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"Mad Men" Debut Ignites the Era of the Social Premiere

"Mad Men" may be launching its third season tonight on the big box, but it will also play out online. Though maybe not the first social premiere, it's indicative of a trend toward big TV events being shared with friends, virtually, in real-time. In this case-- as CNN was with the much more serious events of the election and inauguration of President Obama, AMC is very much in the game. The picture here is a close-up of part of an ad, created by "Mad Men"'s online agency Deep Focus, that ran today at nytimes.com inviting people to "Become a fan" on Facebook, or come to the virtual premiere that is on Facebook tonight. At this writing, more than 41,000 people have signed up.

Of course, the social nature of this event would be going on even without AMC's input. Naturally, it's been a trending topic on Twitter all day, even though the show's own Twitter account has less than 3,000 followers. Recently, the Twitter accounts which impersonate various "Mad Men" characters, some of which have far more followers than the show's official Twitter account, have started to actively tweet again. Additionally, searching Facebook alone for ad-hoc "Mad Men" groups returns 500 results (though, granted, some probably aren't devoted to the show).

But, obviously, the smart money for TV shows these days is to fan -- no pun intended -- the flames of viewer excitement by participating in the building out of the show's presence on social platforms themselves -- aggregating fans who are active on them. That base has the potential to be more important, on an ongoing basis, to the show's ratings than even the show's high-profile ad campaign. Starting tonight, we'll get to see just how powerful these fans are in making the third season of "Mad Men" a success.