5 Lessons in Live Event Marketing from Game of Thrones

Vendini Marketing, Social Media, Super Fans

Raise your hand if you watch Game of Thrones. I’m sure most of you have your hands up and for those who don’t, you have no clue what you’re missing.

The HBO hit series is a ratings phenomenon, with over 10 million viewers tuning in to the premiere on television and digital screens. Think those numbers are impressive?

Thrones is slaying the competition on social media, with about 3.5 million Twitter followers, 2 million on Instagram and over 18 million Facebook likes. And social media engagement around the show is at an all time high. The mega-series has already generated over 83 million online engagements this season, an 89 percent increase over the same time frame last year.

That got me thinking… What can we learn about marketing live events from a TV show? I was curious. So I decided to take a closer look at the social media strategy for Game of Thrones to see what some of the commonalities are between live event and TV show promotion. Here’s what I came up with.

Live events and TV shows like GoT share a few key marketing goals. TV series producers want to get people to watch the show while it’s on-air, and venue managers want to get people to attend live events. There are also some similarities in audience engagement patterns: Live event audiences tend to be the most active on social media during the actual event. Likewise, many TV series see the most social media chatter when the show airs.

With these parallels come a few differences, the most obvious one being that it’s presumably much easier to get people to watch a TV show from their couch, than it is to get people to buy tickets and travel to an event venue. With that said, the similarities far outweigh the differences and offer an opportunity to pull lessons that can help amplify any social media strategy. So if you want to up your event marketing game, here are 5 lessons we learned from Game of Thrones that every live event marketer should learn.

1. Build a Community

Game of Thrones community fan wedding

Die-hard fans have a Game of Thrones themed wedding (photo courtesy of winteriscoming.com)

Marketing efforts for the American fantasy series began long before the show debuted on the small screen. Shortly after HBO optioned the series which is an adaptation of “A Song of Ice and Fire” written by George R.R. Martin, the author appeared with executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss in the virtual community Second Life. The Second Life community is a popular hangout for fantasy role-players, gamers and fans of Martin’s novels and gave the creators a unique opportunity to tap into a passionate and engaged fan base.

The Game of Thrones wiki forum is another great example of how building a community on other digital platforms can still fuel social media growth and engagement. What started as a simple fan community, is now one of the largest online forums for the series. The forum offers die-hard followers opportunities to engage with each other, the actors, and the show’s creators. The best part is the marketing team over at Game of Thrones doesn’t have to do much to keep fans active on the platform.

In our digital world, it’s easier than ever to find online and offline communities that resonate with your audience. Once you’ve identified these communities, think of ways you can introduce your event and add value to the group, then connect with them. When you build a community your audience becomes invested in your success, and instead of just having a few loyal patrons, you will have an army of super fans and advocates that will want to engage with your organization across all platforms.

2. Keep the conversation going

Game of Thrones all ears
Peer-to-peer word of mouth is the best form of advertisement, especially if you’re targeting Millennials. In the lead up to season six the show’s creators didn’t want to risk any leaks, which is why they kept details about the current season under wraps, and limited pre-promotion to a few still images and teaser videos focused on past episodes. Unlike most shows the Emmy-winning fantasy drama doesn’t really have to do much to build up anticipation for an upcoming season. The hit show’s super fans discuss their theories about what could happen next on social media even when the show is on hiatus.

One of the easiest ways to amplify engagement is to encourage your audience to let their voices be heard on social media platforms, and show them you’re listening by responding and taking their feedback into consideration. Typically, social media engagement around live events decreases after the event, which makes it even more difficult to build up momentum for upcoming theatrical productions, festivals and sporting events. The best way to avoid ebbs and flows in your customer participation is to keep the conversation going consistently by making your customers feel like owners. Are you selecting a new line up of performances for next season? Use social media as a tool to get input from your patrons. Getting new uniforms for your sporting team? Let your social media audience choose between a few different options.

3. Work with influencers

Game of Thrones influencers

Game of Thrones influencers (photo courtesy of popsugar.com)

There are many misconceptions about working with influencers. The biggest one is that they have to have a huge following to add any real value. That’s not true. I’ve spent many years working with digital influencers and celebrities with small and large audiences, and the content that has gone viral was typically shared by several influencers with a couple of thousand followers. Why? These individuals still have the trust of their audience, an invaluable currency in the social media world that diminishes as bigger influencers push product after product.

Game of Thrones is really good at leveraging the popularity of their cast and using their individual influencers to promote the show. Even if you don’t have any big name celebrities to promote your event, there are easy ways to leverage your network. Identify your brand influencers, and invite them to join your inner circle. Give them access to event announcements or exclusive content 24 hours before it goes public. It would also be a good idea to think about giving them some VIP treatment and special access the day of an event at your venue.

4. Take Risks

Game of Thrones instagram posts Funko pops

Game of Thrones instagram Funko Pops (photos courtesy of instagram.com)

Who would have thought Funko Pops would do so well on instagram? Most people wouldn’t, but the marketing team over at Game of Thrones experimented with the idea and it was a success. Not only, is it a creative way to produce simple content the concept requires little resources. And let’s not forget that they are actually pushing merchandise which is pretty genius. Try to experiment with unique ways of bringing your social platforms to life and don’t be afraid to go beyond the typical and think outside of the box.

5. Think Video

Game of Thrones think scrappy
If a photo is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. Obviously, producing quality video content isn’t cheap, but high production video doesn’t necessarily perform any better on social media than something shot on a cellphone. First and foremost, consider your platform when developing your video strategy, and tailor your content to each social media platform. Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram videos don’t have to be big budget productions. Think simple. Think scrappy. Think sharable.

Amazing social media videos have three key components:

  1. They are compelling.
  2. They evoke an emotional response.
  3. They are short, sweet, and to the point.

Even if you’re the only person managing your venue’s social accounts, implementing just one of these tactics will make a huge difference. By approaching the social media strategy for your next event the way the producers of Game of Thrones promote the series, not only will you likely sell more tickets, you’ll build a community of super fans that will practically sell them for you.