Pretty Little Liar’s Secrets of Social Media Success

I’ve got a secret. Can you keep it?

So begins the theme song of the popular ABC Family show Pretty Little Liars (PLL), which has been very successful in reaching young audiences.

The show has qualified as the number 1 television telecast with females 12-34 for the past nine weeks. The season-two finale made PLL the most tweeted and Facebooked about TV series of all time. The program’s secret? Its savvy use of social media.

The show uses Facebook well. There is an official page as well as dozens of fan-created Facebook fan pages. Rather than trying to shut down these fan-created pages, the official page uses them as a resource, sharing their content on the official page – increasing the personal connection with fans and making the most of an additional resource for content at the same time. 

The creator, several actors, and even some of the characters have Twitter accounts. The show uses Twitter for live chats with its stars. Fans use hashtags for the chance to have the show’s stars respond. The show’s creator also uses her Twitter account to release clues to the ongoing mystery of who is tormenting those pretty little liars. There was even a secret video, which fans could find through decoding clues released via one of the character’s Twitter accounts. The show has also enhanced viewers’ experience by releasing a series of webisodes that reveal additional clues.

All of these activities have helped fuel an energetic fan community outside of the program’s official efforts. Fans create Tumblr blogs and Youtube videos piecing together clues to form theories. Reddit is also a popular place for fans to ask questions or share thoughts.

While ABC Family is hardly a first-tier network, its use of social media to promote Pretty Little Liars has allowed the network to beat more prominent programs, such as American Idol on Fox. Perhaps ABC Family’s status has allowed it to be more nimble and inventive. The larger networks might want to study what ABC Family is doing. It seems to be working.