Netflix is a video-streaming powerhouse, and the following statistics show some of the amazing feats it has accomplished over the years:
- Netflix currently has more than 125 million subscribers who pay to use its services, and 7.4 million of these were added within the first three months of this year.
- Netflix’s closest competitor, Amazon Prime, has about 100 million users.
- Netflix is so successful that in the first quarter of 2018 alone, it added one-half as many subscribers as competitor Hulu has in total.
- Netflix has people using its services in over 190 countries.
Yet, Netflix is no stranger to controversies: There’s the recent controversy it generated thanks to its Christmas movie tweet, and there’s the controversy it generated when it tried to hike its price in 2016 (resulting in lawsuits and costing the streaming giant about 500,000 customers).
But perhaps Netflix’s biggest controversy was issuing a blanket ban on the use of virtual private networks to access its service: The Netflix VPN ban generated so much controversy, with many calling to boycott Netflix and many posting publicly that they’ve deleted their Netflix account. While the ban was generally unsuccessful, with data from TheBestVPN showing that 70 percent of VPNs are still able to bypass the Netflix ban, Netflix refused to back down.
Netflix’s success despite its price hike, VPN ban and other controversies is interesting for two key reasons:
- Over 30 million Netflix users access the service with a VPN or other location-masking technology.
- Since instituting the ban and price hike, despite the backlash and controversy, Netflix has added over 40 million new users.
Netflix seems to be doing something right.
What is its secret? Besides the fact that it has a unique, in-demand product, Netflix’s success also lies in the fact that it is a marketing genius, and its social media efforts aren’t taking a backseat in its marketing strategy.
Below are five key social media marketing lessons we can learn from Netflix:
Good social strategy won’t help a subpar product
Netflix has survived more controversy than most companies can. Most of these controversies—the price hike, the VPN ban, etc.—have not only resulted in lawsuits and loss of swathes of users, but they often alienated a significant portion of Netflix’s user base. Yet, the company has an history of refusing to back down, with its CEO going as far as calling people protesting its VPN ban an inconsequential, vocal minority.
While it’s a good idea to study Netflix’s marketing strategy, I think a core part is its product: Experts agree that Netflix is far ahead of its competitors when it comes to content—whether you’re looking for total available content or just original content, Netflix is far ahead of the pack. That’s not surprising considering that Netflix significantly outspends its competitors when it comes to content. Netflix spent about $6 billion on content in 2017, $1.5 billion more than Amazon, and in 2018, it will spend about $8 billion on new content.
Don’t be afraid to be authentic
Netflix demonstrates that you can be successful as a brand with an authentic voice. Unlike most companies, it doesn’t stick to a rigidly formal approach when interacting with its followers. Instead, it maintains a casual voice and doesn’t try to “play it safe” like other bigger brands. Below are some tweets that indicates Netflix’s willingness to get really casual with their audience:
Make social listening a core part of your social strategy
Netflix decided to create the Netflix Socks project when it realized that many of its users were falling asleep while binge-watching its shows. In an attempt to solve this problem, it created a smart socks accessory that used an accelerometer to detect when users dozed off, sent a signal to the user’s TV and paused the show so that the user didn’t wake up several episodes ahead of where they slept off.
The project was a massive success and won a Shorty Award for creative use of technology. It also went viral within days of its launch without additional public relations support: It got covered on every major media site, went viral on social media—generating an average of 1,175 tweets per day from about 20,000 users—and further cemented Netflix as an innovator in the entertainment space.
Now, Netflix Socks was an innovative project, no doubt. That’s not what this is about, however. What’s important was how Netflix Socks came to be: active listening. Netflix created Netflix Socks after coming across various complaints from frustrated social media users falling asleep while watching its shows. It showed that it was listening, and it further won its users’ trust and support because of this.
Numbers matter, but there’s more to it than that
Social media can be a numbers game, and the most successful brands regularly engage their audience and post regularly on social media. However, it takes more than that to succeed.
Another key lesson you can learn from Netflix’s approach to social media is a focus on quality over quantity: Whether it is the witty, humorous style it uses when it posts, how it engages its audience or the overall quality of its tweets, it is clear that Netflix is not simply tweeting to meet some target. Creativity goes into these tweets, and they are made with a good understanding of the Netflix audience.
Encourage sharing your content
Another ingredient in Netflix’s approach to social media that influences its success is how it makes it natural to share its content on social media. Besides creating content and products that lend themselves to social sharing, Netflix also makes it easy for, and encourages, people to share its content with friends.
Take the screenshot above, for example. It encourages you to “Give your friends that extra push” by sharing its content, and the social sharing buttons are placed in such a way that users can easily find and click on them to share content with their friends.
Netflix does a lot of things right, and it isn’t the streaming industry leader by accident. It has a solid marketing strategy, and there’s so much that businesses of all sizes can learn from its approach to social media.