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Royal Wedding: Twitter, ABC News team up to track chatter online

April 28, 2011 |  7:35 pm

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Britain's royal weddings are for many the stuff of fairy tales and story books.

But the marriage between Prince William and Kate Middleton, his college sweetheart, is also going to be written on Facebook and Twitter, too.

Millions of onlookers worldwide are expected to not only watch the wedding on TV, but also post on social media outlets about the event as it happens.

With Twitter, ABC News plans to track and influence the conversation as it happens on the popular microblogging platform. 

ABC News partnered with Twitter to create hashtags that ABC hopes viewers will use when reacting to the event as they watch it on TV or monitor it on the Internet.

Twitter and ABC came up with #RoyalMess and #RoyalSuccess to indicate a tweeter's opinion of "every guest and every dress," said Andrew Morse, ABC News Digital's executive producer for innovation.

And, of course, there is the first kiss of the couple as husband and wife -- quite possibly the biggest moment of the wedding, Morse said.

For that moment, taking place on the balcony of Westminster Abbey, ABC and Twitter are hoping Twitter users will tag their reactions with the hashtag #RoyalKiss.

"You can't control the conversation in every way, and the best part of any live event is the unexpected. And you have to roll with that," Morse said. "But we are professional journalists, and it's our job to know what the key events are and let our audience know about that.

"It's not different in any respect than an anchor or newspaper reporter saying, 'Here's something important coming, you should pay attention to it.' That's what we are trying to do with the hashtags and as other hashtags pop up organically, we'll roll with those, too."

The news gathering team of the broadcast network is also looking to capture its viewers' attention on Facebook. Messages posted on Facebook and Twitter will be read on the air, Morse said.

A Twitter Ticker" graphic will scroll across the bottom of the screen on ABC's TV broadcast of the wedding, displaying in real time the total number of tweets and a tweets-per-minute count from around the globe relating to the ceremony, he said.

"We've been thinking about how we can cover this event differently about as long as they've been engaged," Morse said. "Interestingly enough, Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement on Twitter."

That announcement came in November, when ABC News and Twitter began collaborating, he said.

"The fact is, we are using Twitter as an editorial tool," Morse said. "A tool we can use to engage our viewers, rather than something as a novelty. Twitter is a very real and valuable resource and Facebook is a very valuable resource, but we want to do more than just post links to our stories or have our anchors read tweets.

"Being on every platform in many respects now is the cost of doing business -- on TV, on our own website, on Twitter and Facebook, and whatever comes next. I think our audience has grown to expect that. And this all comes at a time when I think the mainstream media's approach to social media has been constantly evolving and maturing. And now we have this interesting and new opportunity to create this mosaic, this portrait, of what's going on as it happens."

Hashtags are the building blocks of that mosaic, he said, noting that hashtags give Twitter, and in this case ABC, a marker they can use to sort and group messages and see what people have to say.

In an emailed statement, Chloe Sladden, who lead's Twitter's media partnership team, said what ABC News is going to do during the royal wedding is cutting edge.

"ABC News is taking innovative steps towards integrating Twitter's real-time engagement into their coverage and storytelling," Sladden said.

The network's Twitter Ticker, she said, is a way to capture the world's excitement and measure of attention in the event.

Using and monitoring wedding-related hashtags, in a method that amounts to a polling of sorts, is "an engaging way of using hashtags to capture immediate audience opinion while also shaping and driving the conversation," Sladden said. "Since hashtags are hyperlinked on Twitter, they act as conversation organizers and entry points to shared experiences."

Morse said that while the royal wedding is ABC News' first effort to suggest hashtags to its viewers and is the initial launch of its Twitter Ticker, the network has plans to use similar coverage methods during other major events about sports, celebrities or politics.

"We have a megaphone, we have a TV program, and we'll be able to use our megaphone to do something unique for our viewers in the social media space," he said. "This certainly isn't a one off. Social media isn't a novelty anymore, and you can't treat it as such. It's not something you can even just do. You have to constantly iterate and push things forward, and that's what we're trying to do."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

 Photo: Prince William accompanied by his fiancee Kate Middleton, as they arrive at Witton Country Park in Darwen, England, on April 11. Credit: Tim Hales/AP Photo.

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