How Netflix is growing the popularity of Narcos through smart social media marketing

The highly successful Netflix drama 'Narcos' is a shining example of social media marketing and displays the appeal of 'global' TV.

A series set in South America, largely spoken in Spanish with English subtitles, produced by French professionals, starring Brazilian actors and absolutely loved in Germany, debuted its second season on Netflix recently. It was just renewed this week up to season four, just a few days after the announcement the streaming service released all ten episodes of season two on Friday (2 September).

The gritty drama, which focuses on drug cartels operating in Colombia, boasts a masterful performance from its actors, producers and directors. There is also no doubt that the Columbian drug cartels of the 1970s and 80s (depicted in the movie "Blow" starring Johnny Depp) intrigue American audiences.

One of the secrets to its success here is the way that Netflix relies on its social audience to build viewership.

The show has picked up an incredible amount of buzz and viewers. Season one tracked the rise of real-life cocaine kingpin Escobar (Wagner Moura) and season two will concentrate on the 18 months leading up to his death in 1993. Neither Moura nor the producers have made any secret of Escobar’s impending death.

“This will be the end of Pablo Escobar. He will die this season,” executive producer Eric Newman told USA Today. “The show was never about Pablo Escobar. It was always about the drug war, and the drug war continues on. In fact, it continues on into the present.”

As the effort to take down Escobar and his Medellin Cartel accelerates, others will rise to fill the power void, including the Cali Cartel. Two of the four Cali “godfathers” are the Rodriguez brothers, who are introduced in season two. A short video announcing seasons 3 and 4 of Narcos opens with the face of Escobar (Moura) fading to black and closes with that of Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela (Damián Alcázar) emerging as the new kingpin.

A recent study notes that a huge part of how shows like Narcos gain traction and brand awareness in today’s heavily social climate is by activating their fans on social via owned content. This is especially true for companies like Netflix, who don’t have the benefit of frequent commercials that traditional networks like ABC or NBC pump out.

Further, social marketing has become even more important to a brand like Netflix or Amazon than it is to ABC or NBC as a primary channel for spreading awareness and picking up viewership. When the series launched, the Narcos fan page saw a 36.4 per cent increase in Facebook fans in the first month of September alone, reaching over one million fans by the end of September last year.

It’s worth noting however, that Netflix, not Narcos, posted the series trailer to its page first as a way to build interest and spread awareness for the Narcos Facebook page among Netflix’s biggest fans — the people who like the brand on Facebook.

Today, the Facebook page for Narcos is highly interactive and takes on simple tasks like changing the brand's cover photo as well as interacting with the readership.

This tactic works for Netflix twice: once when the cover photo is initially changed and shows up in people’s newsfeeds, and once when people visit Netflix’s Page and are reminded of this hot new show they should be binge-watching, like, right now.

The Narcos Facebook page also shows how excited people are to comment on its content while 'binge-watching.' When viewers start commenting on the Facebook page, Narcos responds to its top comment with a short, straightforward piece of encouragement (or threat? It’s hard to know with this show) and gets 199 Likes from its casual yet firm response.

In a recent post this week, a viewer states "Damn you, some of us didn't move on from Pablo's death yet" and Narcos answers back "You have until next year to mourn." As another example the Narcos stars are featured on Facebook Live answering questions about the show this week. One of the best ever replies to a post on Facebook comes after a viewer asks "Anyone know how I could watch season 2 without Netflix - Thanks. And, Narcos (sponsored by Neflix) answers back in a language anyone can understand - "stealing from Pablo is a bad idea."

In the UK the show was advertised on The Guardian during the dying hours of the football transfer window tying in rumors with the show's characters.

Meanwhile, with the second series going live in the UK, Netflix teamed with Babbel to offer Spanish lessons to viewers, to help them avoid reading the subtitles that non-Spanish speakers depend upon to follow the show.

Expect plenty more original social marketing ideas like that as word of mouth spreads over the coming seasons of the quality of Narcos as a drama in itself.

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