“The stream freak super-fan” – A new brand approach to social media engagement

New brands aren’t scared of red tape. They play fast and loose with social media engagement and it’s working. Maru/edr’s media industry expert, Sinclair Lawler, explores the link between loyalty and emotional engagement, and which new media brands are getting it right.

Emotion drives loyalty and loyalty drives revenue. It’s a relationship our research at Maru/edr has unearthed time and time again. But what does it mean when its nonchalantly declared that you have to connect with your customers on an emotional level? Are you expected to be there, hand on foot, with a box of tissues ready?

Not quite.

A previous study into the difference between firmly established and up-and-coming restaurant chains in the UK showed that the former suffered far more on social media as a result of being – it appeared – far more restricted by company guidelines and marketing red tape.

This trend – I’ve noticed – has appeared in the media industry in equal measure.

As much as its tried to shake it off, there still seems to be a lingering “Auntie knows best” attitude amongst the more established UK media brands whilst trendier brands – like @NetflixUK – are pushing the limits of how they can engage with their customers.

Apparently Twitterquette (that’s Twitter etiquette for those of you yet to realise that in 2016, nothing must be left un-portmanteau-ed) states that – especially for a company account – swearing and sex are two big no-nos.

Yet this morning I had to scroll to as far as the seventh – yes seventh! – tweet on the @NetflixUK account before the S-bomb was dropped.

It’s tweets like these that might be part of the reason why Netflix boasts a 320% increase in number of mentions in Maru/edr’s recent text analytics search that pitted the UK arm of the streaming service against national stalwarts ITV and the BBC, and fellow online competitors Amazon Prime.

This is archetypal of the way Netflix UK communicates with its followers; like a friendly 9-5er with an endearing level of social awkwardness; the Bridget Jones or Mark Corrigan of corporate Twitter accounts.

It is, in essence, its users.

In an entry to The Shorty Awards – a ceremony that honours the best of social media – Netflix were keen to position themselves as a cultural consumer as well as a cultural contributor. “We don’t just provide the world with movies and TV shows” they clarify, “we talk about them on social media like any other obsessed, stream freak super-fan”.

It is this approach to their social media activity that means Netflix are, in part, responsible for taking water-cooler chat and moving it online.

Netflix has, time and again, been lauded for the way it interacts with its users online. They proclaim to be great listeners; to both the good stuff…

… and the bad.

And scrolling back through the last twenty-four hours of activity, I counted twenty-two direct replies to followers. Doing the same on the official twitter accounts of both BBC One and ITV, I found just four and two occurrences respectively.

It’s a pattern seen across multiple industries, given a report from BDRC that states established brands are some of the worst for replying to its customers on social media.

More than simply engaging however, it is clear to see that Netflix reaches its followers on an emotional level. How? For a start it understands pop culture and therefore it can connect with its pop culture consumer followers.

When they announce that they’ll be streaming episodes of Fresh Prince of Bel Air they have knowledge enough to reference the “Carlton Dance” by way of celebration.

They use emojis appropriately, talk about sex, champion 21st geek-chic, and occasionally swear.

It goes completely against perceived notions of Twitterquette – but then maybe that’s exactly why Netflix was voted the third coolest brand of 2016.

The ability to relate to its fans creates a new dynamic. Netflix is the friend waiting for you at home that loves all the same television shows you do and can’t wait to marathon through an entire series the moment you let them; that friend you can’t say no to when they say “oh but just one more”; that friend that will risk making a close-to-the-bone joke just to let you know it still cares.

Perhaps this isn’t the solution for everyone. The BBC, for example, have a far wider spectrum of audience demographic. Trying to popularise #BBCandChill for the Antiques Roadshow audience is hardly likely to work. In fact, there’s a good chance it could do more harm than good.

But, what it does show is the importance of connecting emotionally with your customers. Maru/edr’s research has shown that the relationship between emotion and loyalty is reciprocal – the higher the emotional engagement, the stronger the loyalty towards the brand, the more positive the sentiment.

Without fear of social media taboos, Netflix connects emotionally by playing its role as your best friend, your binge partner, and as much a stream freak super-fan as you are.

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Sinclair Lawler is the media expert at Maru/edr, working on Voice of the Customer solutions for the TMT industries. Connect with him on LinkedIn or email him directly at Sinclair.Lawler@maruedr.com 

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