Facebook & Google might make a big difference

Facebook publicizes essentially everything from your friend's Friday night out to your cousin's promotion to and your neighbor's new zit that sprouted that morning and now, Facebook is adding how people are voting during American Idol to its laundry list of capabilities. On Tuesday, we learned that Facebook and Google will now participate in Idol's voting system by providing digital outlets to vote and result-related data in real time.

In an effort to foster a wider voting experience, generate greater hype on social media, and ultimately, gain more viewers (and in turn higher ratings), the American Idol producers have joined with the ranks of Google and Facebook to offer new options to voters to get their votes in when the phone lines are busy or their texts for the month are used up. Plus, viewers can now vote during each performance episode, rather than right as the credits roll.

Beginning Wednesday night, if viewers search any American Idol-related term on Google, a window will automatically come up in the search results, featuring the photos of all of the current contestants and the option to allocate up to 50 votes to any individual contestant simply by clicking.

The usual social media options, such as sharing how you voted, joining Google+ hangouts about American Idol, and following the contestants' Google+ fan pages, will be available for use upon voting, as well. Similarly, viewers can use Facebook to monitor how voters are voting in real time through on-air visualizations that will depict demographic voting patterns and relative contestant rankings.

While this big data social media approach to a singing competition will probably appeal to the youngest generations in America who grew up with iPhones in their hands, there is a level of concern as far as how these new capabilities may negatively influence the outcome of eliminations.

If viewers can see voting trends and contestant rankings in real time, they may change their initial voting decision if they see their favorite contestant is low in the rankings. Vice versa, if viewers see that their favorite contestant is a favorite in the polls, they may not waste time voting if they are convinced that contestant is safe, when, of course, they may not be.

Moreover, there was a certain thrill to the blind voting of seasons past when viewers simply called or texted in their vote without any knowledge of how the rest of America would vote. That kind of system was the reason why viewers tuned in on elimination nights — they genuinely wanted to know who would be eliminated because, unlike in today's social media environment, they had little inclination aside from opinion of who would actually be sent home.

With American Idol's almost guaranteed return to Fox for another season next year and the latest trend of attention-seeking gimmicks, the producers don't seem to fear taking any risk in order to prompt higher ratings because they're guaranteed another shot next year. If this new voting thing doesn't backfire, we'll surely see it again on American Idol Season 14.