Why social interaction is the key to subscriber brand loyalty

Kirstin White | Mon Jun 29 2020 | Industry insights

Lost SVOD subscriber

Why social interaction is the key to subscriber brand loyalty?

Subscription media can be a tough business. It has never been easier for consumers to sign up to a new service. Unfortunately, it has never been easier for them to leave a service either. This dynamic has made customer retention a level one priority for media subscription businesses.

Recent research on new media consumption is finding that the dynamics of customer loyalty have changed as well. According to the new Deloitte report, based on their survey, Millennials are leading the new subscription wave, but the other segments are not far behind.

Subscription video - generation split

There are powerful new drivers of customer retention that successful subscription services have learned to capitalise on. One of the most important is the evolution of TV watching into a social activity.

As social media has become a core part of daily life, the nature of media streaming has shifted. Many people now own more than one smart device and use them simultaneously. This has created a ‘multi-screen culture’. The impact of this shift is enormous. And it has created an opportunity for brands to cultivate customer loyalty in an entirely new way.

The Multi-Screen Viewer

A recent study found that 60% of smartphone and tablet owners used a secondary device whilst watching TV. This trend has led to an increase in social interaction during television watching. For example, by contacting friends during a sports match, or posting Tweets about a current TV show episode.

Thus, the purpose of streaming television shows has extended beyond entertainment to social engagement. Current research is also finding that higher social engagement can lead to stronger brand loyalty. This makes social TV engagement a matter of critical importance for all broadcasters, big or small.

To help understand this engagement, it can be split into three levels. These can be referred to as Emotional engagement, Active engagement, and Social Connection.

Engagement through emotion

The most basic form of social engagement with streaming content is emotion. Emotional engagement is the feelings shared by the audience in reaction to the TV program. Examples of this may be:

  • Excitement at an approaching season premiere or finale
  • Heartbreak at the loss of a character
  • Joy at the success of a sports team

These emotions would not be social when experienced alone by individual viewers. With social media, subscribers can witness one another experiencing the same emotions. Previously, there were single viewers feeling happiness. Now, there can be whole communities of subscribers celebrating as one. If you have noticed the popularity of ‘reaction’ videos on Youtube, now you know why.

Social engagement at the emotional level also includes responses to the reactions of others. Either by disliking the commentator’s opinion, or supporting the sentiments tweeted by another viewer.

This demonstrates the role of social media in encouraging viewers to become more engaged. Without platforms on which viewers can share their thoughts, this level of interaction would not exist. This is also valuable for broadcasters, as emotional engagement can lead to action.

Engagement through action

Whilst initial responses to a TV show are emotional, the next level of engagement is taking action. This means viewers using social media to discuss TV content with other subscribers. This interaction generally takes the following forms:

  • Conversing (e.g. Twitter, Reddit or Tumblr threads sharing opinions on a season finale)
  • Sharing content (e.g. Memes shared on Instagram about a widely loved TV show character)
  • Co-creating content (e.g. Youtube videos made by two Sports fans sharing their thoughts on a recent match).

These interactions can be highly beneficial to subscribers. They can use them to express themselves, engage with other fans, and attain new information. However, it can also be beneficial to broadcasters. Given that this form of engagement is tangible action, rather than felt emotions, it becomes measurable. Numbers of tweets, retweets, hashtag uses and @mentions all indicate the amount of interest in current content.

This informs broadcasters of the type of content that best engages their audience. It is also a channel for receiving specific feedback. Thus, social TV engagement can be motivated by interactive platforms such as Twitter. However, the most effective way for businesses to engage their viewers is to create connections.

Social connection

After engaging through emotion and action, the next step is connection. Connection between subscribers develops from the tendency to engage with other like-minded people. Mutual subscribers will watch the same show, experience similar emotions and may even share opinions. This has the potential to create connections between strangers. Some examples of experiences that assist this are:

  • Being long-standing fans of the same TV show
  • Sharing an interest in a certain TV show character
  • Rooting for the same sports team.

These similarities create the feeling of experiencing something together.

One way that businesses can encourage these connections is through hashtags. Developing specific hashtags can connect strangers by revealing their shared interests. This creates a discussion zone to continue the relations and form a community. This sense of community can also be advantageous to broadcasters. High engagement leads to stronger connections and feelings of belonging.

This sense of belonging has been found to strengthen brand loyalty. Ultimately, services should prioritise subscriber community building as a subscriber retention strategy.

Subscriber loyalty in the new media age

The evolution of TV into a truly social activity is a shift in paradigms. Embracing the opportunities this new reality presents is central to building customer loyalty. Increased social engagement leads to a stronger sense of belonging, and hence longer term subscriber retention.

It is important to remember that these socially engaged communities are also visible from the outside. So not only do they help to retain the subscribers you already have, they also attract new members. Social engagement in your subscriber base is not only a driver of retention. Thriving subscriber communities also drive subscriber acquisition.

The one-to-one relationship between you and your subscriber remains pivotal. And it should not be forgotten that building that relationship is one of the most important tasks for any streaming service.

What this new research emphasizes, however, is that your subscribers’ relationships with each other is far more influential than has previously been understood. Your product is not just evaluated on its own merits. Instead, its ability to connect consumers to other people is central to its perceived value.

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