There's a Story Behind Twitter's Most Successful Daenerys Targaryen Account

Emilia Clarke as Khaleesi on Game of Thrones.
Macall B. Polay/courtesy of HBO

Emilia Clarke as Khaleesi on Game of Thrones.

Back in 2010, when memes were barely born and Twitter was only a toddler, now 27-year-old Eric Charlton was a junior in college when HBO's mega-hit Game of Thrones premiered its very first episode. "Every Sunday, we would sit around as a group and watch Thrones," Charlton says. "Everyone watches in a group, and one night while we were watching, I got out my phone and started tweeting as King Joffrey on my personal account. People thought it was pretty funny, so we decided to make a King Joffrey account. All of us had access and every weekend, someone new would tweet from it."

That role-playing ended up gaining followers--hundreds of thousands of followers in fact, and, seven years later, has morphed itself into a full-blown Daenerys Targaryen parody and sponsorship machine, raking in $100 per tweet from HBO ("I was once offered $15,000 for the account") and gaining a total of 382,000 followers. 

On his lunch break from working as a salesman at his dad's Xerox dealership in Buffalo, New York, Billboard spoke to Charlton about what it's like to be the man behind fantasy television's most powerful woman, and what he plans to do when, dare we say it, Winter ends.

So tell us how this all began.

Well, in all, there’s probably around 3k GOT parody accounts, and when the series started 7 years ago there were very few. I originally started the account as King Joffrey, back in season 1 when I was in college. I was 21 (I’m 27 now) and was—still am—a huge Joffrey fan.

I basically made the account and started trolling, bringing King Joffrey to life out on twitter. You know, when something happened in the world I would tweet about it from King Joffrey’s perspective just for laughs, and I realized people really liked what I was tweeting. The tweets were funny. The account just started growing.

What was it like to be King Joffrey? 

When I was King Joffrey, I was much more inappropriate. Much more. I’d be swearing in a funny way or whatever, but that’s when the GOT account followed me. They followed me back when I was 1,500 followers, way back in the early days. And that’s when I realized, "wow, they support me with this account!" A year later they asked for my name and info and wanted to do business together; that’s when they started sending me stuff and I started doing tweets for them. After that, I was never afraid of getting sued or kicked off Twitter. 

Were you worried about the other parody competition?

Back when I was a small, small account, maybe a little. But I was still way bigger than every other parody out there. When you do this kind of stuff, you learn to team up with the other large accounts to help grow your own following. At the time, and still today, there were three big accounts: me, this large Jon Snow account and a large Tyrion Lannister one. I actually became really good friends with the guy who runs the Jon Snow one. His name is Joe and he lives out in Africa. He actually kills it with his promotional ads. We linked up around season 2 or 3 because we had the biggest following and started to retweet each other. Now, we always do the retweet technique. Sometimes we'll work with the Tyrion account, but I’m not as close to him. We met up around season 3.

So what happened when King Joffrey died?

Oh man. King Joffrey died in season 4 and that totally stunk. Once Joffrey died in the show, the account stopped growing. I was always paying attention to the growth of it, and it was at 50k when he died. The following just started to go down, so I knew I needed to do something. I switched over to Khalessi, Mother of Dragons [Daenerys Targaryen] so it would keep growing along with Snow and the other account. At that point, Jon Snow and I retweeted each other for, like, a solid hour. I think I gained over 300 followers that day just from the exposure. 

Why Daenerys Targaryen?

Daenerys is a really popular character on GOT, but she’s also a really powerful woman. In the show there's this thing, "All Men Must Die," and in the world right now, female empowerment is so important. I like being able to feed off of that movement from her point of view. I like hitting the woman tweets hard and am very pro-woman. 

So tell us about your tweeting strategy.

During the season it’s a lot different because you’ve got new episodes every week and everyone is thinking thrones, but in the off-season, you can go once every other day. But during the season, I do around 4-5 times a day. I tweet at work; probably too much. In the off season I'll throw out a couple tweets during work hours just to keep things fresh, but when it’s in season, it’s addictive. When you fire a tweet and get 22,000 retweets it just brings a rush to you that you can’t really explain. 

Last season I live tweeted a couple episodes, and I got a lot of activity, but a lot of followers were mad at the account because I was spoiling it for them. It was great until I got a lot of unfollows. So then I stopped live tweeting and now I tweet before and after.

What's been one of your most successful posts?

Oh man. Well, this season, when episode 1 faded to black I immediately went on my phone and tweeted “shall we begin” and that was perfect. Such a slam dunk and it got like 14,000 retweets. I also tweeted shall we begin right before the second episode just to milk it a little bit more and get people excited.

The red wedding was also one of the biggest moments for me and the other two viral accounts. That’s what Thrones does: it creates these epic crazy themes and Twitter is the perfect place to throw something out and have it resonate with thousands of people. 

Have you made money from this account?

Yeah, I do. I'll do promo tweets for like $75 to $100 per Tweet, and I also get sent lots of gifts and things from HBO. I've gotten everything from GOT puzzles to wine this year. All for promo tweeting with the hashtags they ask me to use. And Daenerys isn't my only account either. I sold one of my smaller ones for like $1,200. On Instagram, I co-run Peter Dinklage with my friend and that account is blowing up. You can make a lot more money on Instagram as opposed to Twitter because people will pay $500 for a post and then you delete it. I actually used some of that Instagram money for the down payment on a Duplex I just bought in Buffalo. But my heart is in my Twitter account. I think it’s a more entertaining platform and you can be funnier and more interesting.

Would you ever sell your Daenerys account then?

I was offered $15,000 for it at one point by the same guy who bought one of my smaller accounts. But I won’t sell it because it’s my baby and I created it and have had it for 7 years. But it was pretty cool to be offered $15,000 for a Twitter account.

So what's going to happen when the series ends...for good?

The ideal goal for the account is to bring it back to Joffrey and make people laugh. I want to switch back to him and have that Twitter comedy. 

But outside of this account, I’ve helped some organizations and restaurants in Buffalo grow their social media and increase their following. They'll reach out to me since they know my experience with the GOT account. I would like to eventually work in social media; that's the dream. 

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