I don't know how other people like to do it, but everyone has a preference. This is my strategy:
Either start by using turns to build up your character and then try to recruit thugs, dealers, and hoes, or you can start by recruiting and then building up your character. Whichever you choose, you win. When you recruit or build up your character, you get money from your followers (if you have any). I always use all of my turns at the beginning of a round to recruit and build my character points.
The next day, I move on to using a majority of my points to recruit and get character points. With the remaining turns, (in the beginning) try to "house raid" anyone that has less thugs and a guerilla warfare rating than you do (thugs are the only thing protecting you and them from house raids). Besides, that's where your money and drugs come from in the beginning. When you are done, sell all drugs and buy things like M-16's, Methlabs, etc. then donate the remainder to your gang (build one if you aren't in one) that way, you have about a 95% chance no one will want to attack you because you have nothing they want.
As for your gang, the more casinos, barracks, and airliners you buy, the more money you make. The more M-16s and Hummers you have, the more successful your thugs are. The more private doctors and penthouses, the more you get from your hoes. The more methlabs and private jets, the more money you make from your dealers.
You can also try stealing hoes, tainting drugs to kill off someone's followers (thugs, dealers, and hoes), diseasing hoes and killing off followers, etc., but you need a private doctor, meth lab, etc. For everything you want to do to someone, you need to have something.
And so, the process continues. Use turns to get larger character ratings, then recruit followers. Don't ever fool yourself into thinking that someone can't do as much damage as you can, though. There's always a bigger fish in this game!
Remember, consult the Help Files for further information about any of these topics.