$1.1 billion spent by web giant - but why? Here's all you need to know
John Phillips;EMPICS Entertainment
Firstly, believe it or not, there are millions of people out there that don't watch the X Factor. Amazing, but entirely true. I can vouch for this because I've spent a large part of the last week speaking to a lot of these freaks.
I mean, what kind of pleasure-denying moron would rather sit alone staring blankly into a laptop in a cold, harshly lit kitchen instead of laughing and joking along with friends and family in front of the goggle-box on a Saturday night?
Well, actually, that would be me. That's right. My name is Adam and I hate the X Factor...
To be honest, 'hate' is the wrong word. I just don't seem to get the same kind of unalloyed enjoyment out of it that my wife and sisters and their friends do. So I sit alone, Skype-ing and IM-ing other lone males skulking in cold kitchens across the land, all of us adamant that we are just SO VERY HAPPY to be listening to 'real' music on Spotify. And most of us secretly jealous of the fact we can't allow ourselves to join in with the laughter and whoops of delight emanating from the lounge.
Yet, for all that we don't watch it, we lone kitchen warriors all seem to hold strong opinions on our most or least favourite X Factor warblers. In fact, out of all of my blokey mates who claim to fiercely disapprove of Simon Cowell's butchering of pop culture, there was only one who genuinely held no opinion on the show. Mainly because he lives in Tokyo.
"Here's the thing, I have no idea what any of this is," said my man in Japan when I asked for his opinions on Cowell. "Living in another continent/culture/language is entirely wonderful sometimes."
Thankfully, I have now found a magical way to enjoy the X Factor. I've joined a Facebook group supporting an apparently tone-deaf Brazilian man called Wagner, as have thousands of other people who also claim to hate the X Factor. The idea being that it would be more fun for this bonkers ex-PE teacher who thinks he is Meat Loaf to win than it would be for one of the other contenders with at least a modicum of talent.
"Social media gives people a voice," explains Leslie Gilotti, co-owner of Charmfactory, a digital marketing and PR agency which specialises in music, when I enquire about these types of Facebook campaigns.
"It's a modern forum for positive rebellion and immediate, unedited reaction, and allows the public to have just as much influence as the opinions of traditional mainstream media," Gilotti adds, referencing last year's successful and highly publicised Rage Against the Machine campaign.
Joining an anonymous online group that ironically supports an ageing Brazilian hippy in bad cowboy boots is hardly punk rock, yet this is my quiet rebellion. My scream into the void.
In Gilotti's expert opinion, Facebook and Twitter are great ways for artists to communicate directly with fans, building one-to-one relationships, "while the fans can interact with people who share their enthusiasm, whether it's for a band or a television show - so you might take the mickey out of your wife or girlfriend while she's glued to X Factor or the Big Brother final, and all the while she's online participating in a live running commentary with thousands of others who are just as into the show as she is."
Yeah, alright. Don't rub it in! But surely the wonderful thing about groups such as the RATM and Wagner ones is the fact that they are seemingly real and organic and born out of something other than music or TV industry marketing campaigns?
"These fan groups are great organic tools for emerging trends," admits Jez Hughes, a director at Soho-based online marketing specialists Lucid, who represent bands, artists, games companies and others (with a number of ex X Factor winners on their roster).
The marketing man is also quick to point out that it is "very hard for a marketeer to launch such a group effectively and achieve the same results than one which has grown out of a networked environment," because groups like the Wagner and RATM ones "are prime examples of users generating a story themselves rather than a professional agency organically growing something."
The key thing is that social media now provides us all with multiple opportunities to unite digitally. For the marketing specialist, "it has meant conversations and 'fandom' has made its way from offline to online, so in case of Wagner, as well as people talking about it around the watercooler, classroom, in lunchtime banter and via instant messaging, they are also 'digitalising' their gossip and opinion using Facebook groups."
Marketing companies use terms such as 'online landmarking' when talking about the ways in which many of us use such groups to represent our opinions. Hughes also points out the key difference with these new online 'watercooler' moments is the fact that we are now able to banter with thousands of strangers on Facebook or Twitter, "amplifying the topic more so."
Whatever. As far as me and my ten thousand new mates on Facebook are concerned, Wagner has already won. And on top of that, I hope he does a Diana Ross number this coming Saturday.
That would be awesome.
[Adam Hartley is the social media columnist for MSN Tech & Gadgets. He is employed on a freelance basis by Microsoft. The views in this column are those of the author and not of MSN or Microsoft.]