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
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 1650 GMT (0050 HKT)
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1852 GMT (0252 HKT)
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT