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15 October 2011

Will social media marketing determine the X Factor winner?

Tim Gibbon, director Elemental By Tim Gibbon

The X Factor may have hit our screens from 20 August with its infamous auditions and judge’s houses episodes, but it’s the live shows are where it’s at.  With new judges Gary Barlow, Tulisa Contostavlos, Kelly Rowland and permanent Louis Walsh keen to win the title of X Factor winner 20011 with one of their three remaining acts, it’s not just the performance on stage that may make the difference.  Production companies, contestants and judges are beginning realise how social media marketing can be another friend in the battle of viewers and votes – especially the use of Twitter.

X Factor judges 2011 photograph from the live showsTwitter welcomes Gary Barlow

There was a significant social media development for one judge, Take That’s singer songwriter Gary Barlow. Prior to the launch of this year’s show, he didn’t have a Twitter account, although there is an official verified Take That Twitter account @TakeThat with a following of 197,567 started on 27 January 2009.  Although Barlow’s first Tweet from @GBarlowOfficial was on Sunday at 21:30pm after the end of the live show, the account was created on Friday, 07 October, but with a few mentions of its existence, more notably by Philip Scholfield @Schofe who said on the Xtra Factor said that finally Barlow had joined Twitter.

Within 21 minutes Barlow had amassed 75,321 followers, and within 45 minutes later 58,408 amassing a total of 133,729. Almost a week later, he’s on 393, 698+, making it possibly the quickest growth of a celebrity Twitter account in the UK. In comparison Barlow’s TakeThat fellow band member Robbie Williams @RobbieWilliams has 456,455 followers joining on 28 August 2009.

There is no doubt that Barlow and indeed his representation will be looking at every opportunity to boost the boy category under his charge and realise the importance of the role social media has to play. Given fellow judges Tulisa Contostavlos @OfficialTulisa (active on Twitter since 30 January 2010) and Kelly Rowland @KellyRowland (active on Twitter since 13 April 2099) with 709,599 and 1,654,680 followers respectively. The question is when will the most seasoned judge Louis Walsh join the Twittersphere?

Boosting social media presence

Obviously Twitter isn’t the only social media medium for the television channels. ITV appears to be spending a great deal of budget producing an incredible amount of content for the X Factor this year including rehearsal footage, behind-the-scenes, after show interviews, exit contestants interviews, back stories, photographs, mobile apps and so on.

There is a saying that content is king that surfaced many years ago and is clung to, but this is only one element of potential success. If looked at from the same premise, content can only truly be king when its creation, implementation and management are applied correctly. ITV is distributing content to its social media channels, but how this is managed and received in more competitive environments by other channels remains to be seen. The quality and how it’s interacted with could see broadcasters tailoring more specific content that courts maximum interest, interactivity and encourages sharing.

However, for now, given the more simplistic nature of Twitters use, it’s a good place to start, more so for new users whether they are production companies, contestants, judges and audiences. Definitely this year, there is more a feeling of the show being more social with each and every contestant having both a Twitter and Facebook channel. Social terminology is also making it’s way into the show, an example being during the Xtra Factor, the presenters (Caroline Flack @CarolineFlack1 and Olly Murs @OllyOfficial) mentioned trending topics. Although the term trending is being used more in everyday use, possibly not for an X Factor’s diverse audience. However, the terminology that one would have thought more at home in a marketing meeting isn’t restricted to ITV’s Xtra Factor.

Analysing reality TV and social media

Big Brother isn’t a stranger to web analysis (at least from 2009). Now at home in the bosom of Channel 5 its analysis, chat and news programme Big Brother’s Bit on the Side is receiving the social media treatment on a deeper level. We’ve seen, guest Christian Howes, from a web analytics company (sometimes on Thursday), reviews conversations around the Big Brother contestants around the web and serves as its statistician. They’ve discussed a new tool (possibly an extension of its web analytics offering) that they’ve developed in Los Angeles specifically for the show – although interesting that they did use it in the show and not from the start. The five to 10 minute segment drops in terminology (e.g. sentiment, trending et al) that would be home to many a digital marketing meeting (get your social media bingo cards at the ready). Although the measure of studio audience may not be anything of note to go by, they were getting it and appeared to be excited about it. But then the after shows can be a completely different audience. 

It’s unclear what value this brings to Big Brother’s audiences even though the analysis does bring credence as to why certain conversations are created, are nurtured and evolve, including the impact this has upon contestants. Perhaps this audience are more savvy, but one thing is for sure and that’s if social media analysis is being created for a Channel 5 audience, the understanding for the people that make the big decision upstairs have to be taking notice as well. It’s hard to imagine ITV adopting this more in-depth view on its Xtra Factor, but certainly be interesting to see if they do.

Channel 5 has signalled its social media intentions being the first UK broadcaster to use Facebook Credits for voting, which it reminds its viewers of at the end of each show. Each Facebook vote costs 7 pence and there is a minimum Facebook Credit purchase of £1.00. With Facebook being purported as the game changer, release of better mobile capabilities and a new iPad app, the potential for mobile device voting becomes more attractive and a real dynamic possibility for television programmes which may lead to the greater importance in managing social media inline with broadcasting more effectively.

As The X Factor live shows roll-on into more intense and competitive weeks there will be many looking forward to see how all of all stakeholders, especially the judges use their celebrity status to boost their acts and the role that social media has to play in this.

Elemental's X Factor live shows social media infographic

To review the Elemental X Factor social media infographic and the social buzz around the first live show, see Rachel’s blog post The X Factor: Social media and the live shows infographic – Week 1.

It's a top line review, which takes a look at the impact that social media is having upon the show and vice versa, not necessarily reflecting views of the X Factor television audience itself.`

Bring on today’s episode!

Twitter followers as of Saturday, 15 October 2011 (and they’re obviously growing by the minute).

X Factor judges photograph: Ken McKay/Rex Features

Channel 5: Big Brother’s Bit on the Side: Series: Series 1 – Episode 28 (see from 11:00 minutes. Click on the link or the image below to view at YouTube) 

Channel 5 Big Brother’s Bit on the Side image from series 1, episode 28

Channel 4: Big Brother’s Little Brother (BBLB)


Categories: X Factor, Social media, News, Elemental

Tags: X Factor, the X Factor, iTV, Syco, social media, social media marketing, Twitter, Twittersphere, television, reality television, X Factor social media infographic, Big Brother, Channel 5

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