How Game of Thrones Successfully Implemented Social Media into Their Various Promotional Campaigns
With the (reportedly) second last of Game of Thrones approaching this summer, I thought it would be interesting to critically analyze the use of social media by this television series brand. Game of Thrones already has a massive fan base, so the use of social media to promote these later seasons is much more effortless and seamless. The premise of the series is interesting and the execution of each episode (storytelling, cinematography, acting, etc.) is very compelling. However, that is not the only strategy the show employs to garner and maintain interest.
Game of Thrones’ marketing strategy deeply involves the use of social media and social media marketing. When Game of Thrones was first being produced, it was announced on the HBO network which promoted the show on all of its own social media platforms. Afterwards, Game of Thrones got their own social media accounts. They got their own twitter handle, Facebook page and Youtube page.
By creating such a cultural phenomenon, and limiting it (10 episodes per season), Game of Thrones created an experience where each episode is a cultural event. These “cultural events” can be marketed on social media in very interactive ways. In particular, the premiere and finale of each season. This also allows for other brands, organizations, and companies to integrate into their own campaigns. These campaigns create online, as well as in-person, conversation and engagement about the show. A few good examples include Spotify’s integration of Game of Thrones into their service. Users were able to see which Game of Thrones characters they were based on their music tastes and playlists. This campaign was called “With Whom Do You Listen?”. Another example, was when cast members of Game of Thrones surprised fans holding viewing parties with their friends. Actress Maisie Williams, who play Arya Stark on the show, tweeted a video of the surprise. This demonstrates how the actors of the show can use their “personal” social media pages to help promote the show. Furthermore, the Game of Thrones Twitter page always promoted live tweets with fans and cast members, as well as question and answer sessions with cast members. Twitter was an effective social media platform for HBO and Game of Thrones because it offers an avenue for the show to disseminate bite-size posts, and a place that the show could engage and interact with the fans and viewers. Game of Thrones also definitely utilizes Twitter during the airing of each episode. Fans tuning into the show often share their reactions for the episode being aired in real-time on social media, most notably, on Twitter. The fans use hash tags I and will search hash tags (for example, for a specific scene such as the Red Wedding) to see what others are saying, how they are reacting to it, and what they feel. “Social media data reported by Spredfast (via Adweek) shows 829,000 Twitter mentions using the terms “HBO,” “Game of Thrones” (of #GOT), “HBO Go” and HBO Now” from an episode air date (Friday) through the weekend” (Wong, 2016). Social media mentions and posts spiked to “over 1.5 million…over the week leading up to the premiere, with nearly 200,000 interactions happening during the one-hour [premiere] (Wang, 2016).
The results were based on Spotify user’s music tastes:
Game of Thrones content, characters, and other elements are constantly appropriated and integrated into jokes, memes, and a plethora of other materials. This rehashing of content helps to amplify Game of Thrones already strong presence because it gets shared through social media, through friends, etc. This is almost tantamount to word-of-mouth advertising which is why it is so powerful. This type of social media marketing is essentially giving the target audience the tools in which they then use. It builds a lot more credibility this way.
On Facebook, Game of Thrones has amassed 20,384,438 likes. This is a huge testament to the massive, strong fan base that Game of Thrones has built. Game of Thrones’ other social media platforms such as Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram also have huge followings. In 2016, the Game of Thrones “Facebook page [had] over 17.3 million likes with posts each having over 3000 likes and videos having over 3 million views” (Ittisa, 2016). Their “Youtube account [had] over 1.5 million subscribers , and their instagram page [had] over 1.6 million followers” (Ittisa, 2016). Now, in 2017, the following of these social media platforms have grown tremendously. These social media platforms are currently the largest and most popular social networks which means that the Game of Thrones brand can reach more people more easily. The show has also integrated a large variety of social media into their brand.
Moreover, over the last six seasons, Game of Thrones has released countless promotional photos, trailers, and videos on their social media, most notably, their Facebook page and their YouTube channel. Their promotional trailers and teasers are always very well-done and effectively create buzz, excitement and suspense. Additionally, the show has implemented many great advertising, marketing, and publicity campaigns over the years. For example, for the most recently finished season of Game of Thrones (Season 6), HBO’s goal was to attract a younger millennial audience. One campaign that they launched was called “#ArtTheThrone”. This campaign was executed by recruiting five rising artists to produce artwork in different mediums. Each artist recreated a scene or element from the series. Here were the results:
By creating this hashtag, HBO allowed people to participate and to share this campaign online. Much like the campaign launched on Spotify. These types of campaigns are very easy to share online and are good ways to create user-generated buzz.. Another effective social media marketing strategy used by Game of Thrones is the way they strategically decide to release teaser material, including images like this one:
Game of Thrones has an element of virality that is attached to everything the brand creates. A great examples are the Queen of England’s guards playing the Game of Thrones theme song. It appears that this event was captured by a “random” on-looker and uploaded to Youtube. It is not revealed if this was a collaboration between the show and Buckingham Palace/the Queen’s Guards. However, despite this, it is still cool and has garnered over 7 million views on Youtube.
Game of Thrones also created a “Live Concert Experience”. They got the musicians involved to live tweet the concerts which was a good way of creating further interaction with the fans.
For Season 7 of Game of Thrones, HBO has released a teaser trailer on Facebook, that just features several of the prominent characters (e.g. Cersei, Daenerys, Jon Snow) each ominously walking and then sitting down on a “throne”.
HBO has also released a new promo that showcases the cast members from a variety of their most popular shows. While it includes cast members from their other hit shows such as Girls, HBO was able to include many of the main cast members of Game of Thrones. This promo had the Game of Thrones cast members wearing their Season 7 attire.
Game of Thrones has a plethora material to promote, but they decide to tease the fan and audience. It just creates a lot more mystery, intrigue, and suspense. Especially because the television series is based on the novels, many fans are excited and interested in seeing what changes are made and what plot points or elements are kept the same.
Another influential campaign, rolled out for previous seasons, was the “Catch the Throne” campaign. Game of Thrones also included a hash tag for this campaign (#CatchTheThrone). This strategy involved creating alliances with artists and allowing them to create mixtapes. What makes this collaboration unique and interesting is that the artists are “hip hop heroes, metal masters, and reggaetón royalty” (soundcloud.com, Catch The Throne). It is slightly unexpected which makes it even more novel and cool.
The successful implementation of these campaign into Game of Thrones social media platforms was facilitated by strategic posts, links (to the content or to other Game of Thrones social media accounts), and the ease of sharing and liking the social media posts. In addition, Game of Thrones really benefits from the convenience and usability of these social media platforms. Other brands, companies, and influential individuals promote the series on their own accounts.
A slightly different form of social media marketing that is notable is the Game of Thrones production blog. It offered a behind-the-scenes aspect to the show. These types of aspects to the Game of Thrones marketing strategy were embedded into the Game of Thrones social media platforms which further generated buzz. Game of Thrones also commissioned a “celebrity chef, Tom Collicchio, to create a Game of Thrones-themed menu that was served from branded food trucks in New York and Los Angeles. Customers were encouraged to share their meals via social media, and the campaign gaines 120 million impressions” (Wang,2016). This level of social media engagement is necessary, especially because of the “gaps between seasons” (Wang, 2016). Game of Thrones has no shortage of epic elements, from production aspects such as the musical score, to epic plotlines (battle scenes, etc.). These are used as Game of Thrones jumping-off point for their promotional campaigns. Especially if the promotional campaign involves something user- or fan-generated, or epic event, the Game of Thrones brand capitalizes on experiential marketing and getting users themselves to share and spread the word, sort of similar to the method of marketing via word-of-mouth.
In conclusion, the Game of Thrones use of social media is varied and well-executed. The Game of Thrones brand is not afraid to be different, to push boundaries, and explore new avenues when it comes to creating meaningful experiences and stories. These aspects are important, especially to one of their target audiences which is millennials. Game of Thrones has proved that they know how to generate intrigue, suspense, excitement, conversation, interaction, and engagement. Game of Thrones is able to captivate their audiences and fans by constantly tapping into the epic quality of the show, innovating, and being creative with their promotional material and social media content.