I confess: I recently listened to an Imagine Dragons song on repeat for an hour. Spotify posted this news to Facebook for me, so it’s not a secret. I’m not proud of it. I don’t like Imagine Dragons’ music, in the same way I don’t like ripping off my own ears and stomping them bloody. But sometimes a song gets stuck in your head. Please know this: an automatic post about my activity is not the same thing as a recommendation from me. Netflix, for its part, realized that this week and rolled out new social features that let people choose what content they share on Facebook, and with whom. It’s a great thing, for three reasons.
It makes sharing recommendations with friends more likely.
The Netflix change means that after a viewer watches a movie or episode and the credits roll, she’s then presented an opportunity to recommend, to specific people, what she just watched. This timing is ideal, because it presents the sharing experience just when the content is fresh in her mind and has had maximum impact on her. (For referral marketing, automatically promoting a referral call-to-action after someone makes a purchase, like AHAlife does, can lift referral returns by 16x.)
It makes conversions on those recommendations more likely.
Recommendations and referrals are deliberate connection points. In the new Netflix experience, the viewer’s friend(s) who get recommendations will receive specific messages on Facebook/Facebook Messenger, or when they next log into Netflix. This is tailored and relevant, and the friend(s) will know that a specific person intended to recommend specific content specifically to them. This infuses the recommendation with weight, validity, and trust. You’re more likely to watch something when you know a friend specifically thinks you’d like it than if you just happen to hear that she had seen it.
Activity streams, on the other hand, are generic babble. Your friend liked a brand page…your colleague checked into a bar…your mom harvested millet on FarmVille….Your eye skips over large chunks of this info because it’s irrelevant to you.
It caters to the way people consume content now.
Netflix director of product innovation Cameron Johnson is quoted on Mashable as saying “For us, it’s about trying to find a new social model that works for on demand television.” Except for live events and sports, people no longer watch content together in real time. Because these revamped recommendations will be delivered to recipients precisely when they next log into Netflix or when they get on Facebook, people will see them. This counteracts another pitfall of activity stream posts: they don’t take into account whether anyone will see them. If my friend watches an episode of The Wire at 3pm on a Tuesday, I won’t see the resulting post because I won’t be on Facebook then. (Yes, I’m aware The Wire isn’t available on Netflix and, yes, I’m bitter.)
As digital marketers, we survive on the stream of data everyone produces every day. That torrent is only getting bigger. It may seem easy and convenient to simply publicize some of the usage data we have and hope it functions as a customer referral engine, but this is misguided. At best, it’ll help you generate brand awareness among anyone who might happen to see pay attention to it. Deliberate referrals from your users directly to their friends are a different story. Cultivate, promote, track, analyze, and optimize those, and you build a bona fide customer acquisition channel.