The X Factor USA to allow Twitter and Facebook votes

Could social networks be the next step for fading talent shows?

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Simon Cowell doesn’t have his own Twitter account – he says he might get one once he’s learnt “how to type quicker” – but he is embracing social media. From next week, The X Factor USA will allow fans to vote via both Twitter and Facebook, as well as the traditional methods of texts and phone calls.

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“It’s a sign of the times,” said Cowell. “Sites like Twitter and Facebook give [the audience] a much bigger voice.”

The move certainly seems likely to increase the number of votes cast by a vast amount: social network votes are free and perhaps more susceptible to multiple votes. Viewers are allowed to vote up to 50 times with each account ID via facebook.com/thexfactorusa, where users click on their favoured contestants, and twitter.com/TheXFactorUSA, where a Direct Message must be sent. 

Repeat votes are unlimited – but in practice, more difficult to execute – via SMS and The X Factor USA’s toll-free telephone lines.

The show’s Twitter account currently has only 109,000 followers, a number that is surely now set to increase. Fox, broadcaster of The X Factor USA, also announced that “real-time Twitter data” is to be “periodically” shown on screen during live shows.

So could Twitter and Facebook open up The X Factor to new audiences, and tempt people who can’t be bothered to ring up, or who don’t want to give Simon Cowell any of their money, to start voting? 

Cowell – faced with a year-on-year slump in ratings for the UK X Factor, and disappointing ratings in the US caused in part by the Major League Baseball World Series interrupting the normal Fox schedule – seems well aware that social networks are the future.

“The only people with power today are the audience,” he said in August, pooh-poohing a survey that named him as one of the most influential media figures on the globe. “And that is increasing with Twitter, Facebook and everything else.”

The British version of The X Factor currently allows voting via phone line, text and the red button, none of which is free. 

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One British reality show that has embraced social media voting is Channel 5’s Big Brother, which uses Facebook Credits, charging 7p per Facebook vote.