Instagram, Sussex vs Cambridge: conspiracy theory

On social networks hierarchies do not count or can be reversed where in real life it is almost never possible. After the announcement of the farewell to the Crown of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, their Instagram profile @ SussexRoyal has seen a whirlwind of his followers and on 26 January 2020 exceeded that of the Dukes of Cambridge @ KensingtonRoyal : 11, 1 million followers against the 11 millions of William and Kate Middleton who have a much longer-lived Instagram account.

One month after the transfer of Harry and Meghan to Canada and with the minor public appearances that increase expectations and curiosities, as noted by the New York Times with the article “A Royal Instagram Mystery”, a strange thing is happening. Sussex publish posts of a certain thickness and the followers of “rivals” William and Kate increase. How is it possible? The suspicion is that there may be some sort of data manipulation to increase the popularity of one couple at the expense of the other. To date, both profiles count 11, 2 million followers and it is precisely this fact that gives rise to doubts and feeds the conspiracy theory.


The “divorce” from Harry and Meghan's Crown started right through Instagram. Initially the two royal couples shared the same Instagram account @KensingtonRoyal, opened in 2015. Since April 2 2019 things have never been the same again. The Dukes of Sussex opened their profile by managing it independently. An account that immediately liked the fans for the non-trivial storytelling and that shows the more human side of the couple – from the choice to publish the feet of the little newborn Archie to the inspirational shares -, with a theme, the blue, well recognizable and with ad hoc graphics, elements absent in the @KensingtonRoyal profile. As the New York Times points out, @SussexRoyal entered the Guiness world record for reaching one million followers in just 5 hours and 45 minutes, faster than any other account in Instagram history. The evolution of the profile, however, goes against the initial data, denying any forecast. Strangely, in fact, the audience of the account has never exceeded that of William and Kate.


According to data from CrowdTangle, an analysis tool specialized in social media, nine out of ten posts with the most likes shared by both @SussexRoyal and @KensingtonRoyal have Harry and Meghan as protagonists, with the only exception of photo published on the occasion of Princess Charlotte's first day at school. In addition, from the date of @SussexRoyal's debut until the announcement of Harry and Meghan's “bomb” last January, the posts starring Meghan and Harry published by @SussexRoyal have received more likes than all Kate-focused @KensingtonRoyal posts and William: Sussex totaled about 13, 5 million likes and also won by number of comments: more double that of Cambridge, despite the fact that followers of their profile continue to increase at a good pace.


Like real influencers who have to manage the competition, Cambridge and Sussex, or rather their social media teams, fight a silent war with followers and likes by manipulating Instagram. According to the conspiracy theory formulated by the New York Times , it is very curious that, for example, when @KensingtonRoyal shared a low resolution image of a portrait of the late Queen Victoria, therefore a subject with little appeal for followers, the account immediately gained over 730 followers in the first hour. And it is even less explainable that they have totaled 3. 500 new followers in the first five hours from the publication of the post but with only 283 thousand likes in total. In short, the two figures are discordant and suggest a bot. Especially because objectively a portrait of Queen Victoria cannot be so fascinating as to attract thousands of new followers on @KensingtonRoyal, compared to a photo of Harry on @SussexRoyal published concurrently but which has not attracted so many new followers.


According to experts interviewed by the New York Times , these data, however, are not sufficient nor provide evidence that there is a voluntary manipulation of the interactions and Instagram followers from Cambridge or Sussex. There are many variables that can occur, one of them is that the bots are used by another external profile, which has nothing to do with Buckingham Palace. The fact is, however, that Harry and Meghan could become real influencers, earning thanks to their Instagram account.

After the # Megxit , the marketing platform. noted a 9.7% increase in account growth, compared to a previous steady growth of 1.6%. Marie Mostad, COO of Inzpire, told Sun that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex could use sponsored posts as a form of financial compensation. According to Mostad, the couple could earn up to 110 thousand and 100 dollars per post, while William and Kate Middleton's @KensingtonRoyal account could earn up to 52 thousand and 600 dollars for a sponsored post. They don't fly as high as Beyoncé, Kylie Jenner or Ariana Grande but it's already something.


Meghan and Harry “surpass” William and Kate on Instagram: the war passes (also) from the followers

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