From Movies to Memes: Examining Netflix’s Social Media Stardom
Netflix’s introduction of streaming was a disruptive, innovative, and risky approach to the movie rental industry. This same unconventional way of thinking also shines in their amusing social media presence, completely revolutionizing the way that brands think of using social media.
Anyone who pays for their own (or steals their friend’s) Netflix account like me knows that they strive on delivering a personalized experience, keeping us engaged and entertained at all times. With algorithms and previous viewing history, they know exactly the type of series and films to recommend and encourage us to continue where we last left off. They provide us the independence of allowing us to curate our own lists of movies, give us options to skip theme songs, recaps, and credits, and run on an ad free model.
Netflix has not only proven worthy of our wallets, but also of our follow.
As of April 2018, Netflix US account alone boasts 5 million followers on Twitter, 7.3 on Instagram, 45 million likes on Facebook, and 3 million on YouTube. Pretty impressive vanity metrics, right?
But what warrants Netflix such a popular online presence?
1. Netflix knows their memes (and integrates them with their product)
If “memes are an art, not a science” then Netflix is the art gallery, not the painter. You can count on Netflix for posting a variation of a trend, format, or picture that is being manipulated and gone viral, but not so much on creating the meme per se. Even so, their tweets depicting memes are timely, relevant, and actually funny, something that’s really refreshing coming from a brand. Their most popular memes garner them an average of 20–70,000 likes on Twitter, and 300–500,000 on Instagram. These are the types of metrics brands could only dream of! Their memes are often times linked back to Netflix original shows, resulting in thousands of shares from Netflix enthusiasts.
Take Walmart Yodelling Kid for example — love him or hate him, he was all the rage for the past few weeks and was quickly turned into a meme. People were cropping him singing on festival stages, adding funny captions, and producing remixes. And yes, Netflix got to share on the fun too.
As always, Netflix was fast to act, syncing Yodelling Kid’s voice over a clip of Archie singing at the Variety Show from their ever so popular original series Riverdale. This tweet captioned #yodeldale garnered 25,600 likes on Twitter, 203,100 (805,000 views) likes on Instagram, 29,500 likes, and over one million (!) views on their Facebook page.
Netflix also scored 37,600 users tagging their friends and 13,000 shares on Facebook. With video content performing an average of 4.4x better than still posts, it’s no surprise that this collab did so well.
The “if you don’t love me at my [insert picture] then you don’t deserve me at my [insert glow up]” that was popular for about a week? Yeah, they covered that meme too.
Netflix is effectively resonating among the millennials, and gets them to engage with their content off screen with the use of memes. Memes are a social currency and make Netflix seem trendy while sparking positive emotions with the brand. The use of Netflix original content in these memes also makes people without Netflix feel shafted from the crowd, and could even intrigue them to start a free trial. The number of engagements, impressions, and conversation initiated with the use of memes alone are just one of the many factors that make Netflix a pro at social media.
2. They have a unique and consistent brand voice
Netflix realized early on in the game that they can’t have it all in one account. Different countries mean different languages, cultures, and licensing regulations, so the content understandably varies from their US site to their Canadian to their UK to their Spanish platforms. It would be counterproductive to only have one main account making reference to, and promoting upcoming releases that are only available in some countries, and pretty discriminatory to only post in English. For this reason, Netflix has established @Netflix (US), @NetflixUK, @Netflix_CA, @NetflixIndia, @NetflixES and @NetflixANZ on Twitter, Facebook and Insta. They also have a separate account for their customer service (@Netflixhelps), which all countries refer to. Here Netflix makes a clear divide between customer service and community management, a trend that many social brands are only now realizing the importance of. While they have different employees working each handle, with different professional and educational experience, they maintain a similar, laid back manner. This identical, casual, and quite funny voice is one that’s approachable and encourages you to engage with. Often times, the jokes even overlap or are reposted if the countries share the same show. Only on Canada’s Netflix account would you see them quoting a BlogTO article and making a joke out of it. Similarly, one will find UK lingo, such as a reference to a bank holiday on Netflix UK’s social. Not only has Netflix got their social media content localized, they’ve got it consistent.
3. They’re honest and can take a joke
Netflix gets that people are obsessed (and tweet profusely) about their admiration for Steve Carell and The Office. They get that they have a major role in procrastination, late nights, and the whole binge-watching epidemic. They get that people share Netflix passwords, and they get that you will do whatever it takes to avoid paying $10 a month. They post the type of relatable and humorous content that one of one would expect from a funny friend, not a brand, and truly understand their audience’s sense of humour.
4. Their posts are unexpected and raw
Large brands on social media are known to have content that is fairly reserved, safe, and posted in a professional demeanor. There was a time where a brand wouldn’t dare to take part in sassy comebacks to their customers, let alone use profane language. The social media manager would likely be fired, and the company’s reputation would surely be tarnished.
Netflix defies all the rules that a 2008 social media management or PR course would teach. They post content and respond to users as if you were buds, even if that means dropping the occasional f-bomb. Look no further than this reply from Netflix to a guy critiquing how they announced the sudden release of “The Cloverfield Paradox”.
More often than not, social media interaction with brands make it feel like you’re talking with some boring account manager whose sole purpose is to promote products with canned, generic, and impersonal posts, and reply to customers with scripted responses. Netflix’s account is unique, and genuinely feels like it’s being run by someone in their 20’s. For the most part, Netflix uses planned content, as most of their posts are spontaneous and relating to current trends in popular culture. This content is authentic, unique, and personal, bringing a strategic and creative approach to social media. They’re not using excessive emojis, hashtags, or the phrase “it’s lit” in every post, something we say way too much with brands trying to be relevant. They’re Netflix, and they’re real.
5. They find creative ways to promote upcoming series
Netflix is incredibly successful in using social media to create buzz about their upcoming releases, as well as getting people to post about them their shows for free, using creative approaches. Some of these well documented, transfomative (and instagrammable) approaches consist of pop ups spaces that immerse fans into the worlds of Gilmore Girls, Riverdale and Stranger Things.
- Exhibit A — 2016: Luke’s Diner Pop Up (Gilmore Girls), USA and Canada
To celebrate what was the upcoming release of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life premiering on November 25th, Netflix announced on social media that they would be transforming 200 coffee shops across North America into a branded “Luke’s Diners”. Needless to say, this pop up not only generated much excitement at the time of its announcement, but also long lines and a plethora of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook posts from users themselves boasting about their morning coffee. Making headlines in Vogue, Variety, and USA Today, it also got Netflix quite a bit of free publicity, both for the pop up and promotion of the show release. Fans of Gilmore Girls were brought back to the nostalgic Luke’s in Stars Hollow, CT, an experience they will never forget and is now engraved forever in their social media feed.
- Exhibit B — 2017: Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe (Riverdale), Canada
Netflix Canada had the spotlight in fall of 2017 when they tweeted and posted on Facebook details about a Riverdale pop up diner that was not to be missed. The October pop-up had a Facebook RSVP event page, allowing fans to invite friends and converse with over 7500 RSVPs. The event itself was very popular among teens that watch the show as they could try on iconic Riverdale clothing, and order the same milkshakes Archie and friends enjoy in the show. More importantly, it generated excitement and free publicity for the show’s second season with numerous fans posting their pictures from the event online. I for one had my Instagram feed flooded with pictures of the pop ups in Toronto.
- Exhibit C — Cross-Brand Promo (Stranger Things), UK and online
Critically acclaimed Netflix original series, Stranger Things also received some critically acclaimed marketing recognition when they set out to promote Stranger Things 2… on other brand’s social media accounts. From Eggo to the London Transport, to TOPSHOP, to Spotify, Netflix not only knows how to get people talking in the comments section of their own account but on others too.
And there was of course a waffle pop up, because apparently pop up shops are all the rage (and free publicity) for Netflix.
Following Netflix’s accounts ensures that users are the very first to hear about these exciting pop ups and new series drops. Twitter states that the top reason people use their platform it to “discover something new and interesting”, and Netflix definitely delivers with its abundance of announcements and surprises. Followers are also intrigued to tag their friends or reply to these posts, leading to my next point.
6. They encourage interaction
Netflix knows how to use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (what a concept), and posts content that triggers responses. One of the ways they do this is by taking full advantage on Twitter and Instagram polls. While they may be pretty silly, their nature of anonymity get you to engage, and only reinforces the mass following they’ve got.
Similar to polls, many of their posts stimulate a response by asking fans questions or posting interesting or revealing info. Netflix is also known to recognize their fans whether it’s by replying with a snarky response, or with a funny GIF. A cheeky reply from Netflix can result in five minutes of Twitter fame, encouraging users to continually respond to their posts.
It feels good for social media users to be included and part of something, along with being recognized by an actual person on the other side of an account. These simple, yet masterfully crafted and well thought out posts encourage users to engage both privately and publicly.
Just like its black and red logo, Netflix’s social media game is bold and striking. These accounts allow Netflix to accomplish something that most brands can only dream off — being popular with a millennial target audience.
Seriously, how many times have you seen an article within the past year about companies re-branding to win over the millennials? Diet Coke, Applebees, and even Subway are all undergoing extremely expensive efforts to gain this so highly coveted millennial audience. Netflix on the other hand doesn’t need some expensive re-branding budget, just a really creative and witty social media team to bond, have fun, and relate with their fans. To be a paying customer or subscriber is one thing, but to further your relationship to make them a fan of a brand is another.
Brand loyalty is one of the most coveted possessions of businesses in the digital age, and all Netflix needed to do was use social media like their audience wanted them to. Netflix disrupts, engages, uses multimedia, and is authentic. While other brands blatantly push their products in your face, Netflix’s social media account continues to be something that’s refreshing for myself and the rest of the younger users to see (even in the Wendy’s and MoonPie social media world we live in).
Netflix truly understands their audience and provides them with the content they want and love not only by streaming, but by tweeting too. Where many brands struggle in entertaining and staying relevant with fans while they aren’t using their product, Netflix thrives.
As Apple, another highly successful and innovate brand so notoriously stated:
Think different Netflix did — it’s no wonder that they have taken both the streaming and social media world by storm.