Good news/bad news – how two ‘Royal’ events played out on social media
By Jacquie Hanna and Sophie O’Shea
Among this year’s top news stories debated, discussed and shared on social media, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s tour of Australia and the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry have captured the attention of Australians on a massive scale. At Mediaverse we were following both royal events with interest when we noticed how very differently these stories were playing out on social media, so we decided to track it and see what the differences are between a fluffy, good news story and a more serious, bad news story.
Social media engagement is often generated by PR events, which both the Royal Tour and Royal Commission are in their own way. Harry and Meghan are ambassadors for a monarchy keen to stem Australia’s growing Republican movement, using Harry’s roguish charm and warm personality combined with Meghan’s Hollywood glamour to increase the royals’ popularity in Australia.
“Social media engagement is often generated by PR events, which both the Royal Tour and Royal Commission are in their own way.”
The Royal Commission can equally be seen as a PR event – the commission the government didn’t really want (Labor says PM Scott Morrison voted against it 26 times) – but were forced into to prove to the public they’re not in thrall to their corporate buddies. Though perhaps they didn’t anticipate the lengths which the Royal commission staff have gone to to make the Commission media friendly.
Both ‘royal’ events generated significant noise across social media, there were large volumes of posts, major engagement levels and a wide audience reach, with the potential audience exposed to social media content about the royals and the royal commission reaching 100s of millions. Mediaverse’s analysis of the Royal Commission and the Royal Tour on major social media platforms produced some interesting results about how the Australian public interact with media stories of a very different nature.
What did our royal tour results tell us?
Between 14 – 28 October, we tracked 50,839 social media mentions of the Royal Tour that had over 4 million engagements.
Triggering these mentions were appearances by the royal couple, PR ‘events’ that were the subject of conversation by royal influencers – bloggers, lifestyle publications and fan accounts on Instagram, who favoured visuals and aesthetically pleasing or emotive content. We identified huge spikes in engagement correlating with the release of baby bump photos and coverage of the fluro beach event at Bondi beach.
Posts tugged on the heartstrings, often containing words like “adorable” and “love” and the ever-popular love-heart emoji. Harry’s penchant for hugging was also a huge theme of the conversation, which explains why seemingly innocuous words such as “beard” and “Luke” went viral after 5-year-old schoolboy Luke embraced Harry and Meghan in a hug and stroked Harry’s beard.
“This really highlights the way we, as an audience, engage with ‘fluff stories’ like the Royal Tour… we love them and leave them. Ultimately though the PR goal was achieved, a tonne of positive sentiment for the monarchy.”
Love them and leave them
However, while volumes were high, Royal Tour coverage tended to consist of the same images and ideas posted and reposted by influencers, resulting in a lack of depth and diversity. Audience interaction with posts were similarly unvarying as engagement consisted mainly of Instagram likes or the odd love-heart emoji in the comments. This explains the high ratio of engagement to volume as social media users were happy to engage briefly with the Royal Tour, but did not generate their own discussion or content. This really highlights the way we, as an audience, engage with ‘fluff stories’ like the Royal Tour… we love them and leave them. Ultimately though the PR goal was achieved, a tonne of positive sentiment for the monarchy.
What did the Royal Commission show?
From its start, The Royal Commission has generated sustained interest, with over 240,000 social media mentions and 450,000 engagements between the 13th of March this year, when hearings began, and the 28th of September when the interim report was released. Those driving the conversation are starkly different to Royal Tour commentators, with influencers consisting of activists and whistle-blowers, politicians (from the federal opposition) and journalists promoting their media coverage via links, photos and quotations from the hearings.
The main influencers, whistle-blowers and activists, tend to interact with people engaging with their posts far more than influencers posting about the Royal Tour. This is reflected in the ratio of volume to engagement for the Royal Commission, which is much smaller than for the Royal Tour.
“The audience [become] influencers themselves as they introduce new keywords, hashtags, complaints, ideas, point the finger at individuals and ultimately keep the conversation – and the outrage – going.”
Users interacting with the Royal Commission on social media are more likely to become part of a conversation rather than simply liking a post and moving on. This results in the audience becoming influencers themselves as they introduce new keywords, hashtags, complaints, ideas, point the finger at individuals and ultimately keep the conversation – and the outrage – going.
Good news vs Bad news
The good news is that we like good news. Although the media cycle can feel dominated by sad news or bad news, the Royal Tour shows us that there is a strong place for feel-good stories. Having said that, the Royal Tour showed that our attention span for good news tends to be more fleeting.
“Our attention span for good news tends to be more fleeting.”
By contrast, the Royal Commission has demonstrated a sustained and intense conversation on social media – driven at both ends by major social media influencers and everyday people. This behaviour indicates a high level of passion and personal involvement in the Royal Commission for everyday Australians and shows social media’s ability to give a story a long life outside of traditional media.
All photos supplied by AAP Photos image library.