Skip to main content

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

By Meredith Artley, CNN
January 16, 2013 -- Updated 0329 GMT (1129 HKT)
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
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1424 GMT (2224 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2152 GMT (0552 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2121 GMT (0521 HKT)
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1354 GMT (2154 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the Ferguson protests reflect broader patterns of racial injustice across the country, from chronic police violence and abuse against black men to the persistent economic and social exclusion of communities of color.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1359 GMT (2159 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
August 16, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
August 17, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 2146 GMT (0546 HKT)
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2226 GMT (0626 HKT)
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2024 GMT (0424 HKT)
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2035 GMT (0435 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2308 GMT (0708 HKT)
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1525 GMT (2325 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT