What did we do before Netflix? I have a vague recollection of renting or buying DVDs and, before that, VHS tapes. My viewing habits stayed relatively the same for years. Maybe decades. I enjoyed comedies, action flicks, and the occasional drama. I’m not one for the movie theater, so most Oscar-winning performances were watched months after their premiers thanks to a DVD or cable channel showing the picture. I never discovered something “new” and I certainly didn’t hole up all weekend watching a series from start to finish, unable to tear myself away from the screen.
Times have certainly changed!
In 2015, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings commented that users had streamed 42.5 billion hours of video through the service. And, Netflix itself reports its users spend approximately 100 million hours a day watching content—hence, the infamous “show hole” we have all likely experienced when we get sucked into a new series.
Netflix even released an infographic in 2017 counting down “The Shows that Got Us Cheating,” highlighting streaming content that was so good viewers snuck behind their significant others’ backs to watch ahead of them on the down low. (Side note: I’m totally guilty of watching Stranger Things episodes ahead of my husband but he went behind my back to get ahead on Ozark so we’re even.)
But what can content marketers learn from streaming content and Netflix specifically? Here’s a couple of takeaways you can implement in content strategy today.
Be prepared for, and promote, immediate consumption
Is there anything worse than finding a new show to watch and then having to wait a week or, alas, a whole month or quarter before the next episode? Similar to House of Cards, you’ll want to provide your audience with ways to consume as much content as they want (or can in one sitting) to get them hooked. This is especially true for podcasts! Just one or two episodes will not be enough to get your initial listeners to come back for more. Think of it as encouraging “binge behavior”. You want your audience to hang on your every word, looking for the next content drop for days or even weeks at a time.
Side note: This means you have to tell a really great story. Content for content’s sake is not binge-worthy.
Use data to create more relevant content
You may not realize it, but Netflix was one of the first streaming services to use big data to better target customer choices. Think of Amazon and its subtle way of pointing you to products you may be interested in because of their similarities to past purchases.
Thanks to all its consumer data, Netflix can make recommendations to viewers on what to watch next based upon their choices as well as the data of others who watch similar shows. It’s a win for consumers because Netflix directs us to the content we’re most likely to engage with without having to search or wander aimlessly through all the titles and genres to come up with our next show or series.
This also creates loyalty between the brand and the customer. As Netflix recommends new titles and as we all consume more content, we begin to trust and rely on its recommendations more and more. Overtime, Netflix becomes less of a streaming service and more of a movie or show guide—a mechanism to indulge our interests and guilty pleasures.
By keeping an eye on Google Analytics, you can also use your website visitor data to identify content that is performing well as well as user behavior on the site. By finding what works, we can “rinse and repeat” the strategy to reach new audience members (or entirely new audiences) with other interesting content.
Highlight your newest (or best) content
What do you see when you first log in to Netflix? Their latest series? What you were watching last? Chances are, it’s something that has been identified to be of the most interest (or value) to you to get you to stay and watch. It’s how I find my next show to binge watch, usually. And, it’s a great idea! When you produce a new piece of content, whether it’s an infographic, whitepaper, ebook, or podcast, you should promote it first and above all other content.
Then, consider organizing additional content by their category, not just their published date, to help audiences get more of the content 1) they want, and 2) you’re pushing them to consume. The key is making it as easy as possible to learn more. By connecting relevant blog posts to each other, organizations can help prospective and well as current clients or members consume as much information as they want on a topic before jumping to another portion of the website.
Netflix has certainly changed the way many of us consume entertainment and a side effect of its success is how it’s trained us to look for information. Consider all the reasons why you enjoy the streaming service and how you could potentially replicate the experience for your target audience. Then go for it. Watch your Analytics, pivot when you need to, and plan in advance as far out as you can. Hopefully, you’ll see more repeat site visitors and more engagement where it counts most!