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Pretty Little Liars is a huge hit among Generation Z. With 14.5 Facebook fans, 2.63 Twitter followers and 2 million Instagram followers, the ABC Family drama is getting teens to watch TV and ranks as the top cable TV show in its hour.

A decade ago the popularity of Pretty Little Liars would have been unimaginable. It’s very different from the most popular teen dramas of the aughts. It’s not as glamorous as Gossip Girl, and its dark storylines contrast sharply with the soapyThe O.C.

Pretty Little Liars demonstrates how the teen-viewing landscape has evolved in the last decade. And as I discuss in my latest MediaPost article, these changes reflect shifts in business landscape in general.

Here are three business and marketing lessons your company can learn from the evolution of teen viewing habits.

  1. Embrace diversity.

Teens no longer want to live vicariously through wealthy, glamorous characters on TV. The shows that resonate with teens today have more realistic and nuanced representation. Blackish, which features an African-American family in a wealthy, predominantly Caucasian community, and Modern Family, an award-winning comedy that explores how it’s like to grow up in nontraditional families, both get high ratings among the 12 to 34 demo. The Fox show Empire is also a hit among young viewers and has significant LGBT characters and storylines.

These diverse shows reflect the world in which teens grow up in. With the emergence of the “majority minority” demographic, teens today are surrounded by an increasingly diverse family and social circle.

In your marketing content, make sure you reflect the diverse reality that your audience lives in. The success of many diverse programs shows that the need to understand your increasingly diverse audience has never been more critical.

Tweet this!The need to understand your increasingly diverse audience has never been more critical. - @AaronPaq (CLICK TO TWEET)

  1. Uncover the unfulfilled needs of your audience.

The most popular shows among young viewers feature zombies (The Walking Dead), mythical kingdoms (Game of Thrones) and supernatural forces (American Horror Story). But despite the popularity of dystopian themes in popular TV shows, many companies still resort to music or to juvenile humour when marketing to teens.

Companies need to change their approach. The first step is to forge relationships with their teen customers to figure out what’s driving the popularity of fantasy drama and dystopian themes. A two-way conversation with teens—not just about their TV-viewing habits, but about all aspects of their lives—can expose unfulfilled needs that can be addressed through new product offerings or through marketing activities.

  1. Prioritize two-way conversations.

Live tweeting, where networks encourage fans and their cast to tweet during live broadcast, has been a boon for social media-savvy programs like Pretty Little Liars and Empire. Live tweeting creates urgency for teen viewers to participate and boosts live broadcast ratings. Interactions between fans on social media build a community around shows, making viewers more invested in what they’re watching.

The rise of live tweeting demonstrates the growing appetite people have for online conversations. Today’s audience is no longer passive. Companies need to be ready to talk directly with customers and enable conversations among their audience. Tapping into the power of communities—where customers can engage with the company and with each other—is an affective way of doing that.

Tweet this!Companies need to engage directly with customers and enable conversations among their audience. - @AaronPaq (CLICK TO TWEET)

To learn more about the various shifts happening in the media industry, download Building Audience: Courting and Keeping Customers in a Media and Entertainment Industry Awash in Data, a white paper written by media research legend Bill Harvey and Vision Critical’s Bruce Friend.

The Everything Guide to Gen Z

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