Have you ever noticed the #PLLChat hashtag that tends to appear on Twitter Worldwide Trends on Tuesday nights?
This hashtag is the definition of social television done right. PLL stands for Pretty Little Liars, an American teen murder-mystery series that is broadcast on Freeform, formerly ABCFamily, every Tuesday at 7 p.m. central. Each week the show’s super fans flock to Twitter to interact with the show’s handle @PLLTVSeries and use the hashtag #PLLChat. From live-tweeting the episodes, sharing their opinion on shocking plot twists, to proclaiming their support for character romances, these fans are so involved in the show they have even developed a hashtag to describe the super fandom community – they call themselves the #PLLArmy.
Pretty Little Liars originally premiered in 2010 and has been dominating the social space ever since. According to Variety Media, the Season 6B premiere on Jan. 12, 2016 was the most social entertainment series across Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter with over 5.8 million engagements. In addition, on February 9, 2016 the hashtag #PLLChat trended above the Presidential Election’s New Hampshire Primary #NHPrimary on Twitter.
So what’s their secret?
How is it that almost six years after the original premiere the teen drama is still dominating Twitter conversations and encouraging participation weekly?
The secret is simple – the Pretty Little Liars social team understands their audience intimately and knows who and what they care most about. By understanding these kinds of insights, their social team is able to produce content that fans actually want to engage with while watching the show.
Using a social graph analysis tool, Affinio (Disclosure: BRaVe is an investor in Affinio), we are able to see that the Pretty Little Liars audience, or those actively participating in the #PLLChat, can be primarily defined as teen girls. Within this teen girl audience there are eight separate tribes with subtle differences. However, while there are subtle differences, the top interests of the overall audience shows their allegiance to show, its actors, and its writers.
Based on the interests outlined above, the social team at Pretty Little Liars has done an amazing job at aligning their strategy to the passions of their audience.
They use influencers to spark interest
Aligning with Affinio data, the Pretty Little Liars social team knows that the show’s main stars (e.g. Ashley Benson and Shay Mitchell) and also the show’s smaller stars (e.g. Tyler Blackburn and Keegan Allen) are highly influential to a wide spectrum of their fans. Using this knowledge, the social team typically features one of the stars in each week’s Twitter #PLLChat chat. During the chat, the stars will share their insights on that night’s episode, respond to fan reactions, and answer fan questions. Dedicated Pretty Little Liars fans thrive on the possibility of connecting with their favourite star in an open-forum chat. By live-tweeting episodes, stars are providing added-value, or a social experience, to the typical fan’s viewing experience.
They adopt the right lingo and topics
As part of any successful engagement strategy, it is pertinent to understand what the audience is talking about. The #PLLArmy often shares their opinion on what’s happening on the show at that moment in time and even form spur-of-the-moment micro conversations and hashtags. Hashtags such as #Emison, #Haleb, #Sparia, #spoby, and #buttahbenzo have all emerged in relation to the PLL series and have stuck around. Essentially, the show’s fans create their own language.
In order to stay relevant with their audience, the Pretty Little Liars social team has become highly adaptable and is able to quickly integrate user-generated language into their social content at a moment’s notice. By adopting the lingo and topics that matter to an audience, social teams are able to secure their relevancy with their audience.
They understand that loyalty is a two-way street
Today it is more important than ever to be responsive to your social audience. Consumer loyalty is diminishing with so many choices available today. You can’t expect your fans to be loyal to you if you are not loyal to them. Part of building this loyalty is ensuring your content fits with your audience’s key interests and passions. Audiences want to know that their feedback and opinions matter and this is something that the Pretty Little Liars social team has mastered.
In season six of the series, dedicated fans took to social to complain that a main storyline on the show was taking too long to be resolved. The result? The show understood their fan’s frustration and altered the show script to resolve the storyline sooner. As put by the fans creator Marlene King in a BuzzFeed interview, “The fans have been really patient, and I feel like we pushed them as far as we could. They let us know it was time, and it just felt like it was the right and fair thing to do.”
By deeply understanding their audience and aligning strategies to data, Pretty Little Liars has been able to effectively generate meaningful conversations with their fans each week on Twitter. The main takeaway for all marketers is to focus on who and what matters most to your fans, so that you can create tailored content that enhances a viewing experience and encourages social engagement.