- Wendy's is providing 16-year-old Carter Wilkerson with a year's supply of its chicken nuggets after a tweet he posted broke the Twitter record for most retweets in the platform's history, now standing at 3.5 million, according to People. The previous record was held by Ellen DeGeneres' selfie from the 2014 Oscars ceremony.
- Wilkerson, who goes by the handle @carterjwm, asked Wendy’s how many retweets it would take to get a year of free chicken nuggets last month and the brand's official account responded with 18 million. Wilkerson then campaigned with a #NuggsForCarter hashtag that quickly went viral, picking up support from other brands like Microsoft and even celebrities.
- Along with the free nuggets, Wendy's is also making a $100,000 donation in Wilkerson's name to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS pic.twitter.com/4SrfHmEMo3— Carter Wilkerson (@carterjwm) April 6, 2017
Wendy’s and Wilkerson together have turned what could have been a small social media moment into one of the more viral Twitter sensations ever. Wendy's could've easily ignored the initial request for nuggets — or simply told Wilkerson that it wasn't going to happen — but, in responding to the tweet with a set a goal, however unrealistic or cheeky, the brand's managed to stay at the top of the social conversation at almost no cost and has also become a part of platform history.
Perhaps acknowledging that Wilkerson's campaign has provided an immense brand awareness lift, Wendy's lifted the 18 million retweet goal to give Wilkerson his nuggets anyway, essentially ceding him the win. The whole phenomenon highlights how social media and Twitter, in particular, are key places where brands can drive conversation, though it's easy to fall flat with tone-deafness or misguided efforts.
It is also possible that Wendy's gave Wilkerson his nuggets in order to take the wind out of the phenomenon. Now that he has reached his goal, it will be harder for Wilkerson to sell T-shirts and otherwise continue to build a marketing program that is closely associated with Wendy's even though the brand has little control over the messaging.
Overall, it appears that Wendy's played the viral sensation in a smart way, staying largely hands-off once Wilkerson's campaign got serious legs. The teachable moment here isn't that virality can be engineered, but rather that paying close attention to social chatter and direct engagement can occasionally result in a major win.
The moment hasn't been free from controversy, however. Wilkerson's success started a "How many retweets" trend that gave a number of brands major headaches as followers pleaded for free products and services. Wilkerson's conversation itself got political when he @ replied the page Meninist, which drew criticism from progressives following the conversation.