In the time of COVID-19, people are to remain indoors for an indefinite period of time. Searching for a way to help it pass with ease, people take to familiar habits, like pouring hours into Netflix. After all, what’s easier than sitting and observing? If enough people are doing this at the same time, why not do it together?
Netflix Party is a chrome extension designed for just this. With the app installed, viewers can sync their Netflix shows to watch alongside one another, and discuss the show in the in-app chat. After searching the internet extensively, we concluded that there was no exact limit on the size of Netflix Parties. Perfect. We wanted to test the uncharted territory of its limits. We needed a movie that draws people together, something that could gather a lot of people, something like…a meme.
One might remember the 2007 release of Jerry Seinfeld’s The Bee Movie. However, if you are a young person, the film is synonymous with the meme culture driven by its plot’s bizarre content. Most jokes about the movie are long-winded and meta-based, which has set it up for long lasting relevance. We knew there’s an audience that wouldn’t mind viewing this movie another time. The Bee Movie was the perfect centerpiece for our stunt.
We looked to communities that were already invested in the film. Reddit was our first attempt to gather people to join our watch party. We posted on the r/bee_irl subreddit, since that was our primary audience with the caption, “Join the biggest Netflix Party in history ! It’s The Bee Movie.” We hoped to create a feeling of scarcity and urgency with the wording, implying that you’ll miss out on a historical event if you don’t attend. We were trying to set something up that would allow social pressure to influence people.
However, we found that our strategy had some flaws. We thought we’d be able to funnel the audience of /r/bee_irl into our Netflix Party, but it didn’t get enough attention before we started the movie. Only 23 people upvoted our post and only 5 people were in the Netflix Party, including ourselves. When our two visitors left the stream, we ended the movie early. After discussing how this post struggled it became clear that we needed to post our call to action across multiple platforms way before the actual event in an effort to build up suspense.
The first thing we decided we needed was a rallying cry that people could get behind. The phrase “WE ARE WATCHING THE BEE MOVIE” printed in yellow on black seemed to fit appropriately. We started by uploading it to Instagram and Facebook. We reached out to some friends, asking that they spread it. After four of our friends had posted it to their stories and rallied their group chats, it seemed to create some inertia and more and more posts popped up. The real boom happened when we decided to post to the Facebook page “Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens.” Nick had originally posted his “Zoom University” merch to that page with success, so we had a feeling for the kind of framing that would get a response. It seemed that an important key was to be concise. So, instead of making a post with a caption explaining our image, we just posted an event titled “WE ARE WATCHING THE BEE MOVIE”. We think the redundancy of the event title and the image made it funnier. Overnight, that post blew up. People tagged their friends, who tagged their friends. It ended up getting over 2,000 reactions.
One of the most surprising things leading up to our Netflix Party was noticing a repost of our image on Instagram. Tom Papa, a comedian and the voice actor of “Splitz” from the Bee Movie posted our image to his account (with 93 thousand followers!), tagging @BigBeeMovie. His caption read “I’ve avoided the memes for so long, but this broke me. We ARE watching the Bee Movie.” The post only received 584 likes, but we imagine it added a bit of credibility to our event.
On the night of our Netflix Party, we posted the link to our Instagram, Facebook, and Reddit accounts. It was a pretty big success. At one point, we had 622 people in our Netflix Party. We DID watch the Bee Movie.
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