“Did you watch The Walking Dead last night?”

This is a common question on Monday mornings at Voxus.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past six years, you’re probably familiar with The Walking Dead. Based on a successful comic book, The Walking Dead holds the highest total viewership of any cable television series in history with an average of about 12 million viewers per episode. So needless to say, the show receives a lot of press coverage and has a huge social media following.

Fanning the flames

However, when the second half of the season premiered this February, the Internet went a little crazy. There was a noticeable uptick in press coverage and social media chatter about the show. Why? Because The Walking Dead stepped up its PR and social media game in a sneaky way. It took advantage of the rumors that were starting to swirl about a villain from the comic books set to make his debut on television. By ever-so-gently fanning these word-of-mouth flames, those rumblings morphed into an explosion of questions and theories on the Internet.

Yes, I’ve read The Walking Dead comic books (don’t judge). The reason everyone is going nuts about this character is because Negan isn’t your average run-of-the-mill villain. He’s the worst. In fact, he’s so awful in the comic book that during his first encounter with Rick and the gang, he proceeds to kill a major character in a horrible way.

So this increase in TWD coverage is not just about Negan, it’s about WHO Negan is going to kill on the show.

Will the show follow the comic book and kill off this popular character? Or will it be another main character? Twitter and Facebook are now packed with juicy fan theories. So how did TWD successfully take advantage of all of this word of mouth coverage?

Using teasers

It first started with TWD announcing that actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan had been cast to play Negan. But since then, there has been no other official content on the character. No press releases and nothing on social media. Instead, TWD has allowed the press to make its own predictions and hasn’t stopped the show creators and actors from discussing the darkness and anticipation surrounding this character during interviews.

“…Negan is kind of an atomic bomb that’s going to be dropped on the show and the show will probably never be the same after that. So buckle up, I guess?”

– Robert Kirkman, Executive Producer

On the social media front, TWD posts have shifted to showcase each of the main characters. Skillfully designed image panels started to appear on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram this year. Each includes one of the major characters and a meaningful quote from a recent episode. These are easily sharable and a great way for TWD fans to proclaim which character they think will get killed by the hand of Negan.

After multiple episodes aired referencing Negan, but never introducing him, a very short preview was leaked, showing only a brief glimpse of his back and weapon of choice. And once again the Internet had a conniption fit.

Could TWD have incorporated more traditional PR and social media tactics to tease the entrance of Negan? Sure. But when you have over 34 million followers on Facebook alone, you might as well let the fans do most of the talking for you. This word of mouth strategy allowed the show to avoid inundating their followers with too much content and, instead, kept an air of mystery surrounding the finale.

Are you ready to meet Negan? I am. At least I think I am… Just don’t kill off Daryl… Please?