The use of social media has significantly increased in the past few years as more social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr have emerged. In our technology driven world today, it is becoming easier to connect and stay up to date with the people around us, whether it be friends, coworkers, or celebrities. Many stars and creators of popular television shows utilize social media in order to share glimpses of their personal and professional lives to their fans. Through the rise of social media, interacting with the stars and creators of hit television series, such as ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars, has contributed to their overall success as it allows viewers to stay up to date, provide feedback about the show, and remain entertained all year long.
Pretty Little Liars is a teen mystery drama that follows the lives of four girls who are stalked and harassed by an unknown figure following the disappearance of their best friend. The thriller is aimed towards females aged 12-34, which happens to be the same demographic of individuals who are the most active on social media. Because of this, Pretty Little Liars has done a great job establishing themselves on the various social media websites. They have over 12 million likes on Facebook, 2 million followers on Twitter, and each of the four stars have anywhere from 2 to 3 million followers on Instagram. Their posts keep fans up to date by sharing the recaps of previous episodes, previews for future episodes, and special inside scoops. They often share pictures and clips of exciting moments of the upcoming episode, drawing fans in and making them eager for what to expect when the episode airs. The stars of the show, Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson, Lucy Hale and Shay Mitchell, not only share pictures from behind the scenes, but also from their personal lives. You can see anything from their latest trip to Paris, to their impressive finish in a half marathon. They share truthful moments of their everyday lives, which helps to create a stronger connection with their fans (Stransky).
The popularity of Pretty Little Liars on social media has caused quite a bit of buzz. The season 3 finale that aired on March 19, 2013, became the most tweeted television episode in history, producing over 1 million tweets during the live airing (Social Meter). The producers and marketing team work together to achieve this success by creating hashtags for particular scenes during the episode, such as #AisMona or #EzrA, inviting viewers to interact with each other on a larger scale. The developer and executive producer of the show, I. Marlene King, believes that their success on social media is bringing “must-see TV” back into today’s television viewing world. What she means by this is that instead of recording shows with DVR, viewers of Pretty Little Liars would rather watch the episode live, being fearful of missing out on the major OMG moments and chatter that occurs online. (Social Media + Pop Culture). King’s assumptions hold true, as in August 2013, Pretty Little Liars attracted more than 3 million viewers to it’s summer finale (Kenneally).
Social media is also used as a developmental strategy for the writers of Pretty Little Liars. Twitter can be used as a platform for fans and viewers to chime in and give their feedback about what they like or dislike about the show. King finds this to be very helpful, especially when it comes to the characters: “And we can tell if we introduce a new hottie to the show and fans really love him, we’ll keep him in the mix for a while” (Social Media + Pop Culture). This allows fans to feel valued because their thoughts and opinions can actually make a difference in the show. Not only does the feedback regarding new characters help guide intricate details of the show, but so does the feedback of episode plotlines. This past fall, Pretty Little Liars introduced a new spin-off television series called Ravenswood. Creators knew it was the perfect time to introduce Ravenswood based on the reaction on Twitter following the Pretty Little Liars Halloween episode. The viewers of the Halloween episode enjoyed the creepy and haunting storyline, which inspired and gave the producers certainty that a supernatural spin-off series, like Ravenswood, would be accepted among the same demographic (Jurgenson).
Social media also allows avid fans to stay entertained all year long, even during the breaks between seasons. Just because the show stops airing new episodes, the stars and producers of the show don’t stop tweeting. King, who has over 300,000 followers herself on Twitter, often interacts with fans and answers their questions by replying to their tweets. She has also been known to tweet certain quotes said by characters from future episodes, asking her followers to predict who will say them. (Jurgenson). Another strategy that was used to entertain Pretty Little Liars fans during the off-season was the spin-off web series called Pretty Dirty Secrets. The mini web series took place during the break between the midseason 3 finale and the special Halloween episode, and aimed to bring pleasure to fans who couldn’t wait eight long weeks for another episode to air (Ross). Social media is used by fans to carry on a year-long conversation, which often entails the prediction of new theories or beliefs about the direction the show is headed (Social Media + Pop Culture).
Although it is difficult to determine if the popularity of Pretty Little Liars on social media directly relates to higher ratings and viewers, it definitely doesn’t hurt it. The number of viewers has increased throughout the duration of the series, with 3.6 million viewers during the first season compared to 4 million viewers during the fourth (Jurgenson). Social media also has many other benefits that factor into the success of the show. It allows fans to keep up with the latest whereabouts and news regarding the stars, it has been used as a tool for feedback and a sign of interest in the spin-off series Ravenswood, and it provides a source of entertainment for Pretty Little Liars fans all year long.
Stransky, Tanner. "PRETTY Little PHENOM." Entertainment Weekly 1248 (2013): 26. Film & Television Literature Index. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.
"Social Meter." Hollywood Reporter (2013): 6. Film & Television Literature Index. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.
"Social Media + Pop Culture = ? Disney's Anne Sweeney and TV Producer I. Marlene King on how the Online Conversation is Transforming the Creative Process." Wall Street Journal (Online)Jun 03 2013. ProQuest. Web. 25 Feb. 2014 .
Kenneally, Tim. "'Pretty Little Liars' Finale Hits Record in Viewers & Tweets." Yahoo TV. N.p., 29 Aug. 2013. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.
Jurgensen, John. "ARENA --- Music & Television -- Spinoffs: 'Ravenswood': Twitter Hatches a TV show." Wall Street Journal, Eastern edition ed.Oct 18 2013. ProQuest. Web. 25 Feb. 2014 .
Ross, Robyn. "Today's News: Our Take." TV Guide. N.p., 21 Aug. 2012. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.