If there's anything you can learn about the Internet and specifically social media, it's that when things go wrong in wildly popular franchises, you're going to hear about it.

So, when I woke up on Monday to find people blasting Game of Thrones and the writing in its final season, I wasn't surprised. After all, the series has been getting hit hard for the last several weeks for a poor showing in the final season. And try as they might, even some of the series' strongest supporters can't figure out why the last season went the way it did.

But rather than dig into the reactions, which you can find just about anywhere else today on the Internet, I wanted to take the outcry to the next step. And most importantly, I wanted to discuss how the Game of Thrones rebuttals could help you learn a valuable lesson in today's business world.

An Important Lesson Learned

Most companies work to build massive concepts that scale globally, have rabid fans, and ultimately generate boatloads of cash. It's not easy to develop, of course, but when it happens, it's magical. And for companies behind those viral successes, it translates to widespread success.

Game of Thrones broke from the pack years ago and was able to transcend entertainment. It was a classic, loved by millions, and turned into one of the hottest and most sought-after franchises in the world.

Needless to say, the money-making opportunities in such a phenomenon are endless. And HBO--to its credit--worked to find ways to monetize in several ways. Chief among them were plans to create spinoffs set inside the famed world of Westeros.

And why not? HBO has a massive franchise on its hands. It should do everything it can to monetize that.

So, for business owners, the first thing to learn from Game of Thrones is to focus on the building of a brand that people care about. And from there, do your best to ensure you have opportunities to monetize it.

Fear of the Success

The biggest problem you'll face now--and the problem HBO is facing now--centers on just how popular your creation has become.

There's no debating that popularity is critical to a product or service's success. But when it hits cult status or becomes a mainstream success, it'll take on a life of its own. And when that happens, you can only be its custodian. And your central goal needs to center on not messing it up.

What we've seen progress this past season is a belief from fans that Game of Thrones writers messed up their favorite franchise. They wanted something else, they found that they were entitled to something else, and they sought that. They didn't get it. And now, the showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff are dealing with the fallout from that.

Lastly, Listen Up

Again, when you have a breakout success, you need to realize that you no longer control it. Like it or not, you're no longer in charge of its destiny--you're just hoping it goes in the right direction.

So, when fans of your product, service, or new creation start calling for features, events, or anything else that might positively impact your creation, you should listen up. You don't need to listen every time, and there are certainly occasions where trying to leave every decision to the user can backfire. But you should also acknowledge that they're using your product or service in a unique way. And there are times, especially after your creation has reached exalted status, that their opinion in some cases might count more than yours.

Game of Thrones showrunners had every opportunity to listen to fans on Reddit, social media, at Comic-Con events, and anywhere else. But now those same fans feel like they haven't been listened to. And now, an iconic show's legacy has been tainted. And exactly what that means for the revenue streams HBO was hoping to secure on Game of Thrones and its offshoots is decidedly up for debate.

Published on: May 21, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.