Move over, Ellen: Nugget Boy's tweet is most retweeted ever

Nevada teen's tweet to Wendy's pleading for a year of free nuggets is now the most retweeted, surpassing Ellen DeGeneres' Oscar selfie.

Terry Collins Staff Reporter, CNET News
Terry writes about social networking giants and legal issues in Silicon Valley for CNET News. He joined CNET News from the Associated Press, where he spent the six years covering major breaking news in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the AP, Terry worked at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Kansas City Star. Terry's a native of Chicago.
Terry Collins
2 min read

"Nugget Boy" Carter Wilkinson takes a selfie with Ellen DeGeneres during a visit to her talk show.

"Nugget Boy" has made Twitter history.

Carter Wilkerson's tweet begging Wendy's for a free one-year supply of chicken nuggets has become the most retweeted tweet of all time at 3.43 million and counting, surpassing Ellen DeGeneres' famous 2014 Oscars selfie, Guinness World Records said Tuesday.

It began when the 16-year-old from Reno, Nevada, jokingly asked the fast-food chain on April 5 how many retweets it would take to get the nuggets. Wendy's replied with an absurd 18 million, spurring the hashtag #NuggsforCarter and an emoji.

The tweet went viral instantly, reaching more than a million retweets in two days. Wilkerson also gained fame as he was mentioned in tweets by celebrities, politicians and strangers.

Soon, companies including United Airlines and T-Mobile began offering Wilkerson free stuff. Check out the tweet from T-Mobile CEO John Legere:

Silicon Valley also jumped in with Google, Amazon and Microsoft joining in support of Wilkerson's free nuggets' goal. The #NuggsforCarter challenge attracted a wide audience ranging from gamers, political junkies and pop culture enthusiasts, according to Affinio, which analyzes social media platforms.


Affinio says the #NuggsforCarter" Twitter campaign attracted a wide swath of followers.


"It's definitely unique and admirable how much traction he's been able to get," said Affinio spokeswoman Maura Woodman about Wilkerson. "Remember Ken Bone (the bright-red sweater guy from the presidential debate)? He lasted about seven days. Carter Wilkerson is getting way more mileage."

Wilkerson's challenge also spawned a website, cartervsellen.com, to track the challenge. As the teen saw his Twitter account spike from 138 followers on April 1 to now more than 105,000 (and earning a blue verification badge), the social network even kept count:

But Wilkerson decided to take the attention a step further and made #NuggsforCarter into a fundraising campaign. He created custom T-shirts promoting the campaign with all proceeds going to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. He's encouraged his Twitter followers to also donate to Pinocchio's Moms on the Run, a Reno-based organization that provides support services to women with breast cancer and their families.

The "engaging presence" Wilkerson has was key to the viral success of his campaign, said Lizz Kannenberg, Director of Content at Sprout Social, a social media management platform for businesses.

On her talk show, DeGeneres chatted about her record possibly being broken by "Nugget Boy" a week after Wilkerson's plea, when his tweet reached 2.6 million retweets.

"Stop it right now," she joked. "I worked so hard to set that record ... and this guy asked for nuggets?"

Wilkerson eventually appeared on her show and the two posed for a selfie together.

Now, with the retweet record broken, Wendy's said it would indeed give Wilkerson free chicken nuggets for a year, even though he's far from 18 million retweets. Wendy's also said it would donate $100,000 in his name to the Dave Thomas Foundation.

First published May 9, 9:01 a.m. PT.
Update, 12:30 p.m.: Adds comment from social media analysis expert.

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