Social media is a tough gig, mostly because expectations are unrealistic. I’ll tell you right now – and I wish others would as well – campaigns DO ‘go viral’, but unless you’re a national brand with a few million followers waiting to be wowed, your chances of that happening are about as good as getting hit by lightning. Twice.

Let’s explore the myth and reality behind what masterful social media marketing looks like, the steps you can take to attain it – and the folks you should run away from as fast as you can.

You already know that masterful marketing is not what it used to be, so we’ll zoom past antiquated methods that no longer work and focus first on what does. A quick list of the top three:

  • Interacting with industry influencers and developing relationships with them.
  • Creating a significant digital footprint with targeted followers
  • Consistently participating on specific platforms. And I’ll even tell you which one is the best bang for your buck – LinkedIn. Hands down. Get on there and get active. You’ll thank me.

Now let’s reveal three modern digital marketing/outreach techniques that do not work:

  • Press releases. Why does anyone even pay for these anymore? It’s lazy. Tell your PR person to develop a pitch list (and a solid pitch) and reach out to those reporters and influencers they should have relationships with at publications your target audience actually reads. And if they don’t have relationships, they should have spent their first month working for you warming them.
  • Commenting on blogs. Worst. Advice. Ever. Think about it – when you see a link to someone’s blog in another blog’s comments, do you think “thought leader” or “spam spreader”?
  • Any advice from those who don’t demonstrate the “what works” list above. If the consultant you’re considering suggests strategies they aren’t personally implementing on their own business and personal properties, know that they will NOT do any better for you. How could they? Committing to creating and maintaining a consistent presence online is not easy and it takes lots of practice to perfect. If they haven’t done this for themselves, they can’t do this for you – don’t fund someone else’s learning curve.

But wait! What about ‘going viral’? Where are those tips?

Unfortunately, that’s the man behind the curtain, Dorothy. Even ALS didn’t turn ‘viral’ overnight, it had some pretty prominent influencers fronting it from the get-go.

But all is not lost. You can increase your odds of virality by redirecting those dollars and focusing on the following:

  • Feed that in-house monster and rethink risk. Reinvest in the creative process and have faith in the thought leadership found within your firm. Your people have great ideas and you’re ignoring them when you should be harnessing them. Disruption starts at home (so does virality). Work it.
  • Read, retweet, interact and engage. You need to understand your space – you can’t outsource that understanding. And if you are, you’re handing over too much power to someone. It would be like having a baby, hiring a nanny and having them stand in for you for birthday parties and parent-teacher conferences. Consultants should supplement your understanding, not replace it. You won’t understand the pulse of your vertical if you’re not in the loop and unless your consultant is of the six-figure variety (and if s/he is, congrats to you both), s/he won’t either and you’ll miss that one in a million chance to go Gangnam Style if/when it zooms by.
  • Make friends with a celebrity influencer or two. It’s not impossible – at all. But it’s also not easy peasy. Following the bullet above is the first step.

And most of all remember, just because THIS guy exists and some people hit the lottery twice, you probably won’t. So stop looking for shortcuts and paying for the social equivalent of a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. Remember, it’s great to take risks, but don’t bank on them, because slow and steady always wins the race!