From smartphones to virtual bank tellers, we want tools and entertainment we can interact with. It’s not surprising that one of the latest trends in interactive design is how you engage with your TV. A large part of this new TV-based interactivity works with social media. Here is a look at five major ways your TV is becoming more social.

Connected TV Apps

1.) Bravo now allows viewers to stream TV shows across multiple platforms and devices, according to Next Web. This includes everything from Samsung Smart TV, to Blu-ray players, to Yahoo! Widgets and Google TV. The app also has social sharing and customized playlist options embedded. Networks such as Bravo aren’t the only companies offering social TV apps. Network providers are offering subscribers free tablet apps to view programming and schedule recordings, as well.

The Prevalence of the Second Screen

2.) As more people adopt smartphone and tablet use TV users are increasingly using “second screens” while they’re watching, according to Mashable. Second screens give viewers additional contextual information related to the shows they’re watching, and networks create programming with a second screen enhancement in mind.

The Virtual Living Room

3.) Startups aim to combine TV and digital experiences on one screen. One social TV startup, SimulTV, lets users share TV experiences with friends and family from all over the world, allowing viewers to stream shows with contacts simultaneously no matter where they are, also according to Mashable. As the program plays at the same time for everyone, users can see each other via webcams, as well as chat about the show, all without having to toggle among more than one screen.

TV Voting via Social Media

4.) Producers of reality competitions have learned the power of social voting. Compared to the one-way street of having viewers call and press a button to vote, allowing viewers to tweet votes or share them on Facebook pages provides programs with free powerful-marketing messages, as well. Shows such as “The X Factor,” “The Voice” and “American Idol” have let fans cast votes via social media, which boosts engagement and encourage discussion long after the show has aired. Similarly, for the past two years, MTV has allowed viewers to vote via Twitter for categories in their “MTV Video Music Awards” and “MTV Movie Awards,” giving multitaskers a way directly to impact outcomes, according to Lost Remote.

Exclusive Digital Content Related to Programming

5.) Some networks encourage viewers actually to leave the television and head online for more programming. For example, MTV hosts exclusively online after-shows for programming such as “The Real World,” with cast interviews related to episodes. Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live” occurs both on the TV screen and online — after the first portion has aired on TV, the talk show continues in the digital space.

Have you used a second screen with your television? What is your preferred method of digital interaction? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo by Flickr user Alberto Otero García