There’s nothing like a bit of love at Christmas and, right now, there are over twenty million reasons for the royals to love social media. In 2017, the official accounts run by the British Royals have seen a surge in followers and a spike in activity. And as the old year comes to an end, a quick tally shows that the biggest official royal Instagram account, that of Kensington Palace, has gone and got itself over twenty two million likes in the past twelve months.
If you really want to number crunch, then here you go. That one royal account had 22,003,731 likes from 456 posts as of December 22nd. OK, a lot of those likes will have come from regular fans but the very scale of its popularity indicates some breadth of appeal that is going beyond traditional royal watching circles. Given that both Prince William and Prince Harry have spoken out about the problems that social media can bring in recent times, they might not be thrilled to see themselves topping this particular chart at year end. But there’s no doubt that social media, for all the worries it can bring, is a pretty potent tool for royalty right now.
In a world when social media informs many people’s news and where a photo can tell a story quicker than any well crafted press release, what the royals put on their Instagram tells us a lot about how they see themselves. What we like tells them a lot about what we think royalty is right now. It’s an easy and safe way for the royals to put across the image they want us all to see. That doesn’t mean it has to be popular. The fact that over twenty million likes have accumulated in the past year shows that - at least when it comes to pictures - Kensington Palace is riding high.
The downside is that it can be a fleeting and fickle love. Instagram is all about looking, liking and moving on. We get all the style but can it really get across the substance that the royals rely on as much as their public image? Besides, a lot of the love has come from one off events. Those official engagement photos of Harry and Meghan brought in almost 2 million likes by themselves. The Cambridge baby announcement and subsequent post detailing Kate’s due date added several hundred thousand more alone.
Without the big box office of diamonds and diapers, Kensington Palace’s Instagram was holding its own - take away those major events and the like tally was pretty much the same as 2016. If you wanted to push the point, you could say that shows a plateau in the general interest that Kate, William and Harry can produce. But it’s a moot point, really. As well as Lindo Wing Watch Part Three and Here Comes the Bride, the next 12 months will also see Princess Charlotte start nursery, a royal christening, Meghan’s first engagements as a fully fledged royal and quite possibly another baby announcement. In a world ruled by image, Kensington Palace already looks ready to reign supreme in 2018.
The past year has seen more focus on just how much William, Kate and Harry will fill the gaps that are now appearing in the royal agenda as the Duke of Edinburgh retires and the Queen passes on patronages and responsibilities. The answers haven’t always been easy. But the huge popularity of their Instagram account perhaps indicates a change in what royalty represents. The years to come will bring challenges and more questions but while the pictures keep winning hearts, who is to say they aren’t influencing people as well?