By now, we’ve all heard of second screen, right?

If you haven’t…

Second Screen is a term that refers to an additional electronic device (e.g. tabletsmartphone) that allows a television audience to interact with the content they are consuming, such as TV shows, movies, music, or video games, extra data is displayed on a portable device synchronized with the content being viewed on television. – Wikipedia

By the way, the term second-screen isn’t limited to TV anymore. It really all depends on what your first screen is and what you’re doing with it. Also, for obvious reasons, the notion is being expanded to third, fourth, and even fifth screen experiences. Why? Three major reasons:

1. Because people can. Using multiple screens, devices and apps to build a 360° participatory experience has gotten fairly easy and even fun to both set up and manage. It’s also fairly inexpensive. The technological and even economic barriers of entry for that sort of thing are considerably lower today than they were five years ago.

2. Because there is value there. You can do research on a topic or factoid you just learned about. You can discover new twitter accounts or websites and go check them out right there and then. You can look up a product you’ve just discovered via your first screen. You can join a discussion, monitor conversations or gauge reactions relating to whatever is happening on your first screen. You could also be checking emails, playing games or posting pictures of your cat on instagram. It’s really up to you what you use your second screen/device for: work, fun, both, you decide.

According to Nielsen, back in 2011, 70% of tablet owners and 68% of smartphone owners were already reporting using their devices while watching television. So… is second screen a distraction? Is it an enhanced experience? You decide. It depends on your intent and on what you do on your second device or monitor. It can be a distraction, it can be a mode of digital multitasking, or it can be purposeful. Probably because we can be most helpful to folks looking to get more out of their digital experiences, we sort of prefer the latter.

3. Why not?

All right. Practical application time: Say you are interested in following an event (like a conference) but either can’t attend, or are limited in terms of attending every session. Either way, your boss wants you to write about it or just report back to the executive team on all the most relevant stuff discussed there. What do you do?

Option 1: Take notes, then use a combination of the event’s own website, online searches (like Google and Bing) and Twitter hashtags to find more content about the event, then spend a lot of hours sifting through pages and pages of search results. Depending on when you happen to conduct your searches and how much traffic some channels and websites pull, your results will… well, vary. With a few pots of coffee on the side and a daisy chain of browser tabs, you ought to get it all worked out in a day or two… or three.

Option 2: Fit it all on just 2 screens and make things easier on yourself (and/or your research assistant). To illustrate what we’re talking about, below are two examples involving recent conferences.

Example A: An easy way to follow the 2012 DreamForce event in San Francisco (#DF12).

Screen 1: The DreamForce event’s live-stream ( http://www.youtube.com/dreamforce ). It’s kind of like being there but without… you know, being there.

Screen 2: News and social content from and about the Dreamforce event ( Tickr’s DreamForce page ). Tweets, Facebook updates and conversations, instagram photos, new coverage and blogs all on one screen, with activity graphs to show you shifts in activity volume per channel category.

Sure, there are other ways of doing this, but there aren’t many that make life so easy for you. (You can be up and going in about 30 seconds.)

Example B: An easy way to follow the 2012 Social Good Summit (#SGSglobal)

Screen 1: The Social Good Summit’s live-stream ( http://new.livestream.com/Mashable/SGS ).

Screen 2: News and social content for and about  the Social Good Summit ( the #SGSGlobal Tickr page ). Again, tweets, Facebook updates and conversations, instagram photos, new coverage and blogs all on one screen, with activity graphs to show you shifts in activity volume per channel category along a 48hr timeline.

Whether you’re monitoring an event from the inside or attending remotely, blending live-streamed content and Tickr to aggregate news and social content makes sure you don’t accidentally miss anything important. And the cool thing about using Tickr is that you can go back in time by using the timeline activity graph and revisit content you might have missed – whether it’s an hour ago or two days ago. Cool, huh?

The Social Good Summit is going on through Monday, so try it out for yourselves and let us know how that two-screen model worked for you. (Great event, by the way. Definitely take some time to watch the videos and follow some of the discussions. Really inspiring stuff.)

As always, feel free to check us out on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. (We’re pretty decent about answering questions there.)