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How ‘Pretty Little Liars’ used social TV for their Halloween special

Pretty Little Liars continues to set precedents for how a show can live beyond it’s traditional season cycle. They launched a web series at the  end of their summer season and recently unleashed a Halloween special on ABC Family to keep fans glued to the teen drama. We interviewed Beth Johnson, VP of Digital Media for ABC Family and Dalia Ganz, Senior Manager of Digital and Partnership Marketing for ABC Family about their social TV strategy.

Keeping momentum for this show on social is also helping them keep momentum with sponsors for the show. They created an app with Universal’s new movie, “Pitch Perfect” on their Facebook page in early September. The web show has also helped them extend the brand. The Halloween special ended up trending before, during and after the show happened. Here are the details from Johnson and Ganz.

Lost Remote: How was social TV used to promote the Halloween special?
Johnson: We actually started the night of the Summer finale with the launch of a web series called “Dirty Pretty Secrets” on ABCFamily.com. The web shorts picked up where the finale left off, introduced a new character and teased out plot points for the Halloween show. We distributed them weekly via ABC Family’s social media channels, giving fans something new from the show to look forward to each week.

Dalia Ganz: Then as we got closer to the Halloween episode, we used all our social platforms – Facebook, Twitter, GetGlue, Tumblr and Pinterest — to generate excitement by sharing new pieces of content and information about the special every few days. In early September we created an App on the Pretty Little Liars Facebook page, which was sponsored by Universal’s new movie “Pitch Perfect,” where fans could see an exclusive first look at the Halloween special.

And then on a weekly basis we shared press stories and interviews with the cast and links to the “Pretty Dirty Secrets” web series. A few weeks before the Halloween special we created a graphic that announced that someone would die in the Halloween special and shared it across all our social media channels to drive buzz. On GetGlue we released new sneak peek photos every time we hit 25,000 check-ins. Our fans were really excited to receive each of these nuggets and each thing we shared helped drive new buzz. The day before the special we held a Ustream chat with two of the stars of the show Keegan Allen and Tyler Blackburn that trended on Twitter for nearly an hour.

The show began trending on Twitter the night before the Halloween special and trended on and off for 24 hours. Then during the special we created a second screen App, called the “Pretty Little Liars” Halloween Party sponsored by Samsung Galaxy S III where fans could chat with one of the stars of the show, Keegan Allen, see a social stream and enter a contest to win a new Samsung Galaxy S III phone. Keegan got thousands of questions from fans who were excited to chat with him. During the episode, topical hashtags that appeared within the broadcast also trended helping the overall buzz reach record setting levels.

As soon as the episode ended, a sneak peek at the winter premiere popped up within the App. Additionally, another one of the stars of the show Janel Parrish answered questions on Twitter as soon as the episode ended continuing the buzz.

LR: How did this differ from other social TV strategies?
Ganz: We are always trying out new technology and platforms. “Pretty Dirty Secrets” was the first time we ever used a web series to make a continuous bridge between a finale and a premiere and was massively successful. Our “Pretty Little Liars” Halloween App was the first time we had allowed fans to chat on Facebook and not just Twitter with talent during an episode and it received a great response from fans with thousands of questions asked. With “Pretty Little Liars” the trick is to keep giving fans more of what they want — sneak peek info and access to our widely popular talent. Social media allows us to keep thinking of new ways to give the fans what they want in innovative ways.

LR: How’s the web show going?
Johnson: Traffic to the “Pretty Dirty Secrets” webseries has remained incredibly strong. Each of the eight episodes premiered to strong numbers (between 200-600K) weekly video views, and held strong numbers over subsequent weeks, creating well over 3MM video views for the eight week series total.

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