In 2014, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge generated immense awareness for a nonprofit that previously hadn’t been at the forefront of many minds. It was a marketer’s dream (albeit a freezing one): You come up with one great idea and, with little or no monetary investment, watch it spread like wildfire. The ALS Association was suddenly a household name — and the stunt drew immense celebrity attention and even made its way to the White House.

This kind of success makes digital marketing look simple. Create a piece of digital content and watch as your product or service is picked up by every news outlet imaginable. But unicorn stories like that of the ALS Association belie the true challenges of digital marketing — it’s tough to get noticed, more difficult to go viral, and easy to do it all wrong.

Leaders who see doing anything on digital as a silver bullet are sure to suffer. The key to a digital marketing strategy is strategy. Digital may be fast-paced, but you can’t be afraid to slow down.

To get your digital marketing strategy on track, begin by creating a road map with the following things in mind:

  1. Start small. Focus on doing one or two things really well, not on doing many things averagely. Concerning social media, for example, companies often create accounts on too many platforms at once: They try to be fast on Twitter, clever on Facebook, professional on LinkedIn, and entertaining on Snapchat.Instead, companies will gain higher engagement and happier customers by focusing on channels where their audiences spend the most time.
  1. Find your audience’s point of viewCustomers want to purchase solutions just as much as businesses want to sell products. Think like consumers — how can you give them the solutions they want and fit those solutions seamlessly into their lives?To start, generate great content, and share it for free. As a result, customers will be grateful and naturally drawn to you and your product.
  1. Collaborate constantly. Don’t shut your marketing department off from the rest of your company — it’s easy to get stuck doing something because “that’s what we’ve always done” without considering whether it’s working. Sometimes, the best marketing ideas can come from engineering, sales, finance, or human resources. Each team has a unique perspective, and fresh eyes will help generate fresh ideas.
  1. Communicate an authentic story. In a digital world, where nearly every scrap of information is easily accessible, consumers’ b.s. detectors are at all-time highs. Your digital marketing must be true to your company’s brand, vision, and values. You can’t be something you’re not just to try and achieve that piece of viral content.

Throwing together a meme or adding a #squadgoals caption to an image does not constitute digital strategy. Don’t go through the motions with little rhyme or reason to your actions, and don’t jump on a bandwagon because you’re afraid it’s speeding away. Digital marketing is still just marketing, and it needs to be approached just as thoughtfully if you want to go viral.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.