29 January 2012

More on Crown Princess Mette-Marit’s Twitter account

Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway (@CrownPrincessMM) has become a hit on Twitter and has already got more than 25.000 followers, only 11 days after her account in reality was opened with her first tweet, and it will not surprise anyone if she soon tops the list of Norwegians with the most followers.

This blog article is first of all a summary of the debate which has been going on about Crown Princess Mette-Marit's Twitter account after my first article on the subject was published on Friday 20 January 2012.

The news of Crown Princess Mette-Marit’s Twitter account has been received well by other tweeters, who have seen it as another sign of her down to earth personality. The newspapers that have written about the account have for the most part focused on the number of followers with whom she has exchanged tweets the first days and who she follows herself. Few have made reservations about her decision to get her own playground on Twitter.

One should perhaps be careful not to read too much into the Royal Palace’s reticence in dealing with the media’s questions concerning the Crown Princess’ account, but I can’t help wondering if the communication department rather would have preferred that the Crown Princess had kept herself to the official profile (@Kronprinsparet) she and her husband have together. Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen, assistant information director at the Royal Palace was not willing to comment further on the Twitter account other than confirming that the profile was really hers when I contacted him on the afternoon of Friday 20 January 2012. As I wrote in my last blog article on the subject, this was before I read the confirmation from @Kronprinsparet, tweeted by Crown Prince Haakon himself.

When the Internet magazine Kampanje.com (20 January 2012) wanted to know why she had opened her own account, Gjeruldsen had no comments. And when asked whether the Palace had made a communication strategy for Mette-Marit’s Twitter profile, Gjeruldsen replied that they did not comment on this sort of questions. Kampanje.com also wanted to know if the Crown Princess was the first member of the royal house with her own profile, and naturally Gjeruldsen referred to the official profile the Crown Princess had together with her husband. Kampanje.com pointed out that she didn’t handle all the tweets herself from the @Kronprinsparet account, upon which Gjeruldsen responded that «on the account it says who is replying». By this Gjeruldsen referred to the way the tweets from @Kronprinsparet are formed - «KPH» stands for Crown Prince Haakon, «KPM» for Crown Princess Mette-Marit «KPP» means that the tweet is from both of them, while no «code» means that the information department has tweeted on their behalf.

A large part of the article deals with the appointment of Christian Lagaard in November 2010 as the Royal Palace's «social media expert», a position several people «in the know» believe he was not qualified for.

The Norwegian daily Aftenposten published on 20 January 2012 an interview with Cecilie Staude, an expert on social media and a senior lecturer at BI (Norwegian Business School), who claims that the Crown Prince couple has not had a apparent strategy with the @Kronprinsparet account. – They have been on Twitter for a long time, but it has not looked as if they have had a clear plan for how they should use the profile. They have had some unfortunate episodes. At times it seemed they didn't have an idea about who they were following, although I will not open old wounds.

Staude might be referring to the sex blog Flinkepiker.org (Twitter profile @FlinkePiker), which followed @Kronprinsparet and got their favour returned. Dagbladet.no wrote about it in September 2010.

Staude believes that Crown Princess Mette-Marit has planned her use of social media well. – It seems that she has a plan about how she wants to appear, and how she is going to use Twitter as a channel. I think it is positive that she has started using social media. It shows that the Crown Princess sees the potential for this kind of platform. The senior lecturer continues saying that Mette-Marit has to be conscious about how she appears, and be aware of the pitfalls in the social media. She must mind her p's and q's, but I am convinced she will make it. It will be exciting to follow her.

Dagbladet.no' first article on the subject was somewhat amusing, as it seems the newspaper thought the profile @SpanishRoyals represented the Prince and Princess of Asturias, while in fact the account is owned by a royal watcher following the Spanish royals. The profile was quoted because it at the time was not 100% whether Crown Princess Mette-Marit really was behind the profile @CrownPrincessMM or not.

But it doesn't end there. TV2.no made on 23 January 2012 a point out of Crown Princess Mette-Marit's decision to retweet a message written by @KongenDin (in translation «@YourKing»), which goes under the name «Harald Rex» and regards itself qualified to make fun of the royal family and its members. The Crown Princess has even retweeted one of «his» messages. The humour appears to be rather innocent, and to most people I guess it shows her sense of humour, but one should as a principle be careful about following false profiles. It shows a bad signal in my view.

Dagbladet.no's website on celebrities, Kjendis.no, followed up on 24 January 2012 with a large survey of the people Mette-Marit has decided to follow. Among the 441 people she followed at the time the article was published, were mainly politicians, artists, business people, sports stars and authors, including the author Erlend Loe, the handball player Camilla Herrem, the rapper and record producer Kanye West and Bill Gates (doesn't need an introduction, does he?). The communication company Geelmuyden.Kiese's «digital consultant» Marius Eriksen claims that the list of people she follows is rather predictable. He thinks it is surprising that she doesn't follow more ordinary people. Most of the people she follows has she had some contact with before, and the list will most likely be expanded to become more [politically] correct, Eriksen claims. She is thus communicating that she is not one of the people, but one of the elite and of the «Celebrity-Norway».

VG.no on 24 January 2012 quotes Marius Eriksen as well, but his comments are opposed by the media bureau Carat's «communication consultant» Øyvind Solstad, who believes that some of his colleagues in his line of business has been a bit too eager to demand a big plan. It is too much to be asked for that the Crown Princess should sit in her chamber and select 1000 people to follow before she opened her account. – I think it is quite okay that she starts by following people she is interested in. He does not agree with the allegations that Mette-Marit through her selection of people communicate that she is part of the elite. – The discussion which all the time has been going on in Norway about Twitter and the elite is outdated. In other countries Twitter has first of all become a youth phenomenon, and the same thing is happening in Norway too. Twitter has long ago moved from journalists and the communication trade to become a much more «folkelig» (could be translated into «popular» or «down to earth») place. It just hasn't reached the larger crowd yet.

Solstad thinks it is «cool» that Mette-Marit has opened her own Twitter account which clearly differs from the more formal account she and her husband has together. – It is more private, in the meaning personal, than the one she has with her husband. When you look at the conversations she has it has a different style than on their common account.

The consultant thinks that the Crown Prince and the Crown Prince couple is doing a good job with the social media. – The Crown Prince couple has got most of it right. They are using Facebook and Twitter to front the topics that are important to them in their roles, and they are doing it with both texts, photos and videos.

Marius Eriksen on the other hand believes that the division between «the royals» and «the people» is not erased by Crown Princess Mette-Marit's twittering. – No, it does not wipe out anything. It only adds an ingredient to the cocktail. This might eventually make her more a celebrity than a royal, something that will lead to downgrading other celebrities.

The court reporter Kjell Arne Totland describes Mette-Marit's follow list on Twitter as «ambitious». – Many of them are people she has met through her role and position - and some of them have become close friends of her. The list says a lot about our crown princess's sphere of interest, and who she wants to be, he says.

As of now I tend to agree with Solstad that the media is making too much out of Mette-Marit's follow list. Maybe one should wait half a year or even a year from now before a more thorough analysis could be made. She clearly follows a lot of high-profiled people, but who doesn't?

Crown Princess Mette-Marit's Twitter account was debated on the Norwegian radio channel NRK's news program Dagsnytt 18, in which the above-mentioned Cecilie Staude and the sociologist Hedvig S. Johansen participated. Staude has followed up with her own blog article where she makes her own interpretation of why Crown Princess Mette-Marit has established herself on Twitter. Staude, who is a sister of the TV2 journalist Vår Staude, believes the reasons are the same for the Crown Princess as for the more than a quarter million Norwegians who have got a Twitter profile. It is all about exchange of information, dialogue, knowledge, learning and sharing. And maybe also to just have some fun. In addition Twitter gives the Crown Princess a good opportunity for direct communication with people, instead of indirectly through the media etc. It also opens for the possibility of receiving direct and honest feedback, which she can use in her role.

Well, in my opinion it also opens up for the opposite - abuse and stalking. Yes, you can block spammers and others you feel are taking things too far, but a profiled person like the Crown Princess is likely to receive far more negative attention on Twitter than the man in the street. I hope she will have the stomach to deal with it. Then again, things don't have to go that bad. But with all the nutcases out there, it is not an unrealistic scenario. It doesn't appear to have been a big problem so far, though. On a very different subject - the most entertaining aspect of following Crown Princess Mette-Marit's account so far has been to observe all the people crying for a reply from the Crown Princess or hoping that she will subscribe to their tweets as well. I am sure she will be able to see through the attention seekers and correspond with people who really has something to say.

But back to Staude's blog article again, where she towards the end comments on the need to find a balance between Mette-Marit's down to earth approach and her professional role, which has to set some limits on her activities. She is after all a Crown Princess, Staude adds, reminding her readers of the pitfalls. The Twitter format with 140 characters is challenging. Precision is important, as it is easy to be misinterpreted or misunderstood. A misstep can quickly be spread around the net and might result in people getting another impression of her than she would have liked. Staude also claims that because of her role she will never be regarded as a private person, and that everything she writes on Twitter will be viewed in the light of her position as Crown Princess and her tasks. I agree with what she says about missteps. A wrong use of word or a not so well-thought utterance can easily be misunderstood and cause a lot of trouble and negative attention. First of all she has to stay away from political and other potentially controversial issues and discussions.

Staude ends her article by saying that the Crown Princess has caught «the Twitter spirit» surprisingly fast. Why is this surprising, I wonder… Staude believes that Mette-Marit response, retweets, uses hashtags, shows a sense of humour and shares information which so far makes her interesting to follow. If she manages to follow up her great start, she will soon be popular – not only because she is a Crown Princess, but because she is interesting to follow because she offers something unique on Twitter.

This week the Crown Prince and Crown Princess attended World Economic Forum in Davos, and they answered a few questions from the press regarding the new Twitter profile. According to the NTB interview published by VG.no on 26 January, the Crown Princess regards Twitter as a great opportunity to spread information about exciting projects which take place around the world, especially [those] run by young people. So far she thinks she has managed to judge how personal her tweets should be, adding that it is important to have «a high focus on the contents». When the Crown Prince was asked if he was going to follow up and become an active tweeter, he responded by saying that he thought he was an active tweeter already, referring to the account they had together. He didn't rule out the possibility for his own profile later on.

I had planned to round off the blog article with the Crown Prince couple's comments, but on Saturday 28 January author and Aftenposten commentator Vidar Kvalshaug gave his own view of the Mette-Marit on Twitter discussions this week. His main message was that Twitter is «for the democracy», denouncing the claims that the social platform is for the elite only. He finds it to be «an open and democratic tool» to everyone, and the way the Crown Princess has used Twitter so far, by among others discussing literature with a librarian from Trondheim, a dog lover from Moss and himself, does not give the impression of an elite project.

I tend to agree with Kvalshaug. Some of the critics seem to have got lost in profiles she has decided to follow so far. As long as she doesn't lose sight of the librarian from Trondheim I wouldn't be too worried. She seems to have used her Twitter account quite sensibly so far. But as said already, it is too early to make a judgment. Let's make another review a year from now on. It has been an interesting debate, though. And a serious discussion on the role the royal house and its members have or should have can never be wrong.

See also Views and News from Norway's article «Royal heir turns eight as mom ‘tweets’» (21 January 2012).


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post, the Royal Family of Norway is one of my favorites but I don't speak a word of Norwegian, this is the first time I hear of this debate.
    I guess I should add a disclaimer on my twitter account, I already have one at the blog, who knew my totally amateurish account could be mistaken by an official one? ;)