How a teen and Wendy’s proved that social superfans work

A year after #NuggsforCarter, brands try to re-create the viral magic.

It has been a year since social media went crazy after Nevada teen Carter Wilkerson tweeted at Wendy’s to ask how many retweets he would need to win a year’s worth of chicken nuggets.

nuggs for carter

Wilkerson wasn’t an influencer by any means, just a 16-year-old who happened to really like Wendy’s. But Wendy’s ran with it, promising to give Wilkerson his nuggets if his tweet received 18 million retweets. Wilkerson’s tweet racked up 3.4 million retweets, breaking the record Ellen DeGeneres set with her 2014 Oscars selfie. It proved to be fruitful in boosting engagement. In six weeks, after Wilkerson appeared multiple times on DeGeneres’ show, Wendy’s earned 2.5 billion media impressions and 5 million mentions of Wilkerson’s quest for nuggets, increasing overall mentions of Wendy’s by 376 percent, according to Wendy’s.

Although Wendy’s didn’t invent the idea of tapping what marketers cringingly refer to as “superfans,” #NuggsForCarter proved to be a case study in how effective using an average Joe can be, and influencer agencies say that since then, they’ve seen an increase in brands taking this approach.

This week, Universal Studios released a video, created entirely from fan-submitted re-creations of favorite scenes from the original “Jurassic Park” movie, to promote the upcoming “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” In March, Emerald Nuts made a user’s review on Amazon into a tagline for its latest ad campaign, and in October, shoe brand Saucony found a graphic designer who ordered 36 identical pairs of Saucony Jazz shoes because he loved them so much, tapping him for an Instagram takeover.