Do TV shows need to be on Twitter?

The array of digital platforms that every media property is supposed to be on is now mind boggling: Facebook, MySpace, iPhone, blogs, Hulu, YouTube, networks websites, videogame consoles… and now Twitter?

A panel at South by Southwest discussed what Twittering has done for the unlikeliest of shows: “Mad Men.” For those who haven’t indulged in the addictive but debatably useful phenomenom, Twitter users basically broadcast anything they want to say, up to 140 characters, to anyone who chooses to “follow” them, which you can do on the Web or mobile device. As you’d naturally expect, communities tend to form of like minded people who follow each other (most of the people I read and who read me are video game / technology reporters or interested fans).

Can big media take advantage of that audience? As I previously wrote, Jimmy Fallon is doing it, which makes a lot of sense given the tone of his late night show. But “Mad Men” is a niche (but well respected) cable show with auds who are typically somewhat older than the average Twitter user. And most obviously, it’s set in the ’60s — so it doesn’t exactly make sense that the characters would be twittering.

Nonetheless, in what can only be called extreme 21st century fan fiction, three devoted fans of the show created Twitter accounts for the characters Peggy Olson, Betty Draper, and Roger Sterling (Don Draper didn’t make the panel, which is just as well because I think that guy would be too private to Twitter). They boast 12,274, 13,990, and 2,445 followers, respectively (poor Roger!) and feature updates like “Don just called long distance from Austin, Texas. Businessmen certainly see a lot of the world these days, don’t they?” and “Feel like the presentation is going well. @_DonDraper seems to be happy. It’s always hard to tell with him.” (AMC initially shut down all three accounts, then thought better of it and let them be reinstated)

But is it anything more than fan fiction? Some of these Tweeters (as they’re called) seem to think so. According to a CNET report, they said producers should be reserving Twitter accounts for all their characters to control what’s said; monitoring the discussion about their shows on the service; and actively talking to fans on the service, both as themselves and in character.

Possibly good advice. But you have to wonder, with all these digital platforms they need to work with and all teh ways to connect with fans, how much time will producers have left to actually make the shows? And executives to market them? Digital geeks always complain whenever old media doesn’t immediately jump on the hot new platform. But the evidence that being super popular and engaged online can make an impact on revenue is marginal at best (just ask the folks behind “Jericho”). Maybe there’s something to be said for just sitting back and focusing on your core content? Especially when, as these “Mad Men” devotees demonstrated, your loyal fans can often do the work for you.

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