Reuters Pictures/Gonzalo Fuentes

Its nearest online rival, New York, doesn’t even come close.

Paris just cemented its position as the most popular city in the world. On Twitter, anyway.

The French capital’s official account broke records when it surpassed the million-follower mark on Monday morning, making it the first city account to have done so. To honor the milestone, Paris has set up a website, 1million.paris, that features a time-lapse film of a drone flight over the city and a collection of tweets. A host of Parisian bigwigs have gone online to celebrate, starting with Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who opened the congratulations with this firework gif.

Paris’ Twitter success places it leagues ahead of its nearest competitor, New York City, which has so far managed just 444,000 follows. Perhaps slightly chastened by their transatlantic rival’s success, New York City bit back on Twitter (where else?), albeit with a riposte so self-consciously gentle it was clearly designed only to tickle.

If the gap between the two cities seems laughable, bear in mind that London has just 15,300 followers to its official account. If Paris’ huge Twitter following makes it a whale to New York’s dolphin, London is basically krill.

So why has Paris done so well online? Being one of the world’s most photogenic cities helps, and City Hall has shared some pretty memorable images. Take this one of the city hoisting a disco ball up beneath the skirt of the Eiffel Tower in the run up to Bastille Day celebrations:

Then there are simple, magical shots they’ve shared, like this one of the Seine quayside covered in fresh snow:

A slower uptake of Twitter in France may have helped Paris grab the valuable digital real estate that is @Paris. By the time many U.S. cities got around to establishing accounts, for instance, they found that their most obvious handle choices were already taken. To take an amusing example, the District of Columbia’s intuitive handle, @dc, was grabbed by a certain Dave Cohen.

More importantly, Paris has done of a brilliant job of creating a presence that feels like it belongs to the city rather than to people in office. It’s presented itself as a standard bearer for its beauty and culture instead of another propaganda mill.

Take, by contrast, London. Mayor Boris Johnson already has a huge social media presence—1.95 million people follow him on Twitter—that overshadows that of the city itself. But when you go to the city’s official account, you get not an iconic photo of the city but a logo saying “Mayor of London” in a strident Keep Calm and Carry On-style layout. When a city’s Twitter profile presents itself primarily as a platform for a showboating public figure, it’s no great surprise that few click the follow button.

Sadly, not all the reasons for Paris’ Twitter success have been cheerful. With the Charlie Hebdo shootings followed by the horrific November terror attacks, 2015 was a tragic, grisly year for the city. Rumors rattling around social media during these periods of crisis have often served to make people more, rather less anxious. Follower counts rose during these crises.

It’s hardly surprising that many Parisians turned to the city’s account as a source of instant information they feel they can actually trust. This backdrop makes Paris’ evident pleasure in its social media success heartening. After the grim year it’s had, Paris City Hall deserves reason for cheer.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A map of apartment searches in the U.S.
    Maps

    Where America’s Renters Want to Move Next

    A new report that tracks apartment searches between U.S. cities reveals the moving aspirations of a certain set of renters.

  2. a photo of yellow vest protesters in Paris, France.
    Equity

    To Understand American Political Anger, Look to ‘Peripheral France’

    French geographer Christophe Guilluy has a controversial diagnosis of working-class resentment in the age of Trump, Brexit, and the Yellow Vests.

  3. A cat lays flat on a bench at a park on the outskirts of Tokyo.
    Life

    Why Don't Americans Use Their Parks at Night?

    Most cities aren’t fond of letting people use parks after dark. But there are good lifestyle, environmental, and safety reasons to reconsider.

  4. A man walks by an abandoned home in Youngstown, Ohio
    Life

    How Some Shrinking Cities Are Still Prospering

    A study finds that some shrinking cities are prosperous areas with smaller, more-educated populations. But they also have greater levels of income inequality.

  5. A rendering of a co-living building in San Jose.
    Life

    The Largest Co-Living Building in the World Is Coming to San Jose

    The startup Starcity plans to build an 800-unit, 18-story “dorm for adults” to help affordably house Silicon Valley’s booming workforce.

×