It’s a typical modern-day scenario. You get home from work to watch the big match or your favourite TV series, start cooking dinner, sit back on the couch, grab your smartphone, scan Twitter for some real-time commentary and maybe even post a status update on Facebook to gauge the feedback of your friends. Some may even choose do a bit of online shopping via the plethora of mobile apps currently available while they wait for their dinner to cook, or that first goal, or cliff-hanger to unfold. Others switch over to the news to find the presenters highlighting key viewer tweets to add user generated content to a major story.

People used to write letters or call the broadcaster to offer feedback after the show but today, all of this is happening in real-time.

Some call this real-time interaction ‘social TV’ but quite often, they confuse second screen and social TV as the same thing – which they aren’t. To clarify, second screen generally refers to an application that complement’s your TV viewing whilst ‘social TV’ is the practice of commenting on a show via social media. Yes, second screen apps can be inherently social by design, but they aren’t always. Furthermore, whilst many apps attempt to immerse the user in some kind of new experience, ESPN’s range of apps for example, others simply provide key stats or the information to inform and update their knowledge.

In 2012 the most ‘social’ TV programme in the UK was The Only Way Is Essex, generating 178, 689 comments followed by Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial with 130,342 comments and Derren Brown’s Apolocalypse with 87,328 comments. Proof that cult or niche TV shows that raise topical issues, with a dash of controversy and anti-social behaviour, never fail to generate long-lasting fan engagement – both on and offline.

But The Voice proved to be the number one social TV format worldwide, generating a high number of Twitter hashtags creating a domino effect of social buzz in the process. What’s the reason for this? The fact that people love to watch and comment on live music performances, the audience are mostly young and therefore social media-savvy (and active), the competing contestants are supported and trashed by fans and foes in equal measure, live episodes generate an instant response, there are frequent ‘on air’ calls for interaction and participation and event-related TV generally encourages viewers to talk more, adding an extra layer of entertainment to their overall experience.

Interestingly, fiction is currently the genre which gathers the highest number of likes on official Facebook pages but when it comes to activity levels on the platform, new entertainment shows count more for ‘people talking about this’ than scripted shows.

Digging a little deeper, these conversations and transactions often continue long after air-time, with TV-linked chatter accounting for a significant percentage of overall social media activity.

And there’s no sign of it declining.

As the social web expands content from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine, it’s becoming more and more essential for broadcasters to tell their stories. There are still many challenges to overcome including curation, visualization and more. With constant feedback and the urge to include that feedback, the need for cutting-edge technology has never been in more demand.

New platforms such as Vizrt and are now allowing broadcasters to get more creative and think outside the box, achieving visually stunning presentations. This might include anything from visualizing volume and trends in the form of 3D word clouds and all sorts of 3D real-time charts and meters through to combining social media with 3D animated maps that include geo-location. Additionally, the use of virtual studios and augmented reality allows anchors to be “immersed in the graphics” with interactive or touchscreen applications offering presenters the ability to interact with all of this content in real-time.

Presentations not only include messages coming in from across all networks but also live votes from viewers. Furthermore, all of the available tools have now enabled broadcasters to take this real-time 3D data and automatically post it on social media to inform viewers of upcoming programming, breaking news or even alert them of weather-related events such as tornados or hurricanes.

Looking to the future, it is predicted that multiscreen distribution will continue to increase and will in-turn trigger the opportunity for more social TV advertising in the process.