On January 6, “Pretty Little Liars” returned to ABC Family for the winter premiere of Season 5. That same day, the show launched its official Snapchat account with an exclusive three-minute preview and promptly gained 400,000 followers in the first 24 hours. Over the next two weeks, the account (username PLL), gained an additional 100,000 followers.
And that’s not all. The show’s snaps — 10-second snapshots or video clips that disappear after 24 hours on the buzzy mobile app — racked up 36 million views during that same time frame.
Discovering A’s identity, the driving force behind the teen drama, suddenly became secondary to another question: How did “Pretty Little Liars” crush it so quickly on the messaging platform?
— Pretty Little Liars (@ABCFpll) January 6, 2015
Granted, “Pretty Little Liars” isn’t the first show to take advantage of Snapchat as a way to interact with its young fan base and remind them to tune in to new episodes — HBO’s “Girls” and NBC’s “The Voice” have both made headlines for their use of the social app to tease spoilers and major casting announcements.
But convincing half a million fans that they need to follow “Pretty Little Liars” on yet another platform (the show’s a social juggernaut already with a significant presence on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram) takes more than luck and landing the right username.
“We knew that the first three minutes of the highly anticipated winter premiere was a huge carrot for the audience,” ABC Family VP of marketing Danielle Mullin told TheWrap. Mullin, who oversees social-media outreach for ABC Family, shared some of the show’s strategies behind building their Snapchat audience faster than you can say, “Who killed Mona?”
1. Find Your Millennials
“Pretty Little Liars” and Snapchat’s audiences essentially overlap. “We’ve obviously been tracking Snapchat closely and we’ve seen that the platform has grown rapidly, particularly with the 12- to 34-year-old audience, which is one of our key demos,” said Mullin.
Facebook might be the big jock at the social media party with 1.35 billion active monthly users but Snapchat is the 100 yard dash sprinter, recently crowned the fastest growing mobile app with a reported 100 million active monthly users. Of those users, 71% are said to be under 25 years old.
Previously, “Pretty Little Liars” had a sponsored presence on Snapchat, using Audi’s account to share bonus content from the show. But given the app’s rising popularity among fans of Aria, Spencer, Hanna, and Emily, the show’s four main characters, the time was right to officially add PLL to Snapchat’s friend list. Or as Mullin puts it, “We want to make sure we’re super serving superfans content across all of the social platforms where they spend so much of their time.”
2. Go Native
‘Pretty Little Liars’ is using this new platform in the same way that fans use it, posting short snaps, cute drawings and quick videos that tell recaps in a pithy way that could only be understood by those who get the language of Snapchat.
Social media’s never been one-size-fits-all and ABC Family tailors the content they’re sharing to make it authentic to the mobile app. Even the three-minute preview, exclusively available on Snapchat leading up the show’s premiere, was temporary. Footage was teased all day and then available only between 7:00 and 7:15 pm ET before it disappeared forever.
The PLL snapchat is gold. pure gold. pic.twitter.com/dWrWjGjG2O
— Harry Styles (@harryshoar) January 14, 2015
“We wanted to have fun with the aspect of Snapchat which is that content can disappear quickly, so you had to keep checking back all day long to get second by second by second as we built up to those three minutes. And then we only had the full three minutes there for from 7:00 to 7:15pm to drive that desire to see it before it disappeared,” said Mullin.
3. Famous Friends Are Helpful
“Pretty Little Liars” tapped some famous Snapchat artists to help tell their stories, including mplatco, who serves as unofficial “host” of PLL’s weekly Snapchat stories. Real name Mike Platco, the one-time art teacher now earns a living — and digital acclaim — as a full-time Snapchat artist for clients like ABC Family, Marriott, GrubHub and Universal.
“We knew as a newcomer to the platform it would help us to align ourselves with artists who had already experienced popularity in the space. mplatco cross-promoted it from his own platforms as well as taking over our handle and that created a really great partnership that I think contributed to what we saw as explosive growth on that first day,” explained Mullin. Over the last three weeks, the show’s also featured influencers including fellow Snapchat artist Miologie and YouTube star Lohanthony.
“Lohanthony already watched ‘PLL.’ He knew all the plot twists, he had talked about it before so that makes our decision really easy when we can find someone who’s already popular on the platform, someone who already has affinity to ‘PLL,’ someone who’s doing really cool artwork we know our fans are going to respond to,” said Mullin.
“Our goal is to continue to work with Snapchat artists all season long. We’re really looking to find people who are using the platform in an innovative way that lends itself to what we know PLL fans will respond to.”
4. Tell Good Stories
While the show’s biggest Snapchat push occurred around the season premiere, they’ve also instituted weekly Snapcaps; that’s “Pretty Little Liars” speak for a Snapchat recap. Hosted by mplatco, the digital recaps help fans catch up on anything they might have missed in short, colorful bursts.
During the show, fans can log on to Snapchat for reaction snaps from mplatco, his Golden Retriever Scout and a rotating series of fellow Snapchat artists.
This Tuesday’s episode will feature simultaneous snaps from Mashable’s SnapMaster Dasha Battelle. Battelle, who goes by the Snapchat username dabttll, developed her Snapchat skills while working in a New York law office and now works as a visual storyteller at the news site.
And while Mullin won’t give away any “PLL” finale spoilers, expect Snapchat to figure prominently. “We’re in the middle of developing our strategy for driving hype and conversation around the winter finale. It’s going to be a really fantastic episode. I can’t confirm what we’re going to be doing yet other than to say our social media platforms will play a key role.”
“We would love to have any of the girls take over the Snapchat account, really any of the talent at all. It’s nothing that we have confirmed yet, but definitely something that we’re looking at,” said Mullin. “We do live Twitter chats with our talent for “Pretty Little Liars” every single week and we don’t see any reason why we can’t extend that live engagement to other platforms like Snapchat.”
They’re also exploring creative new ways to use Snapchat. “I wish the town of Rosewood was a real town and actually existed, but it’s fictional,” said Mullin when asked if they’d take advantage of Snapchat’s DIY geo-filters to create one for the fictional (and troubled) community of Rosewood, PA. “We’re having conversations with Snapchat now about ways we can continue to grow our partnership with them and I think that geo filters are a really interesting tactic to take advantage of.”
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“Pretty Little Liars” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC Family.