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Netflix: How to build a killer community

Netflix's community features are what sets them apart from other movie services and have made them a serious presence over the summer.

Netflix is one of the companies that really "gets it" right now. I have been following their Community Blog for the past few months and I have been really impressed with the level of communication that they have going with their users. Netflix's community team has developed one of Netflix's defining features, that I like to call movie discovery.

The true value in having a library of movies as large as Netflix's is being able to discover movies that you might like, but that you had not previously heard of. Of course, Netflix already offers an extensive recommendation engine which deals out great movie suggestions, but Netflix takes discovery a step further. Netflix has always allowed you to see the movie reviews of those who you have designated as Friends, but it wasn't until recently that they found a good way to find Friends.

Netflix's major community update includes some really useful features, the first of which is called Latest Reviews. Latest Reviews allows you to see a live, rolling list of the most current reviews being posted by Netflix users, right on the community page. The list of the latest reviews includes information on who posted it and how similar they are to you, based on your previous ratings and reviews. The hope is that, when you see a good review roll down and you are very similar to the reviewer, you will add that movie to your queue.

To the right of Latest Reviews is a random selection of lists that people have saved. This module includes lists such as "Top British Comedies of All Time" and "War--What's it good for?" This is definitely a unique way to find very specific types of movies.

The last module is really interesting and certainly useful. This one shows you the four users on Netflix that are the most similar to you. For example, the user that is the closest to me, agrees with my choice in movies 80% of the time. I feel that this user would be a pretty good source for me to look at if I want to discover new movies.

I really applaud Netflix for listening so much to what their customers have to say and actually acting on that. If trusting other people directly really isn't your thing, there is always hope for the future of recommendations with the Netflix Prize. The challenge there is for someone to create a recommendation engine that improves on Netflix's current engine by 10%. The current leader in the contest has achieved an improvement of 7.80% over Netflix's engine. That's impressive enough, but they still have a little bit of work to do before they can claim the 1 million dollar prize. Take notes Blockbuster, this is how you build a community of passionate and loyal customers.