ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars has mastered the Social Media Game

ABC Family’s hit drama "Pretty Little Liars (PLL)," has become Tuesday’s No. 1 telecast for the fifth straight week for females 12-34 and cable TV’s No. 1 telecast among women 18-49. It has also become Tuesday’s "most social" program across all TV, which helps the show defend its ranking for the No. 1 most-tweeted cable TV series of 2012.

The series, based loosely on the popular novels written by Sara Shepard, is a teen mystery about four high school girls living in fear of the unknown character "A."

One of the main reasons for the success of the show is ABC Family’s constant activity on social media to promote the series. ABC Family does an excellent job at keeping PLL fans engaged between each episode and season. Here’s how:

  • An Engaging Facebook Community – The PLL Facebook page hit a milestone of 10 million fans last week. The community manager knows exactly how to keep the fans happy. Each week, a new Facebook album is shared with images from the upcoming episode. This drives tons of comments from fans speculating on what’s happening in the photos, sharing fashion opinions about the characters and posting information about new characters when they are shown. In addition to the photo albums, videos are posted to the page, giving fans short previews of what’s coming next.
  • Exclusive content on Facebook tabs – Facebook tabs are being used to provide fans with exclusive sneak peeks of what will happen on upcoming episodes. The current tab, “Like to Unlock,” allows fans to see a preview of "Pretty Little Liars" episodes. Other Facebook tabs have consisted of a countdown to the Halloween episode and a Twitter-driven “Suspect Tracker.”
  • Exciting on-screen hashtags – "Pretty Little Liars" was the most-tweeted cable TV show in 2012. When the show returned in 2013, it accounted for more than 52% of all Twitter activity that day, with a total of 1.4 million mentions. Many of these mentions can be attributed to the show's use of onscreen hashtags. During dramatic scenes each week, a unique hashtag pops up, encouraging viewers to get on Twitter and discuss what is going on in the show. On last week’s episode (aired 2/5/13), #poorspencer appeared and to date has 22,805 mentions.
  • Fun Twitter campaigns – "Pretty Little Liars" has many Twitter-based campaigns to promote the show. The “Suspect Tracker” tab discussed above was powered by hashtag use. The suspects each had a dedicated hashtag, and their suspect percentage on the tab grew by use of their individual hashtags. The show also launched a Twitter-based scavenger hunt, during which one of the characters tweeted – in real time from her fictional Twitter account @MonaVanderwall – clues for discovering footage of a video that won’t be seen in any on-air episode.
  • Filling the gaps between seasons – With each TV show, "Pretty Little Liars" included, there is a lag between seasons. ABC Family, however, realized the extreme popularity of the hit drama and didn’t want to lose momentum from the fans. During the summer break of season three, the network launched “Pretty Dirty Secrets,” an eight-part web series. During the series, a new character was introduced, and other well-known supporting characters debuted in each episode. Each of the eight episodes of the web series provided clues to what will come in the second half of season three. The series was a hit, garnering more than 3 million video views.
  • Actors participating with fans – Not only does the network promote the show through its owned social media channels, the actors do as well on their personal accounts. Each week during the show, the actors live-tweet about what is happening with their characters. One of the main actors has her own hashtag #PLLayWithShay during each episode. Twitter users can use the hashtag and ask Shay Mitchell questions during the episode, and she’ll answer some of them. Shay Mitchell also invites other actors to join her in the conversation. During this past week’s episode, #PLLayWithShay was such a popular hashtag it started trending with 429,020 uses to date.

Pretty Little Liars has mastered the challenge of social TV, and I don’t see it going away anytime soon. Luckily, the demographic age range for the show is fairly broad, so I have a long while to go before I have to feel guilty for watching a teen drama and frequently joining the social conversation. Tune in to ABC Family tonight at 8 ET to experience the thrill yourself.