In what ways can social media best be used to promote new streaming service content to American teens?

We recently did a project to answer this question, using a combination of one-on-one interviews with teens aged 13 to 17 in the US, a small focus group, and a review of quantitative data from YPulse.

Here’s what we learned:

American teens watch a lot of content and rely heavily on streaming services. In an average week, 65% of American teens reported having watched a TV series and 59% had watched a movie, according to April 2021 data from YPulse. This research found that Netflix is their main source for streaming content – 64% say they use it weekly – followed by Disney+ (38%) and Hulu (32%).

What’s driving teens towards all this streaming content? One factor is social media (especially TikTok), which attracts new American teen viewers to streaming services and deepens their connections to content. Here’s how:

  • Posts from cast members of streaming service shows create intimate relationships between fans and actors, give the sneak peeks and behind-the-scenes intel that fans love, and provide a space for fans to reply, duet, or copy content.
  • Posts from other fans connect viewers with a like-minded community, give fans an outlet for creating personalized fan content, and drive interest in the show from potential new viewers who want to be “in on the trend.”
  • Interactive content gets teens involved through participatory activities (polls, challenges, duets, etc.), personalized show elements (such as “Which character are you?” or “What would the show be like if your neighborhood were the setting?”), dance challenges or anything that asks fans to create their own version of a post, and “how to” content like how to dress as a character.
  • Authentic social posts hook teens into new content. They appreciate posts that feel natural – but are turned off when they feel like a show is being pushed on them.
  • Discovery aides that curate suggested content help teens identify the “must watch” shows and movies from the overwhelming choices available. Teens look to social media for guidance in the form of official rankings from streaming services and content providers, or social posts and hashtags with lists of suggestions and recommendations.

And finally, a consistent social strategy keeps a show relevant in American teens’ minds. Committing and sticking to a social strategy is key for effectiveness. The constant stream of new content to watch across various platforms means there’s a lot of distraction – so a repeating, clear message is a helpful guide.