"Know your audience."
It's advice that should be applied in every aspect of your professional life, to maintain awareness of who you're addressing and to understand their expectations. Those three words are heeded with the utmost dedication by successful companies who understand their target customers, and Netflix is undoubtedly among them. As they've proved time and time again through their social media and branding, Netflix knows what their audience wants.
The premise of Netflix is simple - a platform for streaming movies and TV programming - however, the inner workings of the company are much more complex. Movies and TV series are clearly something enjoyed by all, no matter their sex, gender, age, or nationality, so it seems near impossible for Netflix to even be able to adhere to the advice of "know your audience" - their audience is potentially everyone the world. However, they successfully juggle all those elements and promote their brand in a powerful way, particularly through their social media channels.
Infographic by BroadBandSearch.net
1. Social Media Transparency - CEOs, Start Tweeting
Back in 2012, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings started an interesting trend after an announcement on Facebook. Simply put, Hastings posted about a milestone on the social media platform - Netflix's monthly viewing surpassed 1 billion hours for the first time.
Now that may seem like simple news that every company has the right to share, but there were additional considerations in this case.
It was shared by a technology-focused blog an hour later and reached several news outlets within the next two hours. That seemingly simple post on Facebook caused Netflix's stock to rise from $70.45 to $81.72 the following trading day. It spoke to the true power of social media when mixed with a bit of transparency from the company's CEO. However, this increase due to the "accidental transparency" irked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) who was ready to press charges against Hastings.
The issue at play was that Hastings had leaked information that then influenced the stock price, without releasing any actual data to back it up. The SEC eventually decided against taking action in this instance, saving Netflix from potential punishment.
So was it an accidental moment of transparency, or a clever strategy to gain more customers? Whatever the answer is, a simple Facebook post had tremendous implications in the long run. From then on, Netflix announced that it would share its quarterly financial results and business outlook, and they've constantly kept people up with the number of Netflix content watched per second. It set the stage for numerous companies around the world, who were shown the benefits of such transparency.
And while it may not have been an innovation, as such, it was certainly a moment of clarity for the company's strategy, one that made other CEOs sit up and take notice.
2. Pay Attention to Twitter and Make Sure Everyone Knows You Do
All those hashtags and @handles can be a well of information that brands can use to boost their customer care efforts and, in turn, increase brand loyalty. Netflix excels not only at replying to certain comments and queries with witty responses, but they also have a beautiful way of advertising their procedure. They pay attention to their customers, and they make sure their clients know that they're being considered. It's important to let your customers know that their input is not simply thrown under a rug and ignored.
Earlier this year, Netflix did all of this in a splendid way that, ultimately, provides a great strategy outline for everyone. They took a "problem", and they ran with it.
The company's social media management team followed the endless string of viewers who were falling asleep in front of the TV and losing their place in the respective movie or series' they were watching. While they were getting some shut-eye, the episodes just kept on rolling. Now, this is not a doomsday-level problem, but Netflix saw an opportunity to respond in their typical clever manner.
To combat the issue, they created the Netflix Socks.
These "first-world problem" solvers detect when the wearer falls asleep, then automatically send a signal to pause the show. That way, no viewer ever wakes up two episodes later in the series, and they're able to pick up where they left off.
Was it truly an issue that couldn't be solved by something simpler? Of course not, but Netflix paid attention to the numerous "complaints" on Twitter and showed that they're listening through the simple campaign.
This little project was propelled by customer tweets that could've been easily ignored. Instead, it went on to win the Shorty Award for Creative Use of Technology and became a global phenomenon. It reached audiences all over the world, over 1 billion media impressions and appeared in over 1,000 media placements, including major publications from the world of tech, lifestyle, fashion, entertainment, teen, business, advertising, local news, and global news.
In just three weeks, that success multiplied because they were mentioned 49 times per hour on Twitter. That rounded up at 1,175 tweets per day, which means it made Netflix a daily topic of conversation for thousands of people. It brought incredible brand awareness but, most importantly, it highlights Netflix as an innovator in the entertainment industry and showed the world that they pay attention.
Shares went up from $82.32 in February 2016 to a steady increase to $110.42 in April, and their subscriber growth went from 75 million in Q4 of 2015 to 81.5 million in Q1 of 2016.
3. "And When We Aren't Posting, We're Listening"
It's important for a company to not only talk and keep people updated on their content, but to also actively participate in discussions and answer their customers.
Netflix, once again, excels above many others in this area. They always note that when they're not posting, they're listening, and the entire world can see how beautifully they interact with everyone - ranging from celebrities to their average customer.
And that's no easy task - as of right now, Netflix has over 23 million likes on their Facebook page, 2.03 million Twitter followers on the U.S. account, around 1.7 million fans on their Instagram page - as well as a constant presence on Reddit.
Netflix has a great track record of interacting with their customers and showing excellent customer care in several situations, and they do so with charisma, wit, and humor. They have a team prepared to keep up with their casual tone of voice, and stray from the typical business-like responses that no one truly values. Here's just one of the numerous interactions.
The Netflix customer care service employee keeps up with the conversation in a goofy and humorous manner as he tries to resolve the issue.
And then later, both the customer and the alleged Captain Mike of the good ship Netflix continued with their banter while discussing the issue.
It's refreshing to see a customer service staff member willing shake things up while still doing his job. He was praised by the so-called Lt. Norman, who certainly did not expect the response.
This one simple casual interaction and moment of attention reached millions of people through subsequent social shares, which acted as a splendid advertising tool for Netflix. It created a positive image for the company that they continue to build on today. It's safe to say that Captain Mike successfully sailed the ship into the deeper seas and landed his white whale.
4. Believe In What You're Selling - They Are "Entertainment's Biggest Fans"
Netflix regularly demonstrate that they are truly the biggest consumers of their own content. You'll always have more success if you believe in your product and/or service, and when you do, you need to make sure the world knows it. Choose your language and manner of approach carefully, in a way that highlights your devotion without sounding like an infomercial. The world has moved past that particular style of advertising, and so should you.
Keep your customers coming back for more and offer them content you can relate to. Netflix manages their resources expertly - in celebration of the latest entry in the Star Trek saga, for example, Netflix streamed all existing episodes of the Star Trek television collection, and essentially tied themselves to a potential blockbuster movie. They understood the fan base of the franchise, they embraced it and essentially drew them to their platform. Even though they had no connection with the studios or the actual movie, they found a way to offer more to their customers - and that's exactly what true fans want.
You have to be a user yourself and step into the shoes an enthusiast to come up with the best advertising techniques, and Netflix always add an emotional touch, by tugging at the heartstrings of their viewers with a dose of nostalgia. Netflix has a slew of employees that are fans of the shows themselves and actually have the opportunity to share their passion or "fandom" with others - it's no wonder that many Millennials (their target audience) want to work there.
For a digital streaming service, Netflix doesn't shy away from offering more. They created a pop-up Central Perk store in Manhattan to promote the streaming of the "Friends" series - and any Friends fan would know just how precious that could be. They even had a Crazy Pyes food truck in Los Angeles as a nod to their hit series, "Orange is the New Black". Netflix understands the meaning of these details because they believe in the product and content they offer, and they're willing to go to the extra, fan-pleasing lengths to promote it.
The streaming service knows their audience and social media is perfect vehicle for them to showcase this element. Using enticing visuals, Netflix captures key emotions and elements of their programs to boost their appeal.
5. Find Your Voice
Companies like to play it safe, and it's often a first instinct to respond in a serious manner with the typical answers, however, brands shouldn't be afraid to mix it up and find their own voice. Netflix has found theirs, and it's full of wit, humor, and casual language.
Some of their most popular and shared posts are those that have a touch of personality in them. The technique can be tremendously successful if you incorporate your brand's voice in every announcement - and your voice speaks direct to your target audience.
For example, Netflix announced the renewal of "Orange is the New Black" in a typical manner that's both in line with the show's theme and language. They understood what kind of fan base they were addressing, adapted, and tossed in a pinch of Netflix humor.
That bit of charisma and fresh approach resulted in over 3,000 retweets and 3,400 shares in a world where everyone could've just tweeted the news themselves. However, their viewers felt like the post was in the right tone, with the perfect amount of enthusiasm, while adding precious information from the direct source.
Netflix, in particular, embraces public perception and goes along with the joke while maintaining their brand identity, their voice, and promoting content.
A good example is their famous "Netflix and Chill", which was supposed to be a simple tagline, but has turned into much more. Over time, millions of people have twisted the meaning of the phrase into innuendo which has little to do with actually watching Netflix. So what did Netflix do in response? They didn't swim against the current or abhor the use of "Netflix and Chill" in any other way than they intended it. The company took to social media, used their brand voice, and went with it.
These simple touches are the cherry on top of excellent service. It's a beautiful coat that they wrap around their advertising methods, and it's made out of social media posts. Find your brand voice, spread it through social networks and let the world hear it. More importantly, engage your audience and interact with them, don't shy away from being entertaining while answering.
And, as any acting coach will tell you, never break character.
6. Quality Over Quantity. Always.
You've heard it before, but it's more than just the "motto" of thousands of companies, and it directly applies to your social media strategy.
It's not about sending out 1,000 tweets, it's about creating 1,000 tweets that will keep people talking. Around 83% of companies actively use social media to promote their content or service, but how many of them have millions of fans and get their posts shared?
Netflix has perfected the art of keeping their social audience engaged with a dynamic and active posting process that doesn't sacrifice quality. They have an excellent ability to target their audience and tell a story in a concise, clear, and entertaining manner while retaining their originality. It's not enough to simply write down 50 words, add a colorful infographic, a link, and that's it. The quality of the content is absolutely crucial because competition is high.
It's only been three years since the streaming platform begun their intense social media campaign and it those efforts have been reflected in their overall subscriber growth.
Meanwhile, many companies who've taken part in "binge posting" haven't gotten even close to similar results. You should aim to create experiences that are worthy of a conversation.
Social media is the modern day word-of-mouth. A various studies have shown that the most influential recommendations are those made by friends, and what is social media if not the perfect platform to easily share matters of interest with your friends? A picture, an event, a funny article, a good movie or book, all have a place within the average circle of friends and are often shared through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. It's informative, easy, and the information can be preserved much more quickly.
In spite of all their success, Netflix can do more. Don't take their techniques and copy them, but instead, adapt them to your own. In fact, take successful companies, such as Netflix, and think about how they could improve, what they could do better.
What if they steered away from Millennials and targeted older generations by streaming shows such as The Golden Girls or Matlock? How could they gain the attention of that audience through social media? Could it be the direct approach or indirect targeting by the Millennials to convince the older generation to start Netflix-ing & Chill, in the intended sense of the word? Food for thought.