Television programs face a special set of challenges when formulating their social media plans. Viewership is changing; there are many new ways to keep up with favorite shows beyond just settling in on the couch with remote in hand. People are enjoying TV on their laptops and mobile devices, or sometimes browsing on one of those gadgets while streaming the show in the background — the so-called “second screen” phenomenon.

Smart networks have realized that social media is a great way to create conversation about the cultural touchstones of television. In the past those were water-cooler moments, but now people are more likely to talk about the big cliffhanger or the best one-liner on Twitter than in the office. Here are three shows that have made the transition to social media with smart strategies to engage and excite their audiences.

1. Bones

Bones is one of the most popular shows on Fox, and the network has taken several smart actions in developing the social strategy for the crime drama, including active conversations and quick adoption of new trends.

First off, the show’s Twitter feed has done a great job of encouraging dialogue among fans. For example, a recent episode involved roller derby, and the official Twitter feed asked fans what they would pick for their derby aliases. Not only did the show pose a fun and engaging question, but its social media team actively tries to respond to fan comments. After tweeting and asking what the favorite moment was from a current episode, every fan who weighed in received a reply from the official account.

On top of a vocal Twitter presence, Bones has embraced the second screen approach to TV. The show has a free companion app, which allows viewers to get supplemental material about episodes, from translations of the forensics jargon to assisting with solving each case. Creating mobile options for your audience is a smart way to keep them integrated with your brand, whether you’re providing a television show or any other service.

2. The Big Bang Theory

One of the best ways to succeed on Facebook is to offer your fans a consistent supply of funny visual content. It goes viral quickly and keeps your audience excited about your brand. The CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory has nailed that formula.

Almost all of the show’s status posts are accompanied by photos. Whether it’s advertising a sneak peek at an upcoming episode or encouraging fans to join the conversation on Connect, the striking visuals are a great way to draw in your audience. Many of the photos follow a pattern; a photo is initially used as a teaser to advertise an episode, then it appears again on the day that episode airs along with a line of dialogue. This gives continuity to the material appearing on the show’s profile.

The Big Bang Theory is also a participant in GetGlue. This platform allows members to check in when they watch shows live, offering them stickers in exchange for loyal viewership. The sitcom is a regular presence on the network’s list of the week’s top shows. Any social program that involves rewards and limited edition tokens is a great way to build community among your audience. These programs can take the form of a specialized network such as GetGlue, or can be launched within any existing social media platform.

3. The Walking Dead

One of the hurdles for TV shows to overcome in this hyperconnected age is the lull between seasons. The Walking Dead took a smart approach to keeping fans connected by launching a social game on Facebook after the final episode of its second season.

The show introduced several apps for keeping fans involved at any point in the run of The Walking Dead. Whatever type of amusement a viewer prefers, he or she can find an option for participating. There is a fan game and a fan contest. The social game allows people to band together to fight off a zombie apocalypse, while those who sympathize with the undead can turn photos of themselves into zombies — a brilliant strategy we profiled in a recent feature on excellent examples of content marketing.

Games and apps are a smart choice for engagement. And remember, keeping your presences connected is a good way to make sure your fans can find you on any networks.

Does your favorite show have a great social media strategy? Let us know in the comments!

[Image credit: Espensorvik]