5 Social Video Lessons We Can Learn From Netflix

Opinion: Its dominance is not solely based on its unique content

Netflix also develops shareable content purely for viewers to pass on tcerovski/iStock

Netflix is a giant in the video industry and has become so in a very short amount of time. In the 20 years since its launch, Netflix has grown to become the video-streaming service of choice, with over 130 million subscribers in 190 countries around the world—30 million more than its nearest competitor, Amazon Prime.

This dominance is not solely based on its unique content (which includes significant investment in self-developed shows), but also from its extraordinarily successful social media and content strategies.

Here are a few of the valuable lessons on creating and marketing content that brands can glean from Netflix’s example.

Content first

Even the most outstanding social media and marketing strategy won’t save a subpar product. Netflix has excelled at providing high-quality and original content through constant updates, self-developed and self-produced shows and cornering the market for binge-watching.

20 percent of Netflix’s viewership comes from breakout hits like Stranger Things, which traditional content platforms were too conservative to back.

And the company is not afraid to invest big money to keep its cachet of must-see content rolling, spending $6 billion in 2017 on video content alone.

It’s not just original content that sets Netflix apart. 80 percent of its viewership comes from licensed content, carefully chosen and curated to give subscribers the variety and caliber of videos they have come to expect.

Smart marketing has undoubtedly helped the company, but it’s content that drives its subscriber base. Businesses prioritizing their content over everything else—including, at times, the bottom line—can expect significant viewing numbers.

Timing is everything

The way audiences consume content has changed a lot in the past decade, and nothing demonstrates this more than Netflix’s strategy of mass-releasing all episodes of a new series at once. Rather than pacing out content and expecting viewers to maintain interest for extended periods of time, Netflix utilizes a social strategy that exploits the current trend of flash interest and viral social media tags.

Data analysis of social media shows enormous spikes in social media reaction to big releases, followed by waning interest, and then reignited by the release of related content or news.

For example, the below graph shows Twitter chatter about House of Cards (season three) spiking at release, then slowly declining over the following weeks, then spiking again when Netflix announced that the show was renewed.

This strategy is based on modern consumers’ short attention spans, and it cleverly times related releases or communications to coincide with dips in interest in order to recapture the audience’s attention. Using data analysis to capitalize on trending products at exactly the right time is a smart, efficient use of resources, and any business can use this technique to properly pace its releases.

Encourage and incentivize sharing

Virality is crucial in ensuring that content reaches as wide an audience as possible. Netflix has mastered social media use for discussing, promoting and sharing its content. This is in part achieved by developing content that lends itself to sharing and integrates well with social media.

Content is often startlingly current and a natural addition to existing conversations that viewers are having. Netflix also develops shareable content purely for viewers to pass on.

For example, Netflix has a landing page that contains a series of GIFs featuring favored shows, which can easily be shared on a variety of social platforms, ensuring that the public constantly references its shows and brand. Creating shareable content purely for use on social media is a strategy that any business can use to increase visibility for its brand and products.

Listen to your viewers

The Netflix Socks project is just one (extreme) example of listening to viewers and using their feedback to tailor content, develop new functionalities and remain current. Netflix Socks detect when their wearer has fallen asleep and pause the Netflix show being watched. This technology was developed after Netflix found that many of its users were falling asleep while binge-0watching its content.

Developing and selling products such as this is simply one part of a much larger process: Listening to viewers, observing trends on social media, monitoring viewing behavior and thoughtfully providing or tailoring functions and content according to their needs and feedback. Staying current is vital, and Netflix dedicates significant resources to this effort, doing everything from providing special socks to replying in person to Twitter questions. Dedicating personnel time to such endeavors is an investment any business should consider.

Be real

Many (especially larger) companies adopt formal, professional tones when communicating with their audience and subscribers, but Netflix has broken this mold and uses sarcastic, humorous and casual communications to interact. This strategy has proven enormously successful, with customers responding to the authentic voice Netflix provides. Its casual tone also encourages viewers to interact more, thus perpetuating the cycle of social media mentions, increasing customer feedback and building brand loyalty.

Businesses across industries can replicate this by carefully choosing a tone (usually through dedicated personnel) and methodologies through which to correspond with customers.

It is no accident that Netflix dominates video streaming and social media discussion of streaming. Smart, adaptable use of its resources has enabled the company to stay relevant in the face of cheaper competitors and company scandals.

The above five strategies are so successful for Netflix because they are adopted wholeheartedly, companywide, and not merely as a strategic ploy to gain more users.

Fernando Sabre is co-founder and chief operating officer of online video-creation platform Wideo.co.