So you built it, but they didn’t come

Content, the experts said! Videos! Digital! Social! Lolcats!

And so you nailed your content strategy. You wrote your key messages. You thought about branding. You hired a hot video agency. You put it all online and you pushed it out on social media.

And then nothing happened. And you waited. And still nothing happened. No likes, no shares. No responses. Nobody “reached out” (stop saying that, by the way). Your engagement stats were down the gurgler.

You built it, but they didn’t come.

Why didn’t they come? Sorry to be brutal, but it could well be because your content was self-serving. It was all about you, not them. It was you talking at them, not you thinking about what they’d like to read/watch/listen to/share – a classic case of a company drinking its own Kool-Aid and then wanting everyone else to get on the fizz too.

It’s entirely possible that you came to grief on the Cliff of Compliance, the River of Unoriginality, or the Forest of Self-Promotion.

Let’s unpack these.

The Cliff of Compliance: You put the content through too many signoffs. You listened to corporate types who wanted more jargon and less humour, less humanism. The language became complex and you obfuscated wildly, out of fear someone would see through the haze. You did content by committee.

The fix: Take an independent stance. Danish bank Jyske created its own independent web TV channel. They ask the questions people really want answered, they don’t pull any punches, and when they interview the CEO, he isn’t allowed to see the questions beforehand.

Says Lasse Hoegledt, the head of Jyske Bank’s communication department and editor-in-chief of Jyske Bank TV: “We have to ask [the CEO] the hardest questions because if we don’t ask him the hardest questions, then employees will get on us and say we are not doing our job. We (in the newsroom) are considered the free press. If you close down the free press, you close down society. If you close down Jyske Bank TV, you close down the bank.”

Feels mighty uncomfortable, doesn’t it? But for Jyske, it works.

The River of Unoriginality: Almost self-explanatory. If you’re a blender company trying to showcase your blenders on YouTube by blending odd items, sorry – you’re ripping off Blendtec. And people think you’re a bit, well, a bit 2008.

The fix: If you thought government departments were dry, think again. Waikato Civil Defence has been applauded for a totally new take on social media, using cartoon pictures to create a web series. Social users loved it.

(ACC and Manukau Counties Police are also great for having a sense of humour but still staying relevant.)

The Forest of Self-Promotion: You didn’t think about what your users wanted to know – you thought about what you wanted to tell them. You loaded the gun with key messages and let loose. And it wasn’t worth sitting through the pre-roll for. You built it, and they said ‘yeah, nah ... nah’.

The fix: Step outside your box and put down the Kool-Aid. Coca-Cola has shifted to a content-centric model, called Coca-Cola Journey. Coke employs teams of former journalists to tell its own story and produce – gasp! – content that people actually want to read and watch. Says digital communications and social media lead Ashley Brown: "We can't talk about what Coke wants to talk about. We have to talk about what people want to talk about."

So build it. But build it in such a way that they will come.