Every major event of the past few years seems to have been reported as being ‘the first social media X’. Olympics, World Cup, election… the list goes on. And it’s true that today’s birth of a royal baby was the first where social led the news agenda.
(Congratulations, by the way, to Kate and William).
However, a royal event like this birth provides a chance to test just how democratised the new media landscape is. The question is:
Which was bigger on Twitter today – official source or irreverent parody?
Two big Twitter accounts, one news story, lots time fill with to tweeting. On this most auspicious of days (or not, depending on your politics), it’s time for the @ClarenceHouse versus @Queen_UK grudge match.
The official Clarence House account was opened in 2010 to announce the engagement of William and Kate, and was somewhat of a trailblazer, being the first Twitter feed for the royal family.
331,127 followers, 4,250 tweets to date.
Loved and hated in almost equal measure, parody account @Queen_UK is home to the ‘Gin o’clock’ catchphrase and offers a wry look at current affairs. Whoever runs the account is making hay by linking with Bombay Sapphire gin and releasing a book.
1,082,092 followers, 7,007 tweets to date.
Who announced that Kate was in labour first? Who did it best?
The official source won, but not by much: the Clarence House tweet came at 7:37am, and was retweeted 6,662 times. Queen_UK followed just seven minutes later, gaining 952 RTs.
That said, neither was actually first with the news. Ikon Pictures photographer Jesal Parshotam was the first to spot the Duchess slipping into St Mary’s Hospital at 5:55am.
Winner: @ClarenceHouse, just
Perhaps it was a case of them double-triple checking the news (who’d want to get it wrong?), but surprisingly, @ClarenceHouse was scooped on the announcement of the birth of a baby boy.
They tweeted: ‘Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son at 4.24pm’ at 8:35pm. @Queen_UK got the news out at 8:30pm with a simple: ‘The Royal Baby has arrived. It is a boy. #RoyalBaby‘. It’s interesting that for once, the parody played it straight – fulfilling its secondary role as a ‘proper’ news source.
Again, though, Twitter users delighted in sharing the major news with the authoritative source: 14,328 RTs to Clarence House, 3,039 to Queen_UK.
Result: Honours even
Based on the number of retweets received on the day, @Queen_UK trounced the competition here, 53,799 to 37,173. But then it did send twice as many tweets (27 to 13), and send one promoted tweet, so you could say that on aggregate, engagement for each account was about even.
I used Tweetreach to dig a little deeper, and although the stats aren’t exactly perfect (the incredible focus and activity on each account meant the reports I received covered just a few hours’ worth of data), they again prove that the official source won.
Over the three hours up to 11pm @ClarenceHouse’s tweets reached 7.2 million Twitter users, while over a marginally longer timeframe @Queen_UK reached ‘just’ 2.1 million.
Account exposure was a closer fight – Clarence’s 9.7 million figure only a little ahead of the 8.3 million figure of the gin-loving lady. So a tighter pool of people follow and retweet Clarence House, while the Queen_UK account is more viral and engaged with by a wider spread of people.
As well as getting the facts out clearly and effectively, @ClarenceHouse posted a cute #WelcomeToTheWorld Storify of other new 22 July arrivals, offered followers the chance to sign a (slightly naff?) Google+ congratulations card, retweeted the real Queen’s @BritishMonarchy account and linked to a message of best wishes from Prince Charles.
Classy, simple and fitting for an official account.
But @Queen_UK was more fun. Yes, some of the tweets (George Osborne is a moron, Ed Milliband believes Kate is joining his party) had the waft of shooting fish in a barrel, but the wonderful ‘Succession secured. Gin. Bed.‘ will surely have raised more than a few smiles (and glasses of Bombay Sapphire). Could have done without the Coral ads though.
Oh how boring. We’ve ended up with a 2-2 draw. I genuinely didn’t plan that – I hate a cop out.
I guess that proves something about the nature of Twitter, though: official accounts, properly managed, are great for confirming and spreading big news, even when they’re not first. Despite the bottom-up, raw, guerilla-like character of Twitter, people like the comfort of a recognised authority, and the highly manageable nature of this particular story suits a source like Clarence House perfectly.
But it was nice to have @Queen_UK fill the waiting time.
*numbers taken at 11:30pm