Inside look at HBO's social TV strategy for 'Game of Thrones'

By Natan Edelsburg 

When HBO’s “Game of Thrones” premiered last year, it was unclear if this drama would appeal beyond the Comic-Con crowd and lovers of the fantasy novels. By the end of season one, everyone was talking about their obsessions with the Starks (one of the main families) and the outstanding performance by Peter Dinklage who went on to win an Emmy and Golden Globe for his role as Tyrion Lannister, of the opposing family. The proof of this popularity is the show’s massive following on the social web.

@GameOfThrones is about to break 300,000 followers, Game of Throne’s Facebook Timeline has over 2,380,000 likes and almost 1 million people have checked-in to the show on GetGlue. This fan base is nurtured and grown carefully by HBO’s social media team on a year-round basis.

Not surprisingly, just two days after the second episode of season two aired in the US, the network announced that the show would be returning for a third season. We spoke with Sabrina Caluori HBO’s Vice President of Social Media & Performance Marketing about the show’s social TV strategy for season two. Caluori describes in detail how they used social to create a TV commercial for the show, launched a new Tumblr to curate fan passion and even crashed GetGlue on premiere night.

Lost Remote: What’s Game of Throne’s social tv strategy for the new season?

Sabrina Caluori: Inspire fans to share their passion for Game of Thrones via their social graph by providing compelling content, intriguing calls to action and a full suite of tools on a wide variety of platforms. Reward the most active fans with special recognition from official RT’s, Likes and Reblogs to special “swag” giveaways and even inclusion in promo spots on the network.

LR: What are the goals?

SC: Grow the audience by harnessing the enthusiasm of the existing fan base and funneling intrigued new viewers into simple and easy ways to catch up on Season 1 including linear re-airs, HBO On Demand, HBO GO, DVD and electronic sell through before the Season 2 premiere. Feed the addiction of already engaged fans with more ways to connect, share, immerse and participate in the world of Westeros.

LR: What partners are you working with?

SC: We’re working with Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, GetGlue, Tumblr, Google+ and Miso as well as building out immersive experiences on HBO digital properties such as HBO Connect, and HBO GO.

LR: How is HBO Connect involved?

SC: HBO Connect is an integral part of our social TV strategy for Game of Thrones this year. Leading up to the premiere, we encouraged fans to describe Game of Thrones in 140 characters or less and visualized it on HBO Connect and We then featured the best tweets in a series of commercials that ran both on HBO and online:

In conjunction with an all-day Season 1 marathon on April 1st, we hosted a full day of conversations with the Cast, Crew and Super Fans of Game of Thrones at HBO Connect. This was designed to create awareness for the last catch-up stunt while driving consistent conversation on the social platforms leading into the premiere at 9pm. We’re lining up more official Conversations for later in the season as well.

LR: How else did you activate social for Game of Thrones?

SC: A couple of tactics worth calling out:
Miso Promotion
-We launched the first official HBO Tumblr for Game of Thrones. It’s designed to celebrate the amazing wealth of fan generated art in homage to the series.

We focused our premiere day activities around a single hashtag that we used across platforms to rally the fan community: #GOTDay

LR: What were the results?

SC: We’re extremely happy with the results. Game of Thrones premiered at 9pm to a series high of 3.9MM viewers a 74% improvement when compared to last season’s premiere, 53% in comparison to the season average and 27% when compared to last season’s finale. We had so many GetGlue check-ins on premiere night we crashed GetGlue. According to Trendrr our socialTV promotions (#GOT140, #GOTDay, GetGlue etc) accounted for over 50% of the conversations on premiere night.