I have been a Netflix user for a long time. So long in fact, I remember when Netflix use to have a cool social feature called “Friends.” It was a great idea. Friends could link to each other on Netflix and share recommendations with each other. The example posted above shows a friend of mine that was able to email me a Movie Note about a TV series he thought I might enjoy. He was also able to provide a summary, in his own words, of why I might like the show. In addition to sharing recommendations, friends could also view each other’s queues or see how a movie ranks against friends rankings. In concept, this social sharing addition on Netflix seemed like a great approach but in reality over a 6 year period only 2% of the users leveraged the feature. No surprise with such a small adoption rate, the company decided to eliminate this social sharing feature. So what went wrong?
- Goal setting – As often is the case with technology driven companies – there was nothing wrong with the technical aspect of the application, it is just not clear what the goals were for this new feature other than enabling friends to share their Netflix experiences. If clear goals were established, this service may have been developed slightly differently and served a different purpose. For example, what if I could use this friend feature to invite non-Netflix users to experience a specific show only available on Netflix. Now instead of a generic offer from Netflix, I have not only endorsed Netflix to my friends, but I have tailored a viewing experience for them. This approach will likely lead to improved acquisition over a generic free trial offer. Clear goals help clarify customer experiences, which leads to better business impact.
- Basic Email Promotions – When Netflix initially launched the friends feature, there were a few emails promoting the new offering. Although emails are helpful in alerting current customers about new features, they are not very motivating for customers to actually log into the site to explore something new. Customers do not have a lot of time and anything that requires extra effort is likely to be ignored. However if Netflix had creating some buzz about the launch and put some effort into developing special promotions around the feature, it is likely more people may have discovered the benefits of linking with their friends on Netflix.
- Initial Content and Experience Benefit – The friends feature also required you to link to other friends to get the initial benefit of the service. To illustrate the benefit of tailored reviews and recommendations, sample experiences could have been used. For example, what if Martin Scorsese had sent you his top 10 movie picks. Illustrating the new services in a fun and entertaining way not only helps illustrate the social benefits, but can also drive extended pass along social benefits (forwarding Martin’s recommendations to my friends).
- Social Experience Product Reminders – Another effective tactic is to remind people while they are using the service about the new feature. For example, if I was browsing Netflix looking for something new to watch, a reminder about the social friends feature is a great way to get people to try the new service. The customer is not only in the moment of time when they would appreciate the new service, but there are also fewer barriers for them to trial the new service (already logged into their account and ready to use the friends feature)
- Using Advocates as Social Salespeople – And lastly, Netflix could have leveraged their advocate segment to promote the new social service. Instead of Netflix pushing the new service to the wider customer base, a more effective tactic may have been to allow their advocate segment first view and usage of the service. Early usage and feedback from this segment may also have helped modify the service so it was still used today.
Although Netflix’s early attempt at social sharing was not successful, there is push within the organization to relaunch social sharing on Facebook. Unfortunately this is available globally but not in the United States due to antiquated laws (see article). If this law is changed and Netflix is able to offer a new social sharing aspect – I wish them luck and hope they will reconsider their launch plan for their second effort.