The X Factor: Social media and the live shows – Week 3 [infographic]

There’s been a lot of talk in the last few weeks about The X Factor’s viewing figures this year compared to last.

Gary Barlow has talked both on The Xtra Factor and in the media about wanting to continue to improve week on week, and is quoted as saying that Simon Cowell has set a target of 10% increase each week.

Areas that can be considered for the drop in viewers:
–    Reality show fatigue, are people just tiring of The X Factor?
–    The loss of Simon and the addition of a whole new panel
–    Are the contestants (and new judges) as engaging, personable, controversial et al?
–    Broadcasting the US X Factor on UK TV at the same time

It’s likely to be a combination of factors such as the above, rather than just one element.  Although the official viewing figures haven’t been released, if we use Wikipedia’s numbers as a guide, then the numbers are decreasing (almost two million from Week 1 and Week 3) and if we compare the last week versus the same point in the show in 2010, figures are down by more than 5.5 million viewers.

Week 1
2011: Sat and Sun – 22.23 million
2010: Sat and Sun – 25.79 million

Week 2
2011: Sat and Sun – 20.74 million
2010: Sat and Sun – 25.56 million

Week 3
2011: Sat and Sun – 20.89 million
2010: Sat and Sun – 26.12 million

Watching TV with a screen in your hands or on your lap is becoming increasingly common, and just a few days ago following the announcement of The US X Factor accepting voting via Twitter and Facebook, Simon Cowell has come out and said that the most important people on TV are the ones using social media.

Following another week of lower viewing figures, we have seen the speed at which the contestant’s social media channels are growing level out.  In fact, whilst their channels still grew in size, each of the 11 contestants social media profiles grew at a much slower rate than they did last week.  As an example, Sophie Habibas who has either topped or been close to the top of the fast growing contestant this week her channel grew by 30%, down by 50% in Week 2.  The contestants YouTube videos were also viewed significantly less this weekend (413,000 views) than last (521,000).  Engagement on Facebook (or ‘People talking about this’) was also much lower in Week 3 than in Week 2, particularly Janet’s, which dropped by more than 3500 – although she is still the strongest contestant by far across social media.

It’s natural that the social media channels grow at a slower rate as the series continues and the initial burst of excitement dissipates.  We can safely presume that lower viewing figures are a contributing factor to this as well.  From this point, we are likely to see the same steady growth rate in each of the contestants until perhaps the last week.  Bar something significant, such as an extraordinary performance, big controversy or an event in the contestant’s personal life (such as Janet’s grandfather dying), we can expect numbers to grow in a steady, but slower way.

An example could be that Rhythmix had the third highest YouTube views this week, the previous two weeks their video has been in the bottom half.  Could  this be down to the media attention around the charity with the same name?

Another example of this would be with Craig, from The Boys category.  The first two weeks he had, according to the crowd and judges one of if not the stand out performance(s) of the show.  The big spike in his social media channels, as well as his position in the top of the pack in speed of growth, number of fans and views on YouTube reflected that.  This week, his performance was somewhat lost amongst the others, and we have seen his social media channels slip during Week 3.  That indicates that Craig could be a performance-based contestant where the performance on the Saturday night (rather than love / loyalty of the contestant) is what decides whether he will stand-out and get the votes.  As the show goes further (if he stays in), that’s likely to change as more of his personality shines through.

A number of people have pointed out that social media is not representative of the viewing public or the people that vote.  But, is that necessarily true?  Of course, not everyone watching The X Factor at home, or online, are going to head to their favourite contestants, judges or programmes social media channels.  However, if you consider the demographic of the people that pick up the phone and vote, they are also the most prolific social media users.  What’s happening in an online social environment is a good indicator, and we’re seeing that programme makers and brands are investing in this.

If Kitty and Sami (who both saw themselves in the bottom two this week) are struggling to inspire people during their performances to head to Facebook or Twitter and support them, then it’s not a big jump to conclude that they aren’t inspiring them to pick up the phone and vote.

The bottom four in terms of audience size across Facebook and Twitter are Kitty (35,625), Rhythmix (35,658), Johnny (38,090) and Sami (49,103).  Will we see Kitty, Rhythmix or Johnny in the bottom two on Sunday?  Perhaps likely.

The X Factor: Social media and the live shows – Week 3

Week 2: The X Factor: Social media and the live shows infographic
Week 1: The X Factor: Social media and the live shows infographic

Rachel Hawkes, is an account director at communications consultancy Elemental @elementalcomms.