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Last season, American Idol producers pulled the plug on official contestant Twitter accounts after they realized there was no way to hide their follower counts. This year, the show has apparently decided that the potential downfalls of sharing information that could spoil the show’s eventual ending aren’t serious enough to give up a valuable social media marketing tool.
That means each of the top 13 competitors has a two-way communication street with their fanbase for the first time in Idol history. This is a clear advantage for the contestants, who can now make their case for why they should win through iPhone pictures and cute anecdotes, but how much does their follower count tell us?
Here’s a breakdown of the contestants’ Twitter statistics as of March 28:
1. Scotty McCreery – 48,583 followers
2. Casey Abrams – 47,457 followers (bottom 3 once)
3. Paul McDonald – 39,972 followers
4. Lauren Alaina – 34,105 followers
5. Pia Toscano – 33,862 followers
6. James Durbin – 32,792 followers
7. Thia Megia – 32,421 followers (bottom 3 once)
8. Stefano Langone – 29,953 followers (wildcard, bottom 3 once)
9. Jacob Lusk – 19,654 followers
10. Haley Reinhart – 18,796 followers (bottom 3 twice)
11. *ELIMINATED* Karen Rodriguez – 17,379 followers (wildcard, bottom 3 twice)
12. Naima Adedapo – 15,334 followers (wildcard, bottom 3 once)
13. *ELIMINATED* Ashthon Jones – 7,925 followers (wildcard, bottom 3 once)
With the numbers laid out, it’s hard to ignore how accurately they reflect the increasingly transparent popularity hierarchy on the show.
The seven most-followed contestants, who all have over 30,000 followers, have all been considered fan favorites at one point since the start of the competition. Casey and Thia are the only two who’ve been sent to the bottom three, and it happened last week, when everyone performed well.
On the other hand, four of the six least-followed contestants were wildcard picks, and five of them have been in the bottom three at least once since the semi-finals, with Karen and Ashton leaving the first two weeks. With the exception of Jacob, whose soulful vibe may appeal more to older viewers who don’t use social media, it’s clear Twitter is on to something.
That brings us to Casey’s shocking near-elimination last week, something no one keeping track of Twitter numbers could have predicted.
There are a million possible reasons why the judges chose to use their one-time save on Casey. It might have been because he’s talented, because he’s unique or simply because his multiple hospitalizations bring a dash of drama to a show that depends on the well-being of its contestants.
Most importantly, though, Casey has made a strong showing on Twitter, home base of the teens who vote on Facebook, download Ford music videos and pay for iTunes singles. Disappointing that audience — and losing the revenue and word-of-mouth publicity they supply — is the last thing Idol producers want to do when their show is struggling to stay afloat in its tenth run.
So what does that mean for the remainder of the season?
If audiences continue to cast their votes in a predictable fashion, we could see the Scotty-Casey finale everyone expects. But with the frontrunners in such a tight race for the top spot, both on Twitter and on the show, it’s more likely another shocking elimination will throw a wrench into the proceedings — and this time, there won’t be a save to get things back on track.
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