Netflix Plays a Sarah Palin Hashtag Game, Gets Burned
Their target today is the resurgent Netflix (NFLX), which reported its first quarter results earlier this week. Twitchy -- conservative commentator Michelle Malkin's Twitter monitor/controversy generator -- reports that the hashtag #SarahPalinFilms arose on Tuesday night, attributing it to "lefties" whose apparent dismissiveness towards Palin is belied by their purported obsession with her: "You know, because her 15 minutes have come and gone and she's totally not living rent-free in their heads." #Sarcasm.
Sensing an opportunity to #leverage #socialmedia to #grow their #brand, whoever was manning the Netflix Twitter account thought of a 2012 science fiction comedy film called "Iron Sky," which features a character obviously based on Palin. But the plot of this Finnish-German-Australian production would provide an occasion for the kind of theatrically outraged response that Twitchy specializes in ginning up. For "Iron Sky" concerns a group of Nazis who flee to the moon after Germany's defeat in World War II and return in 2018 via spaceships to take over the world. And the Palin-like president of the United States winds up collaborating with a couple of moon Nazis on her reelection campaign, and in general seems like a figure of ridicule.
It sounds like a pretty dumb movie, and got terrible reviews, but the Sarah Palin connection is indisputable. Netflix tweeted:
A vigilant follower alerted Twitchy to this apparent breach of corporate PR political neutrality, and the site followed its usual procedure, posting angry replies from Twitter users who resented the "cheap shot." Soon the hashtag was taken over by reactions to the Netflix tweet. Mission accomplished.
On the plus side, the tweet has now achieved much more #reach and #engagement than it otherwise would have, which sounds like a social media #win for $NFLX. Twitchy amplifies the voices of users who indignantly insist that they'll cancel their Netflix accounts or use Amazon Prime after something like this, but Netflix might sense that deleting the tweet, or issuing some kind of apology, would only provide an occasion for further commentary.
Twitchy has already documented, in a follow-up post, several conversations between concerned citizens and Netflix reps, including one employee who mistakenly stated that Netflix was not responsible for the tweet (which remains online as of this writing). The company line seems to be that Netflix was merely promoting a new release and takes no political position on Palin.
Brietbart.com's entertainment division, Big Hollywood, has also taken up the cause, declaring, "The Internet will not only ensure that Netflix's shockingly tone-deaf tweet spreads like wildfire, but this is the kind of divisive behavior that can blemish a company forever."
"Had Netflix contributed to an #ObamaFilm hashtag game with the exact same title... Well, we all know Netflix would never do that," writer John Nolte continued. "The mainstream media would pummel them into dust." More likely Netflix wouldn't do that because "Iron Sky" has nothing to do with Obama, but the general point is probably true.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings himself once got into social media hot water when he posted on his personal Facebook page in July 2012 that the company's users had exceeded 1 billion hours of streamed content. Netflix shares rose 6.2 percent that day, leading to threats of an SEC civil claim. Last month, the SEC said companies are allowed to make announcements on social media, as long as investors are alerted to how stock price-affecting information will be disclosed.