NEW YORK (AP) — When a new episode of ABC Family's "Pretty Little Liars" airs, its show-runner, I. Marlene King, makes a point to go on Twitter to see what the fans have to say.
King is among the newest class of TV celebrities on social media: Show-runners who are both gaining in followers and who find that social media gives back perhaps even more than they put in.
"I pay enormous attention to it," King said. "I am on social media live every night when the show airs and the next day as well looking at the feedback we got regarding the episode. Yes, I have vision for the show and a creative destination where I know the show is going, but I would be foolish not to take advantage of this wonderful, giant focus group of millions of people we have each week when the show airs."
A show-runner is typically the executive producer of a TV show, with the most creative control. King said social media has helped validate her decisions about the fate of certain characters on "PLL".
"I started falling in love with the character of Toby early on in the show," she said. "We were going to follow the books and have his character die early on, but as I started to fall in love with him I noticed fans were really falling in love with him, and together as the show and the fans we decided to keep him."
Show-runner Hart Hanson ("Bones," Fox) pays attention to what the fans are saying online but makes the point that not all of his viewers are using social media.
"The entire audience is not represented by the Twitter follower, especially the verbose and noisy Twitter follower," he said. "If I did what the Twitter followers wanted me to do on my show 'Bones,' (characters) Booth and Brennan would've gotten together in the third episode. That would've been a very bad thing for the series. It's complicated but you have to keep your distance."
Show-runner Shonda Rhimes, whose block of prime-time ABC programming on Thursday nights "Grey's Anatomy", "Scandal" and "How to Get Away with Murder" has boosted her fame and has more than 791,000 Twitter followers, puts it into perspective with the disclaimer in the bio of her Twitter account:
"I make stuff up for a living. Remember, it's not real, OK? Don't tweet me your craziness."
Andrew Adashek, head of TV at Twitter, says fans who follow show-runners can get inside information they wouldn't otherwise have access to via dropped spoilers and hints about upcoming plots.
"It's like getting a director's cut of every episode and people love that," Adashek said.
Added Julie Plec, show-runner of The CW's "The Vampire Diaries" and "The Originals": "I think one thing the fans have realized is you can interact with the stars and that's great, but the stars are sworn to secrecy and not allowed to tell you anything. ... If I decide I want to give something away today and tell a secret, I can because it's my rule."
It can also just be plain entertaining to follow these creative people.
"I think it is safe to say they are super expressive and therefore able to manifest the creativity in a form of engaging twitter content and it is something that fans really, really latch on to," said Adashek.
Not everyone wants to be that accessible. "Teen Wolf" show-runner Jeff Davis used to be on Twitter and closed his account in December 2012.
"There is a lot of deep negativity online that personally I like to stay away from," he said. "It's hard to look at those things online and not feel a sting. The problem with people critiquing online or letting loose their own personal demons online is the individuation. You can't see the other person. You can't see how what you're saying online affects them. And you objectify them and lose all compassion."
Plec empathizes when fans get worked up about a particular storyline and feel the need to communicate that on social media.
"If I had grown up with Twitter I would've been just like them. I would've been tweeting at the 'General Hospital' writers being like, 'Oh my God! How could you do that to Lucky?'" she laughed. "So, I get it."
She says she often turns to Twitter herself to follow the people that she's a fan of.
"Probably every ninth tweet is about how much I worship Shonda Rhimes. In fact, she finally followed me about a year ago because I had been tweeting about her so much that the people in her office were like, 'Would you please follow this woman? She's like a desperate fan girl,'" she said. "You can look at it like it's so exciting for fans to have an outreach to these shows and create a direct line to these show-runners but, for me as a show-runner, I geek out so hard when like ('Cougar Town' show-runner) Bill Lawrence tweets at me."
Follow Alicia Rancilio at http://www.twitter.com/aliciar