(CNN)Just like Netflix and other streaming services, social media has become a big part of how we watch TV today. But how important is it to those making TV?
After all, we live in a world where ABC’s Thursday night lineup, with “Scandal” at its center, is treated just as much as a social media event as it is a TV event.
Gale Anne Hurd, executive producer of AMC’s smash hit “The Walking Dead,” says social media creates a community.
“It has brought together people from all cultures and all countries, sharing their love for either the show, particular characters, themes, you name it,” she says.
“People have formed a new family. We call it the #TWDFamily. … Now people don’t have to wait for the water cooler in the office the next day.”
“The Walking Dead” is the No. 1 show on Twitter for the third year in a row, according to Nielsen. On average, 4 million people see at least one of the 424,000 tweets about each episode.
Hurd says the show utilizes cliffhangers, like Glenn’s supposed death, to generate social media buzz.
“Game of Thrones” is the most popular TV series on Facebook and the third most popular on Twitter. Its season 5 finale had 436,000 event-related tweets that were seen by an audience of 5.1 million people.
Sabrina Caluori, HBO’s head of social media marketing, says tweets don’t change the direction of the show.
“While I think it is inspiring to see the fan reaction, it is not changing the vision, the creative storytelling, of the show,” Caluori says.
She says the role of social media is to curate the frenzy.
“We released a teaser poster, which had Jon Snow on it. From our perspective, the digital perspective, it was about how we released that poster, how we dropped it to the fans and when we did. And we will have little moments around key assets breaks,” explained Caluori.
One recent Jon Snow poster has been retweeted more than 77,000 times.
On the other hand, “Pretty Little Liars” executive producer I. Marlene King says social media has changed the ways she watches and fans watch TV.
“Pretty Little Liars,” originally based on a series of young adult novels, averages 285,000 tweets per episode.
King believes the instantaneous feedback from fans is the biggest gift. She says, “It feels like you are watching it together.” Fan input has led her to try new story lines and even to correct errors in previous episodes.
King thinks the complexity of the show’s plot sets the show apart.
“We don’t answer all the questions. Our fans like figuring stuff out. We had to find that balance with the studio and the network to say, they don’t want it handed to them on a silver plate. This audience is smart. They want to figure it out. They want to connect the dots.”
However, “Vampire Diaries” actor Paul Wesley, who has 3.9 million Twitter followers, thinks social media can have a negative impact.
“People watch a show because they ultimately want to see something happen, but then they don’t get it and they just keep watching it ’til it happens,” says Wesley.
“I think social media can be misleading because if people are rebelling against something it is not necessarily a sign that we need to change anything.”
10 most popular TV series on Twitter (2015)
1. “The Walking Dead,” AMC
2. “The Bachelor,” ABC
3. “Game of Thrones,” HBO
4. “The Bachelorette,” ABC
5. “Empire,” Fox
6. “American Horror Story: Hotel,” FX
7. “Pretty Little Liars,” Freeform
8. “Scandal,” ABC
9. “Parks and Recreation,” NBC
10. “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC