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The Social Backbone Of Game Of Thrones (Spoiler Alert!)

At 1000heads we look at social media as one part of a wider ecosystem that permeates our clients’ work as much as it does their audiences’ lives. Social as a layer for brand activity, instead of a communications silo.

We’re also incredibly geeky when it comes to Game Of Thrones. The series, the books… but also Game Of Thrones the social brand. When it comes to social media, how does the story around the show add value to the story within the show? In other words, do they use social media as a layer integrated into the whole world of the production – or as a campaign silo?

What others say of us is often more powerful that what we say of ourselves, so let’s start with what people said about the last series of Game Of Thrones. Every week a new episode aired, #GameOfThrones trended on Twitter. Lots of videos went viral around the show, including this one that showcases the actors in the days before Westeros. The volume of conversation is staggering – take a look at the /r/gameofthrones sub-reddit.

On top of that, season 4’s finale turned Game Of Thrones into the most pirated show in history, according to Forbes. Legal issues aside, this is huge news when it comes to measuring its popularity.

Now, all this conversation comes from somewhere. It would be hard to deny the high production values behind the show, and the existing groundswell of George RR Martin fans. But the communications team behind Game Of Thrones have done a great deal to capitalise on these advantages, with both top-level initiatives and detail-focused human moments.

Top level initiatives are what typically get the show featured in news outlets. They have included so far, but not exclusively, letting people bring down King Joffrey with the power of the internet, and having Lena Headey talk “Game Of Thrones style” with king-of-all-things-internet Jimmy Kimmel.

But it is the human moments that give those big news campaigns soul. Paul Adams, now VP of Product at Intercom, once said that the future of advertising would reside in “many lightweight interactions over time”. How does Game Of Thrones create them? Using the people that most publicly bring to life some of its top moments: the actors (warning, spoilers ahead!)

Arguably one of the most memorable moments this season was the fight between Oberyn Martell and Gregor Clegane, which culminates with Martell having his head smashed in by Clegane’s bare hands. I found it one of the most brutal moments of television I have seen, and I was not alone.

But something interesting happened in the meantime. Pedro Pascal, who plays Martell, posted this on Instagram. So did Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, literally one of the strongest men in the world, who plays Clegane. In essence, after the climactic scene, the conversation didn’t stop – it grew, albeit with a change of tone: calm down everyone, they’re still friends!

They’re not the only ones to contribute to a layer of conversation that surfs on the series’ shocking twists. Lena Headey posted this (pictured) around the same time the episode aired out! Spoilers much? And how about this, pointing out to the season finale or maybe what happens next?

Bold, perhaps. But human? Most definitely. The actors not only provide shock and delight by watching the show alongside their fans – they also provide relief and to some extent a deeper level of relationship with the audience by keeping the story going outside of the screened episodes.

What does this tell us about how to become a super-social brand?

First of all, it shows social media works best if you involve as many people as you can within the organization, regardless if it’s a corporation or television cast. Stories are told around a brand in a controlled manner, but unexpected, human moments are also allowed to spill out. Social acts as a backbone for daily communications, instead of an afterthought.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s a great example of how you can extend a narrative around a certain story, mixing fiction and reality, and heightening its inherent creative flavour and atmosphere. Ultimately, this is another example of how providing sneak peeks into your brand backstage keeps feeding fans what they really want: more things to talk about with other like-minded people.

If that isn’t the definition of something social, I don’t know what is.

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