Social networking sites have now taken over as the top destination for UK internet users.

As the growth and reach of social networking continues to dominate our internet usage so too has the ways in which companies are using social media to their own advantages.

In New Zealand the television channel TVNZ has launched a new youth channel, “U Live” that sees Facebook heavily integrated to create an interactive entertainment and music show. And last month HBO ran the movie “Private Parts” with Howard Stern commenting live on Twitter throughout the showing.

Brands are also using social networking sites to gain extra reach for advertising campaigns. Oreo for example posts questions on its Facebook wall like, “what is your favourite part of an Oreo – the cookie or the cream?”

Almost 10,000 people responded to that one question and all those comments then spread exponentially to their friends via their news feeds. By engaging consumers in new and more interactive ways, brands are extending the lifecycle of their content by provoking a response or conversation.

Online video plays a significant role in this engagement.

YouTube is the Grandfather of online video. Started in 2005 it enabled the first uploading and sharing of video content across the internet. Now video has moved from bedroom geeks to boardroom level and the power of online video and social networking has exploded across our screens.

Take for example BA’s CEO Willy Walsh. He now uses video to reach a broader customer base and made video addresses throughout the BA strike and Ash Cloud situation, saying he disagreed with the decision to close down British Airspace.

Al Jazeera English this month announced it is planning to launch a new talk show called The Stream with links to social media. Instead of the traditional way of using a teleprompter, the producers will create the broadcast from tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos and Flickr photos.

As new technology, such as tablets and smartphones, enables individual consumers to enjoy content from any location and in real-time, so to their need for interaction with that content has grown.

Changing the outcome of an ad via interaction with video content has become a powerful tool. Following in the footsteps of Burger King’s Subservient Chicken was a Tippex campaign that allowed you to choose the outcome of the relationship between hunter and bear and the Metropolitan Police’s “choose a different ending campaign”.  This kind of video interaction will continue to grow.

The rich viewing experience of video is the ideal platform for brands to showcase products, interviews and customer endorsements in real-life scenarios. The key to making video really work on social media sites is recognising the strong link between content and experience.

A recent study by Digital Clarity found that 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 new trend for ‘social TV’, a synthesis between TV and social networking, is spurring entertainment companies and brands to create an even greater interaction between the two.

Social video has been born.

Social video combines the interactive experience into one channel. Scrolling through peer reviews and friends’ tweets whilst still viewing video content; changing the outcome of the film with your own ideas, or purchasing a featured product from the video with the click of a button. It is the ultimate fusion between content and experience.

Nurtured properly and used by brands in a meaningful and relevant way; social video’s star will continue to soar.