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A mere decade ago, the water cooler was still the ideal place to discuss the movie you saw over the weekend or the TV show you watched last night. But with the rise of social media, the water cooler is, for many viewers, online.

When it comes to talking about the latest happenings on the big screen and the small screen, connected devices are creating an entirely new dynamic, one in which viewers talk about the content they're consuming with large audiences in real-time.

For obvious reasons, that's both promising and scary to Hollywood. Positive social buzz can help boost ratings, or it can harm it. But love it or hate it, Hollywood is going to be seeing more and more of that social buzz.

Case in point: as reported by Mashable, according to social TV analytics firm Bluefin Labs, Mad Men's season premiere generated more than twice the chatter on social media hubs than any other television season premiere so far this year. The only two television events that have surpassed it are the Grammys and Superbowl.

All told, Bluefin Labs tracked 106,000 comments originating from 64,000 users. Slightly more than half (52%) came from males, and most (57%) were neutral in sentiment. The good news for AMC, the cable network that hosts Mad Men, is that just 10% of the comments were classified as negative.

Not surprisingly, the greatest flurry of social activity around Mad Men came as the show started and viewers went online to tell their friends and followers what they were watching. This type of behavior is becoming increasingly common as television viewers use connected devices (such as smartphones and tablets) while they consume content on the small screen.

This, of course, is forcing television executives to think about their second screen strategies. And for good reason: it's becoming apparent that to keep viewers engaged and really take advantage of the opportunities social media provides, content creators and networks need to pay attention to the changing relationship they have with their viewers.

The first step in addressing this is to track the social buzz their content generates and better understand how viewers are interacting with that content through social media. It's the next step, however, which is the hard one: figuring out how to adapt the content to drive buzz, loyalty, and new distribution and revenue opportunities.

Patricio Robles

Published 26 March, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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