Streaming social: What marketers can learn from Netflix’s social strategy


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When it comes to social, marketers can learn a lot from Netflix. Columnist Chris Kerns discusses the streaming service's social wins and what marketers can glean from them.

Television is changing right before our eyes. Cord cutting, video on demand and the lack of commercial interruption have fundamentally shifted how we watch our favorite shows. But one of the biggest shifts in the media industry over the past few years has been binge-watching.

Up until a few years ago, the term “binge-watching” was barely even on our radar.

These days, it’s become a way of life. Marathon watching sessions have become a national obsession. And one of the biggest companies driving this watch-all-you-want trend is Netflix.

Since it was founded in 1997, Netflix has changed the way we watch, pay for and talk about entertainment. Its social media efforts have grown over the years as new social channels have emerged, and have grown the company to a combined Netflix fan base of 25 million (combining Facebook page likes and Twitter followers).

What can we learn from all the best parts of Netflix’s social presence? How has binge-watching impacted the company’s social tactics, and which pieces can marketers take back to their own strategies? Sit back and grab the remote — we’re about to find out.

Netflix social lesson #1: Big release coming up? Save some content for the after-show

One of the largest ripples Netflix has caused in the media world is the mass-release of every episode for a show, all at once.

We can see the social reaction to that type of release below; this is the pattern of Twitter mentions for a recent big launch for the network, “House of Cards,” Season 4.

We see a huge amount of conversation out of the gate, and then a slow, steady decline.

The same pattern emerged back in December with the surprise hit, “Making a Murderer.”

This strategy gives Netflix a huge social spike at release time — a wave of social support to help drive tune-in and build a fan base. But what they give up is a serialized, weekly drumbeat of social mentions that a television series usually gets.

We can see the weekly pattern with HBO’s “Game of Thrones” chatter from last year:

So what does Netflix do to help keep the conversation going after the initial binge? With at least two of its shows in the past year, we’ve seen post-launch announcements provide additional spikes a few weeks after.

“Daredevil,” Season One:

Eleven days after the initial bump for “Daredevil,” Netflix released news that the series had been picked up for a second season. A few weeks later, the company released details around a new character in the upcoming “Daredevil” season.

These announcements brought additional post-release spikes in social chatter about the show, undoubtedly driving more tune-in.

“House of Cards,” Season 3:

Netflix used a similar strategy with last year’s “House of Cards” season. Thirty-three days after the initial download spike, the show released news of the series being re-upped. Social media reacted accordingly.

Takeaway: If you have a big release planned, make sure to have a few additional social communications planned for a few weeks after the initial bump. It’s a great way to give fans a reason to talk about your brand.

Netflix social lesson #2: Embrace your inner brand voice

While many brands (especially those attached to large public companies) play it safe on social, Netflix has decided to take a different approach.

By taking on a unique tone and voice in their social posts, they have done a great job in differentiating themselves across their diverse user base and drive great engagement.

In fact, some of the best-performing pieces of social content aren’t around big news that the company is sharing about shows or personalities, but are posts that include a little bit of Netflix swagger.

Takeaway: When you find and maintain an authentic brand voice, you can not only attract a rabid fan base, you can also allow your content team to create truly unique content that followers love to engage with.

Netflix social lesson #3: Leverage the wider social world to get your message out there

Historically, cable subscriptions have locked consumers into long-term contracts that were difficult to wiggle out of. Entertainment functioned as a utility — just always there, ready to turn on when you needed it.

But the monthly subscription model brings with it a new breed of consumer, one that can turn content on and off each month as they wish, without a high degree of switching costs on their side.

To battle this, it appears that Netflix has adopted a strategy to excite its user base about upcoming programming at exactly the right time: telegraphing the value that the network will be bringing the following month.

Let’s take the above tweet as an example, which includes the words “Netflix” and “next month.” You might not notice the patterns of these messages in your daily feed, but if we look at all tweets using those same terms over the past three months, you can start to see a definite pattern.

Tweets about what’s coming up on Netflix pick up during the second-to-last week of each month. I’m guessing it’s not a coincidence that this is right when Netflix users are deciding whether or not to stick around for another month of viewing.

Also notice that all of these tweets aren’t coming directly from Netflix, they are coming from press outlets, as well. By seeding the “coming next month” messages into news organizations, Netflix is able to get marketing messages in front of a wider social audiences, at scale.

Takeaway: A goal-driven social strategy doesn’t have to be transparent to the audience. Use creative methods to find the reach you’re looking for.

Conclusion

You may not be in the media business, but as a social marketer, there’s a wide variety of strategies you can learn from other industries.

Sometimes, it can pay off to spend part of your work day binge-watching social data from around the industry. Campaign planning, brand voice and message timing are just a few tactics you can pick up by watching other top brands in the industry.

But remember, just don’t bring your work home with you. That new season of “House of Cards” isn’t going to watch itself.

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