Own the Throne: Four Ways Game of Thrones Builds a Fan Army

Image courtesy of HBO

Recently, #5SOSFAM was awarded The Best Fan Army by iHeartRadio for their fierce loyalty to popular boy band 5 Seconds of Summer. You’ve probably seen this type of fandom before with Beyonce’s Bey Hive or Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters, but it’s not just musicians who attract this enthusiasm from the masses.

A lot of TV shows create social identities to encourage loyalty, such as Star Trek’s Trekkies and Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Nation. While The Emmy’s have yet to dedicate a golden statue to die-hard fans, if there were a category for “Outstanding Performance from a Series' Crazy Passionate Fanbase,” Game of Thrones would win big.

So how does HBO do it? How does this major media brand keep the fans of Game of Thrones so engaged that their loyalty is known throughout the realms?


Every year, SXSW brings together techies and creatives alike. HBO took the opportunity to engage this savvy, digital audience, and the results took the Throne. In 2014, HBO launched #SXSWesteros which put fans into the coveted Game of Thrones fantasy world. With buzz around this event coming in at 384,157 Tweets over 10 days, bringing this experience back for 2015 was a no-brainer.



This year, HBO brought back the Iron Throne, which was enjoyed by everyone from Grumpy Cat to Snoop Dogg, as well as a new sword training interactive exhibit. Buzz around #SXSWesteros in 2015 topped at 493,446 Tweets, showing that the time spent engaging the SXSW digital audience was well worth it.



Key Takeaway: Fish where the fish are. Not only did HBO find an event where most attendees are part of its key audience, they also took the offline experience online with smart branding. HBO gave fans something they wanted to share (I mean, Khaleesi’s been trying to get to the Iron Throne for four seasons and at SXSW, you maybe had to wait an hour).


Is there anything fans love more than sneak peeks? From a new song to a new episode, fans crave to be in the know. To promote season 5 of Game of Thrones, HBO created an interactive website, giving you the same glimpses of the future as Bran Stark.



To promote this effort, Tweets were sent out with 10-second video teasers encouraging fans to visit a series-sponsored site called ThreeEyedRaven.com where they could sign up to recieve “The Sight” via text or Twitter DM. This smart social campaign worked, and more than 1.3 million people signed up. Overall, this social campaign generated 17,064 Tweets in 31 days because it gave fans exactly what they wanted: more.



Key Takeaway: Get personal. By strategically using social and mobile, HBO was able to provide fans with an intimate experience. The 10 second disappearing videos strengthened the relationship between the show and its fans, and also drove social sharing and word of mouth.


When thinking of what to be for Halloween, where do you draw inspiration? Your favorite musician? A TV show you recently binge watched on HBOGo? Game of Thrones was able to capitalize on this to create an amazing fan experience. In 2014, you could Tweet #GoTHalloween featuring a selfie in your best Jon Snow or Khal Drogo costume and suddenly, you’re featured on the HBO Facebook page.



"Khal Drogo" by Croata

Posted by Game of Thrones on Friday, October 31, 2014


Key Takeaway: Share the spotlight. Sure, you could post a funny picture of your colleagues’ office Halloween costumes, but what if you shared the spotlight? Your most passionate fans are taking time and effort to turn themselves into walking endorsements of you brand, show, or product. Highlight user-generated content to let them know you appreciate their effort and to encourage others to keep talking about your brand.


With the Game of Thrones season 5 premiere this Sunday, the excitement is palpable. In the past week, Game of Thrones has been referenced more than 368,000 times, with no signs of slowing down. Whether it’s right before a season premiere or during the long winter between, HBO does an excellent job of listening to what fans want, constantly asking what keeps fans coming back. For example, Lord Tyrion was the most talked about character during season 4 with 135,052 Tweets over the season (that’s 10K more Tweets than any other GoT character). Knowing this, it makes sense that in their first season 5 promo video, HBO featured an image of the man himself, Peter Dinklage.



Scenes from the @gameofthrones #GoTPremiereSF red carpet event.

A video posted by HBO (@hbo) on


Key Takeaway: Give your fans what they want. While you may not have a Lord Tyrion, figure out which of your products, insightful content, and unique viewpoints on industry topics get your fans talking.  When you give fans what they want, they’ll keep coming back for more.

Now excuse me while I stock up on Valar Morghulis Dubbel Ale, add the finishing touches to my Khaleesi costume, and check my Craigslist ad missed connection (Headline: WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?) . If your’re watching the season premiere this  Sunday, let’s keep the conversation going, I’m @Lwooding2 on Twitter.

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