Netflix, not being content with changing how the nation watches TV, is rolling out a new feature that will really be must-see viewing for business owners. It’s called Private Recommendations, and here’s how it works. After watching one or more episodes of your favorite show, you’re going to be prompted to tell your friends they should watch it, through a private message on Facebook. No one will be able to see the recommendation except the two of you, so you are free from any worries about what mutual friends will think if you steer your buddy toward a show that’s controversial, steamy, or just plain strange. Everything remains private.
Your recommendations will be there waiting for your friend when they log onto Netflix; the premise is that sharing your favorite shows with your favorite people will make the watching more fun for everyone.
This is an interesting shift in social media marketing. For a very long time now, we’ve been trading on the fact that people gain social currency – prestige for being ‘in the know’ – by making their recommendations publically. Being the first one to know and share the news about a great restaurant, awesome movie, fantastic designer or other noteworthy thing was in a way its own reward. People enjoy having their opinions matter; it can be a heady thing to know you’re influencing (in even a small way) the decisions of other people around you. This has worked out well for business owners: all we have to do is convince vocal people that we’re great and they’ll let everyone they know in on it.
But it turns out that we may not really want everyone to know everything we think is great all of the time. As a culture, we’ve learned some hard lessons about social media, such as the fact that your boss may no longer trust you quite the same way after he learns how much you love binge watching My Little Pony. Discretion can be a valuable thing. Private recommendations allow us to be as enthusiastic as we want to be – but only with the people we can trust with that side of ourselves.
What Netflix is doing is really showing us a preview of coming attractions. Their work with private recommendations for TV shows is only the top layer of popcorn. As customers become more and more comfortable with the feature, they’re going to look for that functionality with other products and services – including yours. The time is now to start thinking about how you’re going to make it happen.