By Andrew Broadbent
But before getting to five social media marketing takeaways from Netflix that entrepreneurs can use to expand their brands’ presence, consider some important numbers about the media giant’s place among what’s sometimes called FANG (FANG being the acronym for the four high-performing technology stocks: Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google.)
These are the numbers that have transformed Netflix into a video-streaming juggernaut:
- As of July,17, Netflix had more than 130 million paying subscibers, according to Statista. It added over 7.5 million new subscribers between Q4 2017 and Q1 in 2018.
- Amazon Prime, Netflix’s closest streaming competitor, has only 100 million subscribers.
- In just one quarter, Netflix added half as many new subscribers as another streaming competitor, Hulu, has total subscribers (pretty incredible).
- Netflix has made a growth push into new markets: It has customers streaming and watching content in over 190 countries.
Along the way, Netflix has pushed the envelope and made some controversial moves. Its original series 13 Reasons Whywas boycotted and slammed by reviewers for what they said romanticized suicide and depression. Then, last December, Netflix generated negative publicity with its Big Brother-esque creepy Christmas movie tweet in which it shared detailed information about its customers’ viewing habits, while cruelly poking fun at 53 people who watched a Christmas movie 18 days in a row.
Let’s not forget the company’s price-hike scandal of 2016, after it had promised certain customers lifetime subscriptions. The result: lawsuits and nearly 500,000 cancellations.
Perhaps the company’s biggest controversy was the ban it issued against people who wanted to use location-masking software such as virtual private networks (VPN) to stream content from the app.
The Netflix VPN ban caused quite a few customers to call for a ban, via social media, and say they were deleting their accounts. People use VPNs to access content that isn’t available or hasn’t launched in their region from Netflix. And while Netflix has tried quite hard to enforce the ban, according to data from the site The Best VPN, around 70 percent of VPNs have found ways to bypass the Netflix ban. The company is still fighting this.
At the same time, the company’s growth and success despite these backlash events and scandals has been impressive:
- Since 2015, over 30 million subscibers have been logging-in and streaming the service using VPNs or other location-masking software, according to The Guardian.
- Since enacting the price hike and VPN ban, regardless of the associated uproar, Netflix has added over 40 million new paying monthlty subscribers.
So, you may be wondering, what does Netflix do differently to achieve these kinds of results? What is the special sauce or secret to this growth? Aside from the fairly obvious factors, such as its having built a useful and popular (some say addictive) product, and constantly reinvested its profits into creating new content and licensing deals, the company has mastered marketing to what I consider a genius level.
And its investment in social media is a big part of those marketing strategies. Accordingly, while you may not be in media, here five things your company can learn from Netflix about marketing across social media channels:
1. Even great social media will not save a crappy product.
Besides maybe Google or Facebook, Netflix has made it through more scandals than most companies. The events I’ve described have brought a barrage of litigation, loss of subscribers and discontent among portion of its customer base. Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings, known for taking risks, hasn’t been fazed by the backlash.
In a 2016 earnings call he called the protestors of the VPN “a very small but quite vocal minority” and called the scenario “really inconsequential to us, as you can see from our Q1 results.”
Of course, marketing approach is one thing; then there’s the actual product. Recently, Digital Trends conducted an in-depth comparison of the streaming service providers and Netflix came out on top, winning in five out of seven categories (price, content library, supported devices, ease of use and video quality).
This confirmed Netflix’s position ahead of its competitors in terms of subscribers looking for binge-worthy content. Even though recent data has suggested that 80 percent of Netflix viewership comes from licensed movies and TV content, original breakout hits like Stranger Things have caught the big news headlines and accounted for the remaining 20 percent.