The most important lesson of Game of Thrones this year? No, not that incest is okay if you have buns of steel, although for the record, IMO the Jon/Dany incest angle is far less interesting than the power dynamics their blood relationship causes. The real lesson is what Ed Martin discusses in his piece “Game of Thrones” Transcended Technology in Season 7: people WILL engage with entertainment in real time.
His article focuses on the storytelling, which was excellent and pushed just about every emotional button the audience has, but only hints at what I think is the stronger force at work: the community.
People wanted to watch together. To discuss, to rant, to scream, to ooh and aah, together. No one wanted to spoil, or be spoiled, so the best solution was to watch together. At the same time. On Twitter and in private discussion groups and at home and anywhere else humans congregate, really and virtually.
The power of the shared experience. That is the most important lesson.
And for extra credit, note that GoT feeds its community very well. Behind the scenes videos released after the episodes that extend the experience. The steady drumbeat of press tours and convention appearances combined with the general likability of the show stars. And yes, merchandise.
- Create amazing content that engages the community and encourages a desire, a demand for the shared experience
- Feed the community well: news, merchandise, opportunities to engage with the brand
- Build excitement for the real time experience, harnessing the power of the community to do so. HBO promotion could only go so far. We the viewers built the flames even higher. Fan speculation. Fan art. Fanfic. GoT discussion groups.
It starts with the content, but the secret ingredient is the community.
Photo: publicity still from Episode 7, courtesy HBO