The CIA created a Twitter account, and their first tweet was awesome

The CIA launched a Twitter account last week, and much to the surprise of everyone, sent out a first (and second) tweet that were really, really funny:

The tweet earned the CIA international media coverage, with most outlets noting that the tweet was surprisingly funny for an organization that isn’t exactly known for it’s humor.  The tweet also had a huge viral lift, being retweeted over 260,000 times and favorited over 150,000.  That’s a pretty incredible number for any organization’s first tweet.

Naturally, there was some backlash.  Gawker, for example, went after the media for fawning over the CIA’s first tweet, compiling a record of the positive news coverage on the CIA’s first tweet and calling them “dumb motherf!@#$%s.”

For the record, at least as far as I am concerned: Gawker is wrong, and the media is right.  The CIA’s first tweet was awesome for reasons that goes well beyond humor.  Here’s why:

  1. Self-deprecation:  The government isn’t known for poking fun at itself, and the CIA certainly falls into that category.  A tweet like this can help to create positive perceptions of any organization, which, in turn, helps to build followers.
  2. The media coverage:  As noted by Gawker and briefly reviewed by me, the first tweet literally resulted in international media coverage.  Any organization looking to start Twitter would kill for press like this.  You can get angry at the CIA for a million reasons, but you can’t deny that the tweet was effective: as I type this, the CIA has over 510,000 followers.  In less than a week.
  3. The viral lift: This has to be one of the most popular first tweets of all time, if not THE most popular first tweet ever.  Are people fawning over it?  That’s pretty good for the CIA!

By the way, these reasons and more all go back to one core point: strategically, this was brilliant.  It created a ton of buzz and helped to get the CIA over half a million followers in under a week.  Forget the humor, forget the “cuteness,” forget everything else, from a purely strategic perspective, this tweet was great and served it’s purpose of creating a ton of buzz and generating at on of followers.

What do you think – do I have this right?  Let me know in the comments!


One Comment

  1. I see why the media might have found it positive / interesting, but I also can see why the media might receive criticism for fawning. While I found the tweet pretty funny, I was also a little concerned about the attention it received, mostly because it highlights to me how little I’ve heard about substantive issues involving the CIA from the media lately. We as a country rely on the media to provide us with serious news coverage of serious subjects, and one of those is arguable the CIA, one of the most notoriously secret government agencies that is also not known for stellar behavior in the past. I think the backlash is less against the tweet — or even the CIA itself — and more about media becoming the next “opiate for the masses”, so to speak. We won’t tell you about the CIA, but hey, check out this cute kitten!


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