The way we communicate with one another has changed. Watching TV on multiple devices has opened up a wealth of opportunities for service providers to deliver new platforms and encourage a transition towards a new social television experience.

The conversations that once took place in the office kitchen are now taking place in real-time thanks to the popularity of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Social TV brings people together to watch television as a community, providing an open forum for deeper engagement with other loyal viewers.

So who’s driving this new consumer trend? A recent study from UK marketing agency Digital Clarity found 80% of under-25s used a second screen to communicate with friends while watching TV and 72% used Twitter, Facebook or a mobile app to comment on shows. This is the first generation to have grown up with the internet and they are playing an integral part in the development of the first social TV models.

Broadcasters are attempting to leverage this market, which has led to increased competition and a wide variety of strategies aimed at harnessing the social television space. Speaking at the recent IP&TV World Forum, Michael Lantz, CEO of Accedo, said there are two separate feature sets for two separate customer groups.

The first is a broadcast-centric model to connect people to the content and to add more value across multiple devices. The second is the operator or service provider model which aims to connect people to a TV service irrespective of the content.

On the one hand, you have OTT providers and network operators such as Netflix, who regard TV as an on-demand service and focus social strategy around building forums to support its non-linear content.

Netflix allows users to let their family, friends and associates know what they’re watching and make recommendations. Word-of-mouth marketing has become an invaluable tool for most brands, so social recommendations and conversations are extremely useful for operators. As more content is created, the valued seal of approval from a friend will be an important selection mechanism in the viewing selection process.

However, Netflix offers a scarce amount of premium content and the opportunities for co-viewing are somewhat narrow. Realistically, the social buzz behind live or major ‘event’ programming will usually last only within a limited time-frame.

Viewers who watch time-shifted content within the first 24 hours of the original broadcast are more likely to capture the essence of the original viewing experience. It’s very difficult to resurrect the same social television experience a few days or a week after the initial transmission.

In my view, social TV is at its most effective when it captures a particular moment and enhances a ‘live’ shared experience. For instance, it can work brilliantly for ‘event TV’, programs such as ‘American Idol’, the latest episode of ‘Homeland’ or ‘Mad Men’ or live sport.

The operators with the most content have a distinct advantage over the rest of the market because they are commanding larger audiences and have greater amounts of user data to offer advertisers.

Nevertheless, the monetization of social apps remains a sticking point. A Nielsen mobile study revealed more than 85% of mobile and PC users access the web while watching TV. However, only 24% were looking at content in relation to the program they were watching on their main screen.

Some Pay TV operators have recognized opportunities to plug this gap. For instance, Sky has integrated the social app Zeebox into its offering (the broadcaster has also invested a 10% stake into the start-up), which provides a second screen experience that is dedicated to enhancing the experience of live television.

Miso is another popular social app which allows TV viewers to host their own second-screen platform to share songs, quotes and other useful information associated with a particular program. These are the sorts of openings operators should be looking to invest money into while they figure out how they want to take advantage of the social TV space in the longer term.

Thanks to the rise in smartphone and tablet consumption, there are now many opportunities for operators to produce even more personalized services. The most successful solutions will maintain a high level of engagement by forming direct links between the applications and the aired content. Without this correlation, social TV is meaningless and disjointed.