The Queen gets social

It might just be coincidence, but observers of the British monarchy have quickly noted that this week’s announcement of the engagement of Prince William to longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton came just two weeks after the royal family made its debut on Facebook. The engagement was sure to attract worldwide attention, but it didn’t hurt to have a page on the world’s largest social network to help control the message.

In many ways, the enthusiasm with which the royal family has embraced social media is a much bigger surprise than any wedding announcement. It started a couple of years ago, when The Royal Channel made its debut on YouTube, but this year has since a veritable surge in activity. On July 10, @BritishMonarchy posted its first tweet on Twitter. That was followed two weeks later by a royal Flickr account, and now Facebook.

Nobody is suggesting that the 84-year-old Queen Elizabeth is crouched over her computer each night uploading photos and videos, but knowing how much she controls the public face of the royal family, it does show an admirable grasp of modern technology and the power of 24/7 web-based media.

In particular, the royal Facebook page is a model of how it should be done. Illustrated with hundreds of photos and dozens of videos, the page is a living testament to the workload and stamina of all members of the royal family.

Unfortunately, most of the royal web activity is of a one-way nature. @BritishMonarchy has almost 80,000 followers on Twitter but follows no-one. That’s right, zero, which tends to undercut the “social” side of social media. The royal family does a little better on Facebook, where the 270,000 people that “Like” the page are at least allowed to comment. (Rude or inappropriate comments get taken down very quickly!)

It’s easy to forget that less than two years ago we were debating whether social networks like Facebook and Twitter were just passing fads, the latest craze of high school students and people with too much time on their hands. Now, with the active involvement of the British monarchy, they have surely received the ultimate seal of approval!

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