alliances going up on Canoe.ca's Money > Small Business section on Tuesday next week.) If you target a niche it is much easier to make a big impact with fewer $. Beyond the traditional marketing channels, don't overlook things like associations that have thousands of members - there is an association for almost every professional group.
Nice post Ed (sorry, can't comment yet)
I'll just share 3 ideas using Social Networking. And yes, just pick the current big three. Don't spend time on dozens of smaller sites. Unfortunate but true, you will have more traffic and exposure with a focus on a few key places than spending time on dozens of smaller places.
1) Join Twitter. The latest popular place. Do searches, find people who have similar interests with your product. Follow them. Post tweeds in the subject area (not just your product).
2) Join LinkedIn. Join groups. Add friends with people from those groups that work in your field. Post updates (similar to twitter).
3) Join Facebook. Become fan of some pages with similar interests. Add friends. Post status updates.
I don't think there's something that "every" technology startup should do to get the word out or build traction. It depends on your product, your market, where your target audience is, the vehicles to reach them, what the competitive landscape looks like, etc. "Traction" might mean media coverage, it could mean support from influencers, could mean a certain level of customers/sales.
Maybe it's a copout answer but for me the "what every startup should do" is to make sure you have a marketing plan (whether written or the knowledge in someone's head). Target market, trends, competition, value proposition, unique positioning, target audience, objectives, etc. With that you can define exactly what "traction" means and determine the three most important strategies/tactics to achieve it. And it doesn't mean writing a marketing plan that looks like a book. In some scenarios it could mean just filling in the outline of a marketing plan in a relatively short working session. Just depends.
Best of luck.