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How Did Social Media Predict the X Factor Winner?

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Love it, hate it or indifferent to it, interesting things surround the social media world of The X Factor - especially from a programme making perspective. The evolving social media landscape always had the potential for producing interesting analysis for what was one of the UK's most anticipated annual television events this year.

Since week 8, our social media analysis indicated that Little Mix were the most likely winners (and so they were). Over the last 10 weeks, we have witnessed the girl bands journey, the last half of which they've been growing leaps and bounds ahead of other contestants, a sweet spot they held since Week 7.

Nothing is ever certain, and this is definitely true when it comes to TV (particularly 'reality' TV). All of the contestants and judges hit the PR train hard during the final week, gee'ing up existing loyal fans, winning over new fans and tapping into celebrity endorsement. The week leading up to the final saw the final three contestants visit their hometown with their respective mentor and perform to a hometown crowd. It was essential that this offline buzz was translated into an online environment and more importantly, into votes, which Little Mix certainly seemed to have in the bag.
Little Mix's back stories, rise in popularity, 'likability' and a competition changing performance (En Vogue's Don't Let Go in Week 7) really made the difference. It proved too much for Amelia Lily and Marcus Collins, who despite never receiving the most votes from the start of the series, managed to go all the way to a head-to-head with Little Mix on Sunday's show.

Marcus has been consistently popular across social media from the start of the series, maintaining a position in the top half of the contestants from the start of the series to the end. For the first four shows, the audience were hesitant to seek out Little Mix in a social environment, and we predicted they would land themselves in the bottom three. However, this changed from Week 5.

In Week 4, Little Mix had just 3,317 new fans across Twitter and Facebook, in contrast Marcus had 13,523. In the same week, out of 10 acts they were the 9th least popular across Facebook (they ended the series as the most popular [of the acts still in the competition]), and the least popular on Twitter with just 22,136 followers. Things changed for the girl band in Week 5, growing their social media audience by almost 15%, a 10,000 increase on the week before. It was during this time that they changed their Twitter profiles following the bands name change, which explains their sudden 60,000 increase in Twitter followers.

By reviewing the social media infographics throughout the series, you can see the impact social media had upon The X Factor and vice versa. The questions now are how social TV will continue to influence how we view TV, and how it influences programme making. One thing is for sure and that's if the X Factor UK adopted Facebook and Twitter social voting like the US series, which started this October, it may have produced a different winner. With many other contestants having strong social profiles didn't progress due the lack of the public vote, they may have done better with their social fan base.

Week 6 welcomed former contestant Amelia Lily back into the competition, and unsurprisingly she topped the social media charts that week, gaining 24,254 new Likes and Followers that weekend. Marcus wasn't far behind though, with 23,231 fans but Little Mix trailed by almost 10,000.

Week 7 was the game changer for the girl band, with a 15% increase in followers, which translates to 27,590 new fans and followers. Marcus had just half this amount at 14,758. This week also saw Little Mix become the third most popular contestant across Facebook with just under 55,000 Likes.

Week 8 was the week it became clear that they were the most likely winners. During this week, they topped the list again, growing their social audience by 8.4% just between Saturday and Sunday's live shows.

In Week 9, Little Mix had more than 400,000 views on YouTube for their two songs. Amelia Lily didn't hit 300,000 views and Marcus even less at not even 150,000 views, however Marcus consistently had one of the least viewed videos on YouTube.

In Week 10, Little Mix continued to the social media roost, gaining an impressive 70,000 fans in less than two days, a 17.6% increase of their total (online) fan base. They topped out the Facebook audience size at 119,150 Likes; fellow contestants Marcus and Amelia Lily had 94,000 and 46,000 respectively.

The X Factor now moves it focus from the live shows to having a Christmas number one and selling out the upcoming tour. Undoubtedly, social media will have an enormous role to play with both of these, as we've already seen a passionate social media audience with a common goal can out manoeuvre the might of TV production and record label marketing budgets. Just a few years ago, social media was responsible for stealing the Christmas number one away from X Factor winner Joe McElderry and placing it in the hands of anti-capitalist rock band Rage Against The Machine with a Facebook campaign. With competition more fierce than ever, will Little Mix be able to pull it off?

Tim Gibbon is the founder and director at communications consultancy Elemental and @elementalcomms helping brands and consumers get along.

The X Factor: Social media and the live shows infographic for Week 10
2011-12-20-xfactorinfographicweek10Elemental.jpg