Fans of The Walking Dead Use Social Media to Drive The Show’s Record Breaking Ratings
The Walking Dead is the hit show that no one saw coming. It is the highest rated show in cable TV history and every season the show’s ratings break new records. The fan base for the show is enormous and crosses all classes of society. By all rights the show never should have been as popular as it has become. A niche show about the survivors of the zombie apocalypse trying to stay alive in rural Georgia doesn’t sound like a show that would start breaking ratings records. But the immense talent of the writers, the amazing work done by the crew and special effects artists, and the perfect casting combined to create a show that has become unstoppable. There is another factor that has driven The Walking Dead from cult classic to recordbreaking TV show too- social media. From Facebook to Pinterest and Tumblr to Twitter fans of the show bond, share their love of the show, and inspire more people to become fans.
There are dozens of Facebook fan pages for the show, the stars, and even inanimate icons of the show like the prison where the survivors took refuge in Season 3. Tumblr and Deviant Art are full of fan art and fan fiction that have been created by fans of the show who are inspired by the characters and the world that the show inhabits to create The Walking Dead themed art. But ground zero for the massive groundswell of support for the show is on Twitter.
Part of the reason for this is that the stars of the show like Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus are very active on Twitter and spend a lot of time interacting with fans. Produce Gale Ann Hurd and other members of the creation team also spend a lot of time on Twitter and appreciate the massive support that fans on Twitter bring. There is almost always at least one trending The Walking Dead hashtag at any given time. On Sundays, when the show airs in the US, fans have actually crashed Twitter with The Walking Dead topics. Recently when Norman Reedus and Emily Kinney, who play fan favorites Daryl Dixon and Beth Green, took to Twitter for a live Q&A during the episode Twitter crashed due to the massive traffic.
The stars of the show like Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus, who are the most popular with fans, often say in interviews that they think the reason the show is so popular is that the show belongs to the fans more than the stars. But it’s the interaction that the fans get with the stars through social media that keeps the massive fanbase of the show growing. Andrew Lincoln is not on social media, but Norman Reedus is very active on Twitter and Instagram. Norman’s fans, who have organized into groups like Dixon’s Vixens and The Bitchin Dixons, spend a lot of time on social media interacting with him and with each other. The stars of The Walking Dead love their fans and their personal connection to their fans through social media is a large factor in the success of the show.
But The Walking Dead fans don’t just use social media to connect with the stars of the show. They use social media to connect with each other. They talk about recent episodes, share personal art, tattoos and Internet memes. They also forge real friendships and act as a circle of support for each other. People who would never meet offline are bonding on Twitter over their love for the show. They meet up at special events like Walker Stalker Con and act as a family for each other. There are online viewing parties where fans watch particular episodes or marathons tweeting to each other throughout the episodes. Watching every episode of The Walking Dead and often Talking Dead, the live talk show that follows each episode of The Walking Dead, has become an interactive experience for millions of fans thanks to social media.
One of the popular Walking Dead hashtags on Twitter is #TWDFamily. #TWDFamily is a massive network of fans who have been mentioned by Gale Ann Hurd and others in interviews as part of the reason for the success of the show. Anyone is welcome in #TWDFamily as long as the love the show and members of the collective promote a drama-free supportive environment for everyone. Jokes are even made that when the zombie apocalypse does happen the members of the #TWDFamily will come together to help each other survive the apocalypse.
After the death of major characters fans flock to social media like Facebook and Twitter to commiserate. When Hershel Greene, one of the most popular characters, died in the mid-season finale of Season 4 Twitter exploded with fans grieving together. And since the only thing that fans can be sure of is that one by one their favorite characters will fall they need each other for support when the characters that they have come to love over the seasons inevitably die.
It’s really not that surprising that social media has played such a huge role in the amazing success of The Walking Dead. Social media is all about building relationships with people through shared experiences and shared stories. The show is really about personal relationships. It’s often been called a human drama with zombies, even by the stars. In the show a group of people who come from wildly different backgrounds and experiences have come together to form a family unit working to survive in a brutal and unfamiliar world. Social media is bringing together fans of the show from different backgrounds, different countries, and different experiences united in their love of the show and the stars. Those relationships, like the relationships of the characters on the show are creating a tight knit family that will continue to drive the success of the show to new record breaking heights and also inspire an explosion of fan art and fan fiction.