Dear Netflix: You’re doing it wrong

Watching movies is inherently a social experience. Most people enjoy telling their friends and family about the latest movie they rented or went to the movie theater to watch.

For over a year now, Netflix has been trying to change a law that prevents people from automatically sharing what they watch with their Facebook friends, even if they opt-in. The amendment is currently stuck in committee in Congress.

While I understand why Netflix wants to partner with Facebook, I don’t think their current approach is worth it for a couple of reasons.

The case for case-by-case

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing every single Netflix movie I watch on Facebook. The partnership seems great on the surface, but I think it would ultimately create a negative reaction from Netflix users, and probably some funny/tragic stories as well.

Netflix should instead make it easy for their users to share what they’re streaming on a case-by-case basis.

As Senator Al Franken said:

It’s a really good thing that people can easily tell their video company, “Sure, go ahead and tell people I watched The Godfather, but no, don’t tell them I watched Yoga for Health: Depression and Gastrointestinal Problems.”

All Netflix needs to do is incorporate the ubiquitous social sharing buttons in various places on their website, as well as during streaming, perhaps down where the volume control is, and at the end of the movie. I’m sure their growth hackers would have a great time doing A/B split testing to see which locations perform the best.

Facebook isn’t the only game in town

Sure Facebook owns the largest social media audience at nearly 1 billion people, but there are many others that would be ignored. Twitter has 500+ million users, Google+ has 400+ million, and LinkedIn has 175+ million.

Ignoring the other social media platforms is short-sighted. If I were to watch a good documentary on entrepreneurship, I might decide to share it with my LinkedIn business contacts. However, if I watch The Big Lebowski for the umpteenth time, I’d probably go with Twitter or Facebook.

A new metric?

If Netflix were to incorporate the social sharing buttons, it would create a new “most shared” category on the Netflix site. Social sharing would bring even more attention to the most popular movies and drive more traffic to Netflix in general. This would be a big win for both Netflix, the filmmakers, and the studios.

One of the biggest problems Netflix has had with their streaming service is getting their hands on great content. The reasons for not subscribing I hear the most are that they don’t have any new releases in the streaming section and that most of the streaming movies are crap. I agree with those reasons for the most part, but I’m still a subscriber for the hidden gems I find from time to time.

Netflix can leverage social sharing to not only increase the size of their subscriber base, but to get more studios on board after they see the amount of shares that people make. If more and more filmmakers and studios see the potential for exposure to their films, then they are more likely to come back to the negotiating table with Netflix.

Sounds like a win-win for everyone involved to me.

Edit: Come join the lively discussion on Hacker News.