The Anatomy Of A Viral Retweet For Wendy's Chicken Nuggets

How many critters can ride the tail feathers of a viral tweet? Let us recount, in the course of this story, all those aboard 16-year-old Carter Wilkerson’s fanciful flight to gain enough retweets of his quest for a year’s supply of Wendy’s chicken nuggets — from Ellen DeGenerous to the New York Times to in New Zealand to GoDaddy to a couple of charities to, ultimately, we assembled here and elsewhere around all manner of social media and water coolers.

Let’s back up. Wilkerson, the son of two dentists in Reno, Nev., and a junior track star and football-team captain for Bishop Manogue High School, “sent out a tweet back in April asking Wendy's how many retweets he needed to get free chicken nuggets for a year. Wendy's replied that he needed 18 million retweets to receive his nuggets,” reports Bryan Deibel for the track-and-field site MileSplitUSA.



“Wilkerson replied, ‘Consider it done.’ Then, he took an image of the whole thing and posted a desperate, chicken nugget-fueled plea for retweets. ‘HELP ME PLEASE,’ he wrote. ‘A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS,’” the Washington Post’s Abby Ohlheiser told us on April 10 in one of the first national MSM stories about the quest.

As every schoolboy social-media addict knows, Ellen Degeneres’ Samsung selfie at the 2014 Oscars has steadfastly held the all-time day record for retweets against all upstarts

But “as he closed in on Ms. DeGeneres’s record, passing other all-timers like Barack Obama and the members of One Direction, [Wilkerson] joined her on ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show.’ She gave him a new TV and a year’s supply of her branded underwear, but wasn’t ready to give up her title just yet,” reports Daniel Victor for the New York Times

“Toward the end of her reign on top of the charts, Ms. DeGeneres tried to play defense. She implored her followers to retweet Mr. Wilkerson, sure, but only if they also retweeted her. That way he could get his nuggs while she maintained her lead,” Victor continues. “Ms. DeGeneres created a mock public service announcement with Bradley Cooper, who took the famed selfie, in hopes she wouldn’t ‘lose that record to some chicken nugget kid.’”

Sarah Litz, of the Reno Gazette-Journal, picks up the story in a piece published yesterday on “#NuggsForCarter became the most retweeted tweet in Twitter history Tuesday morning, surpassing previous record-holder Ellen DeGeneres. By 9:30 p.m. ET, his plea for nuggs was retweeted 3,505,305 times.”

“It was an impressive feat for the … 'shy' high school student, who up until a month ago had only 138 followers of his own,” points out Dave Quinn for People Food.

“I woke up this morning, and I needed 300 more (retweets),” Wilkerson told Litz in an interview. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. It’s going to happen this morning.’ Then, it happened. I’m No. 1 now. It’s pretty mind-blowing.”

“You’ve more than earned our respect ... and the nuggets,” Kurt Kane, Wendy’s chief concept and marketing officer said in a statement, giving him a break on the roughly 14.5 million retweets not yet earned.

“Carter’s new site,, explains a bit about how the whole ‘nugget thing’ started, and even sells nugget fans merchandise,” a story on informs us. 

“On the site’s ‘About Me’ page, Carter reveals that when he was 9, his mother was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer, a mere two weeks after his younger sister was born. ‘I didn’t really know what was going on,’ he writes. ‘Just that it wasn’t good. Many friends and families in the area helped us out by making meals for us when we were busy with our chaotic life. Luckily, my mom was able to overcome her cancer. Her strength and faith has inspired me to this day.’”

Wilkerson is suggesting that his newfound followers — more than 114,000 of them as of this morning — donate to Pinocchio’s Moms on the Run, a Reno organization that supports women with breast cancer. In addition, Wendy’s is donating $100,000 to the Dave Thomas Foundation For Adoption.

A publicist for GoDaddy, meanwhile, sent out a pitch yesterday with the following news: “Carter and his mom knew they could buy a Web site domain name at GoDaddy and then found GoDaddy’s mobile Web site builder, GoCentral — which makes setting up ecommerce and fundraising pages a breeze. In no time, they had Carter’s Web site up and running to start raising money for causes near and dear to Carter and his family….”

We’ll spare you the quote from GoDaddy’s VP of commerce and email marketing; suffice it to say it is supportive of the good deeds.

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