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How the Cambridges and Sussexes have upped their social media game

William, Kate, Harry and Meghan have made subtle changes to their Instagram accounts

Danielle Stacey

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge celebrated a social media milestone last week as they reached ten million followers on their Kensington Royal Instagram account. It was launched in 2015 to highlight the work of Prince William, Kate and Prince Harry, before he became the Duke of Sussex. Since setting it up, they’ve kept their Instagram posts non-exclusive and all the photos have been taken by accredited royal photographers. But in recent months, William and Kate have been publishing their own pictures of their children on their birthdays (taken by the Duchess) on social media, before releasing them to agencies.

And that’s not the only change - while William and Kate have fans all around the world, there’s been a noticeable difference about the images they post on the platform. While there hasn’t been any candid selfies or #TBTs (yet!) the couple are sharing their own personal photos on Instagram, credited to Kensington Palace, which are different from agency images they have used before.

William and Kate are using their own photos on Instagram

The Duchess of Cambridge was announced as the new patron of the Royal Photographic Society in June, but Kensington Royal released a previously unseen image taken on the day, to mark World Photography Day in August. It’s similar to the way a social media influencer would take a series of shots in different outfits on one day and save them to post at a later date. When Kate visited the Back to Nature garden at RHS Wisley on Tuesday, Kensington Palace released photos from the event that appeared to be more candid and close-up than ever.

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And William and Kate are not the only ones, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex set up the Sussex Royal Instagram account in April, following the split from their joint office with the Cambridges. They currently have 9.4 million followers – and counting. 

Kensington Palace shared an unseen image of Kate for World Photography Day

As well as sharing never-seen-before snaps – Harry took a photo of Meghan and her baby bump in the forest in New Zealand, their trip to Botswana in 2017, one of Meghan with late photographer Peter Lindbergh - the couple are also using their platform to highlight causes and charities they have worked with. They are also avid users of Instagram Stories, with Harry sharing candid footage from inside a helicopter in New Zealand and a behind-the-scenes of Meghan at the shoot for her capsule clothing collection.

Each month, the couple choose a different theme and follow accounts associated with it. For September, they’ve highlighted organisations working around Africa, in conjunction with their tour later this month. Shining a spotlight on smaller charities in this way has had a huge impact for them, in more ways than one. 

Harry took this photo of Meghan and her baby bump in New Zealand

Tiny Tickers, a national charity working to improve the early detection and care of babies with serious heart conditions, were one of the 15 charities to be followed by Sussex Royal in August. Katie Lawson, Head of Fundraising & Communications, tells HELLO!: "In the week immediately after the announcement we raised £1,009, purely through individual donations from the general public. We don't even raise that in a month normally. And within hours, we saw a huge increase in social media activity – including new followers and thousands of comments and post shares.  

“We have now doubled our Instagram following thanks to the Sussex Royal announcement. The Sunday before the announcement we had 1700 followers - we're now approaching 3400.

“For a very small charity, with only five members of staff, this kind of exposure will make a huge difference. The awareness it provides is a wonderful way to raise our profile, highlighting the work we're doing for babies with serious heart conditions. This will undoubtedly help save many lives."

Sussex Royal champions causes close to Harry and Meghan's hearts

Little Village, a London-based baby bank, which provides clothes, toys and equipment for infants and children up to the age of five, was one of the charities Harry and Meghan chose to feature on their Instagram account. The couple asked their followers to consider supporting the organisation, in response to the #GlobalSussexBabyShower social media campaign.

Sophia Parker, CEO and Founder of Little Village tells HELLO!: “The Global Sussex Baby Shower was incredible - we had messages, presents and financial gifts from well-wishers across the globe. The extra publicity we’ve received has also lead to support from big companies like Pampers and Maclaren, who have both provided us with donations to help even more families. 

READ: Meghan Markle makes radiant return to work following maternity leave with Archie - best photos

“Since being highlighted on Instagram, Little Village’s Instagram followers have gone up from 1000 to 7000. This matters because it means even more people are aware of our work, and that of the 100 other baby banks across the UK. Our Twitter and Facebook followers have also gone up, and the engagement rates of our Twitter feed have gone through the roof, thanks to the online support of the ‘Sussex Squad’!

“Whilst the support and publicity we’ve received has been wonderful, we’ve still got a tough job on our hands, with the number of families we see increasing at an alarming rate. We’re grateful for any support people can offer us in order that we can continue to help the 2,500 families we expect to see by the end of this year.”

Like celebrities and influencers, the Cambridges and Sussexes know the power of social media and for them, engagement appears to be key. When the Instagram account was first set up, many fans believed that Meghan was personally running Sussex Royal. The former Suits star was an avid user of the platform before she closed down her social media accounts and her lifestyle website The Tig. From the personal ‘thank you’ in response to well wishes from their followers after the birth of baby Archie to the use of Americanisms and emojis, it suggested Meghan was writing the captions.

Harry and Meghan have switched from square to vertical images on Instagram

Elizabeth Holmes, royal commentator and author of the forthcoming book, HRH: So Many Thoughts in Royal Style, tells HELLO!: “I think Meghan is incredibly digitally savvy, having learned how to engage an audience online long before she became a royal. I love that she has brought that considerable expertise to the @sussexroyal Instagram account.

“Harry and Meghan have rightly recognised the reach of their massive platform to share their interests and causes. They don’t only share photos of themselves at their engagements, but photos of the charities they champion and the moments that are important to them — which keeps their efforts in their followers’ feeds more regularly.

“They also use their feed to draw attention to other accounts, a way of spreading the digital love around. I was particularly struck by the switch to favouring vertical graphics and pictures. Several of my followers who are social media professionals pointed out that the vertical shots fill up more of one’s phone screen, making it more visually enticing. How smart! I applaud the Sussexes for using the tools at their disposal as effectively as possible.” 

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 With the Duchess returning from maternity leave and the Sussexes’ royal tour of South Africa later this month, it will be interesting to see how they utilise their social media platforms even more. 

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