How ABC Family is using social media to launch the new season of 'Pretty Little Liars'

By Natan Edelsburg 

Once of the most talked about TV shows across the social web is ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars (PLL). In February we provided an inside look at how the show has captivated fans and made it to the number one television show in Twitter’s Year in Review. On Tuesday, season three will launch, a show that will no doubt dominate the social TV charts throughout the summer.

For the new season, the network is ramping up its social TV strategy with a few key activations that include integrating a major reveal from last season. They released the “Pretty Little Puzzle Hunt“, a rebus puzzle game that unfolds across multiple web sites and a new music video to amplify the buzz leading up to the new season. We spoke with ABC Family’s Senior Vice President and Creative Director Michelle Walenz and Vice President of Marketing Danielle Mullin.

(A scene from this summer’s season premiere of PLL)

Lost Remote: Tell me about the music video that is being launched to coincide with the new season? Are there any social elements?

Michelle Walenz: The “Pretty Little Liars” music video (below) we’ve produced to help launch the summer season features a new song from emerging artist ZZ Ward. The song is called, “When the Casket Drops.” While that title may sound a bit ominous, the song is actually very romantic and filled with passion and a strong sense of loyalty to those you love, so it’s perfect for the story of our “Pretty Little Liars.” We know that our viewers devour any new clues about the incredible mystery and heightened suspense our show producers have created, so we really wanted to highlight new clues for them that we think will generate posts, tweets and blogs. At the same time, we want to remind viewers of some critical story points that have happened throughout the previous episodes that may play a role in upcoming episodes. It’s about finding a balance of both.

With one of the most social audiences in television, our viewers are eager to know the answers to questions like – whose empty grave is Emily standing above? Why does Mona become so enraged, she upends an entire table? What does that necklace say and who is it from? Our #Agame hash tag is included in the music video to help generate tweets. ZZ Ward’s music is generating a lot of buzz as well, so we’re really excited about the social conversation that’s happening and the anticipation that this new music video is generating.

LR: What’s ABC Family’s social TV strategy for the new season?

Danielle Mullin: Our strategy for the new season has been to keep the momentum going from the spring finale to the summer premiere, not letting a day go by without giving fans more content to be excited about. We revealed that Mona was “A” in the season finale, but we’ve been actively messaging via, Twitter and Facebook that the reveal of A was just the tip of the iceberg, and we don’t think “A” is gone forever. In fact, the tagline for the new season is “Time to Bring Your A Game” and the #AGame graphic is being featured in our on-air launch campaign. We’re having a lot of fun with “A” in the social space!

We’ve even created the Pretty Little Puzzle Hunt which is an online “game” that “A” has created for fans – ultimately providing them with a riddle they must answer in order to unlock an exclusive sneak peek at the summer premiere. In addition to being really rich content experience, it’s a great way to extend the social experience beyond our own platforms and on to other sites that reach our core audience, hopefully bringing new fans into the mix.

LR: How do you plan on outdoing the success of last season?

Mullin: The drama is just getting started on the show with more plot twists than ever, so naturally fans will be speculating about what happens next. Buzz-worthy shows come from expert storytelling with jaw-dropping cliffhangers and unanswered questions that leave fans dying to find out what happens next. Our team develops creative assets – videos, games, blogs – that incorporate mini-cliffhangers and tantalizing teases, which we then use in the social media space to amplify the conversation and take it to the next level.

LR: How does the Pretty Little Puzzle Hunt Game work? What partners did you work with to develop it? Will there be any linear TV integrations?

Mullin: The Pretty Little Puzzle Hunt is an online game that “A” has created for fans. She has been “the voice” of several of our online engagement activities and they have been tremendously successful so it makes sense for us to continue to evolve that strategy.

This time around, “A” is offering fans a sneak peek at the summer premiere, but only if they play her game! Every few days “A” will put a rebus puzzle piece on one of 15 websites participating in the game. “A” will be giving fans hints on so they know where to find the puzzle pieces. Once all the pieces are assembled in the right order, they will form a riddle, and on June 1st, the answer to that riddle will unlock the sneak peek on

LR: How involved are cast members in social outreach?

Mullin: The cast and crew, including Executive Producer Marlene King, are all extremely passionate about social media. They tweet everyday from the set, sharing behind-the-scenes photos that generate an enormous amount of viral conversation in the social space. Once talent shares their photos, we’ll share them with our entire Facebook community to amplify the buzz. Our cast and crew also interact with fans on Twitter, creating a tremendous amount of excitement among our fans. They’re also a marketing dream-come-true – always reminding fans to tune-in and actively supporting all of our marketing initiatives related to the show. The cast and crew even came up with their own social media campaign that we are going to implement on the day of the premiere. We’ll be encouraging fans to change their Twitter icons to something red to tie-in to a storyline related to a red trench coast.