Binging on Netflix; killer content marketing lessons

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Brass consider the main lessons to be learnt from Netflix's content marketing strategy.

Netflix is a fast-growing brand. The service is becoming so popular that an estimated 37% of the world’s internet users have it, and in the first quarter of 2019, the international viewing platform had over 158 million subscribers worldwide. With smash hits such as Stranger Things, Orange Is the New Black and even Marie-Kondo, I wanted to find out what they are doing to win over such huge crowds and how we can interpret this for our own content marketing strategies.

Based on insights

Netflix is a data-driven company. It collects data from customer's habits and behaviours, and use this data to target the right audience. Providing the customers with a personalised experience based on their preferences. Netflix can dive even deeper, reviewing the time and day the audience watch shows, their location, their device and their browsing behaviour. By reviewing completion rates, the company gets a better understanding of what people like and what they don’t.

Have you noticed that Netflix offer recommendations once your programme has finished and the credits start to roll? This encourages and prompts viewers to stay on the app and carry on watching. If users leave the site after watching a show, they could be less likely to return and end up cancelling their subscription.

Lesson learnt: Know your insights, know your audience

Your content marketing strategy should all be underpinned by insights. Collecting insights from tools such as Hitwise and Pulsar will help answer questions like; who will consume your content, how they’ll consume it, and what kind of content they want or prefer.

You can also gather your own insights by conducting a content audit. Check what exists and gain an understanding of how it’s performing and why. That way, you can make informed decisions on how to optimise your content. It might be that two separate articles contain similar topics, and therefore, they will both be working as hard to rank for the same keywords.

Netflix has made a case on how important it is to keep the user coming back/staying on the app for longer. Make sure you take this on-board and suggest other relevant content throughout and at the end of your blog posts. Internal linking can boost your content view rates and keep people on your site for longer.

Original content

Netflix releases lots of original shows and films. A big part of their success is the number of quality programmes they have produced - how many binge-worthy Netflix series have you watched?

Always ahead of the curve, coming up with new and innovative content that consumers haven’t seen before, for example, Black Mirror's Bandersnatch; created with an interactive element that encourages audience engagement and helps Netflix to collect even more data. Audience participation means it can collect valuable data about how to interact with the characters and why they have made individual decisions.

Lesson learnt: Be original

Content should say something different, tell a story and be rooted in people’s interests. It should be personal to your audience, provide solutions and spark emotion. Bandersnatch focuses on allowing the user to create their own ending. Why not let your users help create your content? User-generated is really important, and it provides third-party content that can build brand trust and loyalty.

Picking the right platforms

The streaming service has developed an app that works across most devices, creating a ‘personalised multichannel experience'. The content within the app is easy to find and tailored to the audience; recommending shows based on what they have watched previously.

Netflix can be streamed on any device that has the app set up. In fact, the Netflix button has been added to remote controls across Europe. A big move for the brand!

Lesson learnt: Cherrypick your channels

When you’re creating a publishing plan, consider the format of your content and the device it’s most likely to be consumed on.

You should consider all options, but it's important to remember that Google wants a mobile-first strategy, and your content should be optimised as such. Do your research to understand what channels suit your content. Even just a simple search in Google for your keyword can bring up results, showing what content is the most popular.

Creating a blog hub on your website and making sure there are links to your content on the homepage will make sure your content is easy to find. There’s no point creating content if no one can find it!

Release content strategically

Instead of releasing new shows randomly, Netflix times it strategically. A great example of this was the release of their hit Sci-Fi series, Stranger Things. The insights indicated that the weekend was primetime for binge-watching, and so all episodes were released the weekend before Halloween. This was no coincidence; it was perfect strategic timing! This, of course, proved a massive hit with audiences, and in just three days following the launch, the series had over 15 million viewers.

Lesson learnt: Get your timing right

Don’t release your content willy nilly! The first thing you should do before putting your plan together is to use social listening tools to gather insights into when people consume media. Pulsar pulls in conversations around your topic and highlights the most popular times of the day where there have been conversations.

Consider creating a calendar of all national holidays, awareness days and events that would be relevant to your brand. Check out Google Trends data and think about what's happening with the weather. Planned reactive content, especially seasonal pieces, can attract more shares and engagement.

Remember the importance of the test and learn approach. Not everything will work, but we can report on everything and learn from it. Conduct analysis after every content piece and see how it's performed. Think about ways you can improve and develop this moving forward.

Creative storytellers

Netflix is a fan of multi-media storytelling. For Orange Is the New Black, it promoted the launch through many different channels. It planned offline events, created Instagram videos with the cast, Facebook giveaways and Twitter Q&As. Netflix even created some sponsored content in the New York Times, featuring an infographic showcasing some great insights about women in prison. Think of it this way: paid media leads to earned media, which leads to owned media and ultimately leads to a bigger audience.

Netflix understands how to make visual content work across all key marketing channels, while collaborating with other brands and fans to encourage engagement and keep the momentum rolling. This increases awareness and encourages people to talk about the campaign, adding their comments not only to your own channel but on others too.

Netflix is also great at being reactive. For example, when it saw how popular the Walmart Yodelling Kid was in America, it was quickly turned it into a meme incorporating Riverdale - one of the more popular Netflix shows - using a unique hashtag #yodeldale. The meme gained 25,600 likes on Twitter, 805,000 views on Instagram, 29,500 likes, and over one million views on Facebook.

Lesson learnt: Tell your story, but tell it well

Think about the story you want to tell and the platforms you want to use to tell it.

Keep up-to-date with social media algorithms and consider how your audience wants to consume your content. With 80% of active users on Twitter, for example, consider how they would want to be engaged with. It’s easier if the content is digestible and easy to read.

Be reactive, consider collaborations and interact with your audience.

The main thing to remember is always to promote your content. It's not going to sit there and work magic all on its own. It needs a little help and a little push in the right direction. Promote your content with a focus on traffic and conversions.

So there we have it, Netflix has some valuable lessons the content marketing industry can learn from. Data is definitely the differentiator for the streaming service and its production of original content. So, next time, you are coming up with your content strategy, take some learnings from Netflix and think outside the box.

Rebecca Allbones is the SEO manager at Brass.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.

Come on in, it’s free.

This isn’t a paywall. It’s a freewall. We don’t want to get in the way of what you came here for, so this will only take a few seconds.