How many times have you heard, “Digital media is killing TV”?
It’s not true.

Social media may be the best thing that happened to TV. It’s driving ratings, viewer engagement, and all kinds of other positives.

Introducing the newest trend: Social TV. At its simplest, it’s people watching TV together, even though they are not in the same room.

Social TV leverages digital technology to build community and involvement among people who are interested in specific TV content. Social TV includes engaging program watchers via Twitter or Facebook in real time, mobile apps that provide more information and promote sharing during programs, and social networks that match consumers with other fans of their favorite shows.

Social TV is jolting viewers out of couch potato mode and into active engagement with TV. It’s also driving them to watch shows in real time, making it much more likely they will see ads.

Who’s driving the Social TV trend? Two groups: TV networks that see a huge opportunity to leverage other media to build their audience, and multitasking consumers.

Roughly half of all TV viewers surf the Internet at the same time. These people are almost evenly split between those doing unrelated activities on their computer, smartphone, or tablet, and those using the second screen to enhance their TV experience. The most common concurrent activities are checking social networks, texting, and calling friends to discuss what’s happening on a show.

The demographics of Social TV participants are surprising. They are more likely to be men than women, and the largest group is 25-49 year olds. So far, 18-24 year olds—the group that launched social media—are surprisingly uninvolved in this trend. Smartphone and iPad owners are especially active, with over 40% saying they use their second device while watching TV everyday.

The networks have been quick to jump on Social TV. X Factor USA is the poster child. It is the first show to allow voting via Twitter. Plus, the host responds to Twitter comments and tracks Twitter trends during the program. X Factor now gets more than 100,000 Twitter comments per episode.

Marketers have been slow to add Social TV to their mix. That should change in early 2012 as the trend gains traction.

So what’s a marketer to do?

1. Learn everything you can about Social TV. There’s a whole ecosystem of new businesses, partnerships, terms, and opportunities sprouting up around Social TV.

2. Rethink TV’s role in your marketing mix. A year ago, marketers assumed TV spending would trend downward, replaced by social media. Now we need to think about the two together, reinforcing one another.

3. Explore ways to make your TV commercials truly social. A two second super saying, “Like us on Facebook” is no longer going to cut it. Marketers need to figure out how to drive social media engagement with their TV ads and vice versa.

4. Determine how to market via social TV networks. GetGlue is an example of a social TV network that you should be monitoring.