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In an earlier post I posed the question, “Does Social Media Matter on American Idol“. Unfortunately, we may never know, or at least thanks to AI it’s going to be more difficult to measure.

This morning I went to do a recap and new benchmarking of the data USAToday’s Brian Mansfield published on 2/25, to see how the Final 12 were doing in terms of friends & followers ahead of tonight’s vote, and I got what should not have come as a shock…the American Idol handlers have mandated that the contestants’ official Twitter and FB accounts cease to be updated. Instead, those accounts are now being rolled up into an “AIContestants” TW account and an AI Contestants FB page. (See Crystal Bowersox’s twitter page, for example).

Boooring. AI has, in large part, removed their contestants from the social media sphere, effectively barring them from competing for fans on the Internet in what would have been the most interesting way: allowing them to leverage their newfound popularity, combined with their own social media savvy, to compete for votes.

This is really disappointing, I was hoping to see a battle for social media supremacy. From a branding standpoint I understand why they’re doing it; but I’d argue that they’re passing on what could be a strong barometer of a performer’s future ability to drive sales: their power to perform combined with their ability to self-promote via social media. “Oh wait” you say, promoting them will be the label’s job, and therein lies the “why”.

Keep your eyes out for the more SM-savvy contestants to find ways to route around this system and attempt to drive votes through other, non-sanctioned online channels. This video of three contestants mugging for the camera is an example (which didn’t do Alex Lambert any favors…he was axed shortly after).

While this should still prove interesting, it will pale in comparison to what could have been: allowing the contestants to do epic battle on the biggest social media stages of Twitter and Facebook.