by Tim Barlow

Toward the end of October, Netflix announced that they had lost more than 800,000 (roughly 3%) of their subscribers in the previous quarter. Following that announcement, the company’s stock plummeted 35%. Netflix’s hard times came on the heels of a much-reported roller-coaster ride: a price hike, the announcement of a (seemingly) hastily formed spin-off company, and then the announcement of the demise of that same spin-off. Yipes. But these numbers aren’t telling the whole Netflix story.After two and a half years of tracking social media, we’ve partnered with Cymfony to help monitor and translate consumer conversations. One of the first topics we built in our new system was around Netflix. Not because we anticipated massive corporate change and customer bedlam, but because consumers are changing. Empowered by technology, they’re cutting cords and becoming free agents in how they consume media. And this undercurrent of personal control can move in Netflix’s favor just as easily as it can turn against it. Examining chatter about Netflix at a purely surface level, one might think consumers’ initial reaction to the kerfuffle is almost blasé. Yes, there was a spike in chatter when Netflix announced its price increase, and another when plans for Qwikster were nixed. And sure, there was plenty of negative sentiment, but who’s going to comment positively about paying more?

It’s only when digging into the posts, and adding another layer of qualitative assessment and analysis, that the vehement customer frustration and (former) Netflix loyalists’ deep-seated questions regarding the company become apparent. When it comes to social media, basic widgets and analytics do a great job of helping to outline topics, but to get the full story (and find the business opportunities), researchers need to use these same tools to dig deeper.


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