The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones: Keeping Fans Engaged on the Second Screen

Social media has provided new opportunities for both fans and producers of great entertainment. HBO’s Game of Thrones, and AMC’s The Walking Dead, are perfect examples.

TV is the new movies. High-end original programing is taking off, creating incredibly loyal audiences of scale. Off screen, networks are using social media to facilitate dialogues with communities to create buzz around their favorite shows, reel in new viewers, and get them tuning in – and it’s working.

Building Suspense on Facebook

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The Walking Dead (AMC) and Game of Thrones (HBO) bring cinema-style productions to the small screen – and drive conversation on the second screen. The Walking Dead definitely infected their audience with a hype virus. The official Facebook® page boasts astronomical figures; according to our data, before, during, and after Season 3 – they averaged over 11.5 million monthly interactions and acquired over a million new fans. How’d they do it? The show released a countdown for the whole month of October and hashtag #Walktober (this post alone received over 1 million interactions), Day 10 and then 5 days before the launch of Season 3.

The result? Check out the Total Interactions line chart below, you can observe the time in which the seasons commenced and ended – indicated by the partitions. Take notice of the peaks for total interactions and the corresponding fan growth.

On October 13, TWD posted a sneak peak from the Season 4 Premiere which was to be launched that night – it was shared 41,000+ times. They subsequently released an app the same day – zombify yourself for tonight's Season Premiere of The Walking Dead! with an accompanying hashtag #DeadYourself; it was a great call to action with links provided to download the app for Android and iPhone users alike.

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Then later that day, they encouraged fans in another post to turn their profile pics into one that displayed the caption "Sundays are Dead to Me” – to show their friends they’d be tuning into the show Sunday evenings. TWD experienced the largest amount of interactions and this also helped to increase in their fan growth. Marketers, don’t forget to give praise! That month, TWD received 20 Million Facebook Likes for the page and celebrated the achievement of their following in a zombie theme – that post got over half a million interactions.

When it comes to Game of Thrones, the page also experienced an increase in following due to their social media efforts. GOT was ultimately beat by TWD on Facebook during their season; they had a little less than 4 million average monthly interactions and captured over 600,000 new fans. GOT could definitely benefit from posting more often – TWD posted over 1,150 posts during Q4 2013 – Q4 2014 whereas GOT only posted 365. The more engaging your posts are, the better your reach, which will result in driving website traffic up and subsequently conversions.

Real-time action, baby!

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It’s no secret that the power of Twitter lies within real-time conversations. Both shows could focus on interacting with their audiences like a sort of play-by-play action. The top performing Tweet for GOT during the month of August was a quote by Tywin Lannister (a major character in seasons 2 – 4) with the designated hashtag #gotquotes for a Sunday evening when the show aired. At the time, it garnered 1,482 Retweets and 720 favorites. Overall, TWD gained 51% more average monthly interactions, while GOT captured a 13% larger increase in follower base compared to TWD.

AMC vs. HBO

Media publishers have an inherent advantage on social over other brands because they’ve got TONS of content. In general, media brands post on average 300+ posts per month on Facebook and Twitter (compared to less than 50 for other industries). They also see much higher levels of engagement, sometimes 10× what other brands receive. That’s where AMC and HBO really started killin’ it.

On Facebook®, AMC had nearly 2 million fans and published nearly 430 posts which garnered over 1.5 million total interactions and added about half a million new Fans in 2014. AMC’s top performing post on Facebook got over 87,000 total interactions for releasing a bonus scene of the Talking Dead Season Finale.

On the other hand HBO, which has a far larger fanbase of 12 million, published half the number of posts, and got over 1.2 million total interactions. Their fans engaged most with the announcement of their 4th season with over 59,000 interactions. They increased their following by almost 2 million fans in the process.

On Twitter, HBO was clearly engaging very effectively in real-time conversations with their more than 1 million followers, posting over 2,100 Tweets. This had a very positive effect – according to our data, they received almost 120,000 total interactions and gained well over 300,000 new followers. AMC Tweeted half the volume of HBO, gained over 175,000 new followers, and had almost 500,000 total interactions.

The Takeaway

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The coolest thing about online communities is that people can communicate with others that share the same love they do for a particular brand. In the case of TV series, fans flock to official Facebook and Twitter profiles – and their favorite characters – to stay updated and engage in conversations with people who can relate. Media publishers should understand their audience’s behavior and take advantage of this information to make their content more shareable and engaging, and win the battle for audiences’ attentions.

If you are not monitoring your social media presence and taking control of the conversations around your content, the time is now. If you’ve got the right tools up your sleeve, you can spread brand awareness, draw an ever-growing amount of people to your website, and create meaningful relationships with your fans which helps chances of referrals and positive word-of-mouth. With Socialbakers Analytics, you can get a comprehensive overview of what is resonating with your audience across networks and paid media to take decisions in real-time.

Then there’s competitive intelligence and benchmarking. Without knowing what works and what doesn’t or tracking your competitors, you won’t know how to reach your goals to gain a competitive advantage you're flying blind. As for the war waged between AMC’s TWD and HBO’s GOT, TWD won both platforms, but GOT is catching up. Again though, it depends on how you define success. In this case, it's tough to say that either show really lost. Now, it’s time to wait for the next battle to ensue – season 5 of The Walking Dead is half over, and Game of Thrones returns in the spring.

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