Monday, 9 November 2009

X Factor - the ultimate in socialised TV?

The X Factor TV show is producing an enormous online echo. High levels of related Searches, significant activity on Facebook, substantial volumes of X Factor blog posts, ever increasing YouTube views and Twitter dominated by X Factor discussion every week.

1) X Factor Google Searches

Google Insights For Search shows volume of X Factor related searches over time:

X Factor Google Insight Searches year by yearX Factor - volume of related Google Searches by year (click for larger image)

The volume of X Factor related Google searches has been growing over time - with peaks in line with series broadcasts. 2005 grew on 2004, but then X Factor related searches stayed relatively constant until 2008 when they increased significantly. For 2009 Google Insights For Search are showing more X Factor related searching (on Google) than ever before.

Google Insights can also let us see when people are searching for X Factor terms. Looking at the current series by week we can see that X Factor searches peak every Sunday - corresponding to the Sunday night results show:

X Factor Google Insights Searches week by weekX Factor - volume of related Google Searches by year (click for larger image)

2) X Factor on Facebook

On Facebook there is an official X Factor Fan page with 849,409 Fans with The Wall updated regularly through the week and every few minutes while the X Factor is on air. These wall posts are generating huge engagement with thousands of comments per post:

X Factor Facebook Fan Page commentsX Factor Facebook Fan Page wall post with 10,133 comments (click for larger image)

X Factor Facebook commentsX Factor Facebook Fan Page wall post with 4,685 comments (click for larger image)

The X Factor contestants also have official Facebook Fan Pages. Some of these have large numbers of fans. Here are the fan counts for the X Factor contestant Facebook Fan Pages (08/11/09):

Lloyd – 200,847
Olly – 126,665
Stacey – 107,026
Joe – 53,635
Lucie – 38,580
Danyl – 35,014
Jamie – 31,212
John and Edward – 19,584
Rachel – 17,444
Miss Frank – 15,293
Rikki – 5,375
Kandy Rain – 2,854

There are also over 500 Facebook Groups relating to X Factor, the largest being 'I bet I can find a million people who want the twins out of X Factor' with 281,055 members.

3) X Factor Blog posts

Google Blog Search shows that there have been approaching 3.5m blog posts referencing the X Factor since 1st July 09:

X Factor Google Blog Search resultsGoogle Blog Search results for 'X Factor' since 1st July 2009

4) X Factor YouTube

The X Factor YouTube channel hosts clips and performances and has 80,885 subscribers along with 6,366,302 channel views. 2009 X Factor videos have very high very numbers too, with Danyl's audition attracting 9.7m views and Stacey attracting 7.3m views - though John and Edward remain our favourites (!):

5) X Factor on Twitter

The most visible sign of X Factor driving online conversation is on Twitter. While the X Factor is on TV thousands of related tweets get posted. So much so that X Factor tends to dominate Twitter trending topics whilst it is on air, particularly during the Sunday results show. Last night 9 of the top 10 Twitter trending topics were X Factor driven:
X Factor dominating Twitter TrendsX Factor dominating Twitter trending topics (click for larger image)

Show name (twice), contestant names, judge name and 'Black Eyed Peas' after they performed, all featured in the Twitter top 10 most common phrases last night. Every week Twitter is widely used as an X Factor discussion forum, but Twitter users last night seemed even more obsessed than normal. Thousands of tweets were being posted every minute and this carried on long after the X Factor had finished broadcasting - 'Jedward' is still in the top trending topics this morning.

Bil Tancer at Hitwise occasionally tries to predict talent show winners by studying Search activity, but there are now too many dynamics to interpret to be able to use internet data to easily predict X Factor winners and losers this year. When the internet was a one way street, then Search volumes were good indicators of intention / preference. However, new platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, blogs and Twitter fuel 'social influence' and contribute to the 'cumulative advantage' dynamic studied by Duncan J Watts.

Watts' argues that Justin Timberlake is a product of cumulative advantage, putting forward the idea that the 'most popular tend to get more popular' as social influence affects people's perception of quality. The herd mentality affects hits - rankings like the Top 40 / bestseller lists distort perception of quality and influence people's likes.

The visibility of shows like the X Factor in social media means that using search volumes to predict winners is not going to give the whole picture. The only way to use online data to predict X Factor outcomes would be to combine Search data with real time sentiment analysis in the period between the performances on Saturday and the results show on Sunday - not easy, or particularly cheap, to do.

It is clear though that compelling TV content does drive people to go online, often simultaneously - and you don't need research to tell you this when shows like the X Factor have such an obvious online echo!

(It may also explain Simon Cowell's 'inexplicable' decision to allow John and Edward to remain in the show - more than anyone they are driving X Factor Conversation, worth keeping in even 'if they can't sing'?)

Related posts

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Malcolm Middleton and Lucky Soul - Web 2.0 vs X Factor for Christmas Number One!

Jeff Buckley 'Hallelujah' - social media for Christmas Number One?

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Anonymous said...

Yes, the X Factor is all over social media with this series!

You can also get these Twibbons ( to support your favourite contestant, or the show itself.

A well executed social media campaign ITV.

Anonymous said...

great social media campaign. Such a shame it's about an ultimately pointless TV talent contest instead of socially useful dialogue... :(

neilperkin said...

I saw the trending topics list last night too - first time I'd seen the influence of 'mass' media appear in quite such a way on a social channel. 'Event' Tv seems to be well suited to this kind of socialisation - as it was with the Facebook/CNN/Obama thing. I wonder whether we might eventually see much more of this kind of conversation happening concurrently on the same platform in this way (the rumoured BBC i-player Facebook app is an interesting move in this direction

Unknown said...

There's a great Mickey take song on youtube called SIMON COWELL'S BIRTHDAY BASH (Party Of The year)
Check it out

Nick Burcher said...

@neil As technology converges I think we'll see more socialisation of broadcast content. At the moment it's people tweeting etc on one platform, whilst watching broadcast content on another. Once any screen can offer the same capabilities (IP enabled TV's are coming, gaming platforms can show Sky and also tune into Facebook / Twitter etc) then I think interactive / broadcasting could become the norm.

and for everyone else, I like he X Factor and Simon Cowell!