That social media is having an impact on television is hardly breaking news at this point. For a few years, Twitter and other social networks have served as a sort of digital, real-time water cooler where viewers convene and discuss TV shows as they’re broadcast.

This behavior has emerged more or less organically. Just as with major sporting events and breaking news stories, people naturally gravitate toward services like Twitter and Facebook to post their thoughts about television shows.

Like so many other things that the Twitter community has established on its own (hashtags and retweets, for example), the company is now fully embracing the role it plays in supplementing the TV-watching experience of millions of people.

Most recently, Twitter entered into a formal agreement with the creators of the show X Factor USA to implement a social voting feature, which allows users to cast votes on the show’s outcome via Direct Message. Whereas a decade ago “American Idol” viewers phoned in their votes, today viewers turn to Twitter.

For Twitter, the strategy is not necessarily one that’s going to translate directly into revenue right away. Rather, it’s a way to boost engagement and draw more people to the service, which in time will be monetized in other ways.

It’s not the first time the company has actively encouraged social engagement with TV content. Twitter has forged partnerships with networks and cable channels and even employs somebody whose job it is to cultivate those relationships. Their “Twitter on TV” guide itemizes best practices and tips for television producers who want to make the most of the microblogging service.

Social TV: A Growing Trend

The cross-section of social media and television may largely be led by Twitter, but it’s not limited to it. We’ve been watching the slow but steady growth of second screen apps like GetGlue, which recently added real-time conversation and deeper integration with existing social services to its Web app. According to Yahoo, 86% of people who use the mobile Internet use their mobile device while watching television.