I love playing a Shaman, and one of the main reasons is the unique gameplay of totem buffs. Paladins can buff just as well as we can (if not better-- those blessings are very nice, I'll admit), but no other class can just slam down a totem into the landscape, and either buff a group or damage mobs instantly. There's a whole other strategy, as kayholder is finding out, to totem placement, and it's different from almost everything else in the game.
To answer her question, I don't lay all my totems every fight, but there are a few totems-- as a Resto/Ele Shaman, I try to have Wrath of Air and Mana Spring out-- whenever possible. At the highest levels, totem buffs are really powerful-- most melee people love Windfury, but Strength of Earth is a real boost to DPS as well as block for tanks. Her shaman is playing along with a Shadow Priest, so the Mana totem will be a big help, and Wrath of Air will boost both his shocks and her spells. As for placement, the comments on LJ are right-- she should have him lay totems down, and then pull mobs in one area to that place, in order to get the most use from them.
But even in larger situations, I love how totems work-- I love coordinating with my group what totems will be dropped, and I really enjoy paying attention to where my group members are in order to place the totems correctly. If I'm in the MT group, I run up with him to get Strength and Windfury down near him, and then move back to the caster group to put Mana down. When I drop Mana Tide (which I have, since I'm Resto), I always do a shout out to the casters in my group that "Mana is going down near me," so they can move in to get the bonus (the new animation helps a bit for that). Totems are definitely a unique way of laying down buffs, and I really enjoy the extra element of gameplay they add.