Skip to main content

Letter from the editor: How to get 10 million followers on Twitter

By Meredith Artley, CNN
updated 10:29 PM EST, Tue January 15, 2013
CNN's @cnnbrk Twitter account hit 10 million followers on Monday.
CNN's @cnnbrk Twitter account hit 10 million followers on Monday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • @cnnbrk surpassed the 10-million-follower mark Monday
  • Managing Editor Meredith Artley says the CNN Twitter account started small
  • Ashton Kutcher challenged CNN to a competition to reach 1 million; he won
  • Artley: CNN thanks its many followers and @cnnbrk founder James Cox

Editor's note: Meredith Artley (@MeredithA) is the managing editor for CNN Digital.

(CNN) -- CNN marked a milestone Monday. Just before noon, the @cnnbrk account topped 10 million followers on Twitter. That puts our Twitter account in the company of Lady Gaga, President Barack Obama and Cristiano Ronaldo.

To mark the occasion, it's worth reflecting how we got here.

The first tweet on @cnnbrk wasn't news, and it wasn't written by an employee of CNN.

"Testing" is what James Cox tweeted in January 2007.

Cox said he started the account as a way to receive CNN's breaking news alerts on his phone. The account started to grow and gain attention. Journalist and fellow developer Brian Boyer posted this to his blog back in 2008: "@cnnbrk ain't CNN but with >30K followers, he owns the brand."

Cox wrote a response to that post: "I've been in contact with CNN -- they won't sue, i'm fairly sure, however i'm constantly dealing with the problem of confusion -- users still think that @cnnbrk is an official feed, therefore making me a defacto CNN employee, which is a problem."

We didn't sue, but we did work out a deal to get the handle.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



As we celebrate reaching the 10-million-follower mark, Cox is the first person we should thank.

The second person to thank, naturally, is Ashton Kutcher. In 2009, he challenged CNN to a competition to see who could first reach 1 million followers. Kutcher won. At more than 13 million followers, @aplusk is still in the lead. And we're still coming after him.

We have a simple approach to @cnnbrk, and we believe that's one of the keys to its success. Breaking news, from an organization that built its brand on breaking news. Straight up.

Some of our most retweeted items include colorful observations from events such as last year's conventions, slightly offbeat news and old-fashioned big breaking news.

This isn't to say we aren't still "testing."

We haven't always been first. It's rare that we get it wrong, but when we do, we've tried to be transparent about it. We believe that's another key to our success.

And we have a dash of fun on occasion.

The CNN homepage team has managed @cnnbrk for the past three years, hand-crafting every tweet, 24-7, mostly from our home base in Atlanta. They deserve the bulk of the cake and Champagne for this latest accomplishment. That team is headed by Carl Lavin (@FromCarl), our lead homepage editor. Lila King (@lilacina), our senior director for social news, is a spirit guide over all of CNN's social media efforts.

"B-R-K," in newsroom shorthand, isn't the only Twitter account at CNN. We have more than 100. Our second most popular account is @cnn, and it's no small fry with more than 7 million followers. What's the difference between @cnnbrk and @cnn? On @cnn, you'll find breaking news -- and lots more.

Some of our biggest and brightest names and shows have active, highly followed accounts. Many of our sections and beats, such as @cnnopinion, have their own accounts.

The news team at Twitter called @cnnbrk the "Lady Gaga" of news. Some of the staff is now suggesting that we wear meat dresses to work. Instead, we'll thank those who got us started, tweet a thank you to all 10 million of our followers, and press on to 11, 12, 13 million and beyond.

Lila King and Carl Lavin contributed to this piece and deserve an extra slice of cake for their efforts.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery support the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 1:10 PM EDT, Sat April 19, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
updated 7:23 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT