Netflix jumps in on sex meme, creates path for other companies to follow suit

Even Random House joined in on the thread by tweeting in response, "I'd rather be reading."
By Gwen Aviles

Netflix is no stranger to sexual euphemisms — “Netflix and chill,” anyone? — and now the streaming service is making it OK for other brands to get in on the action.

In a tweet on Thursday, Netflix asked, "What's something you can say during sex but also when you manage a brand twitter account?"

The company's rather risqué question, riffing off another user's tweet about sex and basketball, garnered more than 100,000 likes and 81,000 retweets as of Friday afternoon.

In addition, dozens of other brands were all too eager to get down in Netflix's comments:

The viral Netflix thread marks the latest instance of brands using social media in a more laid-back, carefree manner to interact with consumers, experts say. Still, companies openly joking about sex online marks somewhat of a departure from traditional social media marketing, according to Todd Bacile, an associate professor of marketing at Loyola University New Orleans.

"We're seeing more and more of brands pushing the boundaries and using social media as a way to create synergy and tension among their competitors," Bacile told NBC News. "In the process, social media and brand managers have more liberty to post things that might have never been posted a few years ago."

Bacile cited the example of the American Red Cross facing a public relations crisis in 2011, after an employee — who thought she was posting on a personal account — posted about getting drunk on the organization's official Twitter account.

"Ryan found 4 more bottle packs of Dogfish Head's Midas Touch Beer ... when we drink we do it right," the tweet read, along with the hashtag "gettngslizzerd."

"It depends on what your brand is. If you're Netflix, you can get away with having a more jocular approach to social media, but if you're a more serious company, like a mortuary, obviously that's not going to fly," said Bacile.

Elaine Young, a professor of digital and social media marketing at Champlain College, agreed, saying the Netflix thread was not too surprising, given companies like Wendy's and Burger King have upended the rules of social media marketing in recent years.

"Corporate companies have been playing around with how they can appear more human online, which is called 'personification of a brand,'" Young told NBC News. "Twitter is a platform that's especially suited to this kind of marketing, unlike Instagram or Facebook, because it allows interaction in real-time, which makes for a fun, community-building space."

Young added that it was especially "fun to watch" Vermont companies like Magic Hat and Sustain Natural, a sustainable condom company, join in on the Netflix thread, instead of just the usual companies.

Netflix did not respond to NBC News' request for comment, but Mary Martin, a professor of marketing at Fort Hays State University, said that Netflix's thread shows this kind of engagement is "effective."

According to Martin, social media marketing is no longer simply about advertising a product, but about providing potential customers with content.

The sex meme appears to have begun on Nov. 29, with a tweet from a user who wrote, "Reply with something you can say during a basketball game and sex."

That original tweet only received around 2,000 likes, but it sparked an online trend and chain of reactions, including Netflix's response.

Gwen Aviles

Gwen Aviles is a trending news and culture reporter for NBC News.