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.
“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.
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.