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HBO taps into Game of Thrones' immense fan base through SMS

As the season five series comes to a close, HBO is already preparing to keep fans thinking about the show through the summer hiatus to have a substantial season six opener and secure the phenomenon surrounding the show. Prior to the season five opener, HBO released a mobile messaging and mobile Web site experience to engage with fans through sneak peaks eluding to plot twists of the season. 

"Game of Thrones shattered HBO's ratings records last season, averaging 18.6 million viewers per episode," said Kay Kinton, director of global communications at Twilio, the developer behind the service. "The GoT fan base is massive, but it takes more than Facebook notifications, sponsored Tweets and website teasers to move a fan base of that size. 

"Broadcast-style, wide-net marketing would not guarantee HBO that its message would get to its audience, so HBO turned to SMS marketing to pinpoint end users and ensure direct interaction with its fans," she said. "With the help of ElasticTV, HBO sent Game of Thrones fans across the globe visions from the three-eyed raven via SMS to foreshadow the season.

"Aside from direct engagement, Twilio SMS also gave HBO the flexibility and freedom to customize their message to distinct markets of fans around the world."

A marketing vision
The text-powered service Three Eyed Raven, named after a plotline in the series, sends reminders and links to fans that subscribe to the service for content surrounding the show. Once the text is received users can access the temporary mobile site, where they can view sneak peaks to the upcoming season. 

The video content showcased takes a format similar to the Three Eyed Raven plotline in the show. One of the characters is prone to visions, and the sneak peaks take on that format as if users are having visions of the season to come. 

Three Eyed Raven received a substantial following leading up to the season five premiere. The service had about 70,000 subscribers within the first two months of launching. 

The link to the sneak peak video is temporary but the service caused such a stir that users captured the content and shared through their own social media pages. This created an even greater hype surrounding the show, one video received over 1.5 million views on YouTube. 

Creating a link that has an expiration time, similar to Snapchat, generates a fleeting sensations that entices consumers to immediately engage. Users know that this will not last long so they must act fast. 

Tapping fan potential
Game of Thrones has such a large fan base that it is important that the network employs marketing tactics such as this to really tap into its potential. These fans love the show, are obsessed with the show and therefore will fully engage with the show. 

The show was the first of HBO?s series to launch on the standalone streaming service HBO Now, saw its red carpet premiere streamed live on Facebook as the producers of television programming increasingly turn to social media to reach new viewers on mobile in real-time (see more). 

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"It is important for brands to use broadcast-style marketing, but when it comes to direct engagement via SMS, the open rates for SMS are much higher than email or other alternatives," Ms. Kinton said.

"With text messaging, companies have direct access to major international markets and can expand customer engagement reach far beyond traditional modes of interaction," she said. "SMS is not just direct, it is personal too, messages can be customized to each recipient regardless of region. 

"In the case of the Game of Thrones, engagement between the fans of the show grew as each person who received an SMS reached out to their friends to share information and clues as to what they may see in the upcoming season. HBO wanted to engage fans in a personal, intimate way, beyond the typical marketing methods they wanted fans to have the GoT experience in-world."

Final take
Brielle Jaekel is editorial assistant at Mobile Marketer