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Nuggets of Social Media Know-How from Wendy’s

Wendy’s has been crushing it on social media lately. They’ve developed a well-deserved reputation as one of the sharpest, most on-target Twitter brands, and for good reason. Their sassy persona is a wonderful display of bold wit that’s largely lacking from the social landscape of major brands. They’re known for their speedy, quick-witted responses to everyday users, and even competitors, which their audiences are just eating up.

The fast-food chain’s success on Twitter shows the importance of maintaining a solid, consistent tone. The company thinks of its online voice as a “challenger with charm,” and with people lining up to get roasted by one of their all-in-good-fun tweets, it seems they’re onto something. Maybe @Wendys has taken the place of the late, great Don Rickles.

Wendy’s kicked off the year by firing back at an online troll who challenged their claim of never using frozen beef, an exchange that quickly went viral, leaving their challenger with a sick burn and bringing the world’s attention to their playful attitude. But even that paled in comparison with the viral response received by a tweet from earlier this month.

16-year-old Carter Wilkerson asked the brand how many retweets his tweet would need to receive for the company to grant him free chicken nuggets for a year. Without hesitation, Wendy’s replied, “18 Million.” Just weeks later, this simple conversation is on track to surpass the retweet record set by Ellen DeGeneres’ all-star Oscar-ceremony selfie, which had 3.3 million retweets.

In today’s next-big-thing internet, almost anything can go viral, and social customer support teams need to be prepared for both good and bad blow-ups. In this case, the Wendy’s social team’s quick throwdown of 18 million retweets was a fun but safe gesture — a year’s supply of nuggets is not a major risk to the fast food chain’s bottom line. They did their research and saw they were interacting with a genuine, nugget-loving teen. And while the goal seemed rather unattainable, Wendy’s jumped on the bandwagon once the tweet started to gain traction. In 13 days, it has become what seems like the most genuine accidental influencer campaign that was never intended to be.

What started as an everyday community engagement tweet has now turned into an internet phenomenon. With her retweet record in jeopardy, DeGeneres is supporting Wilkerson, provided she can keep her record at the same time (in a visit to her show, Carter said he’s happy to have his tweet take 2nd place). It’s resulted in friendly back-and-forth banter between Wendy’s and DeGeneres, with the retweet campaign spawning its own custom hashtag emoji and merchandise website.

Even better, this viral event looks to benefit those in need, going beyond a mindless social diversion and becoming a force for good. Wendy’s has committed to donating $100,000 to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption when the retweet record is broken. And other brands are jumping on the bandwagon, hoping some of this positive publicity will rub off: T-Mobile’s CEO offered Wilkerson a year of nuggets for switching to T-Mobile. Microsoft retweeted Wilkerson’s plea, and prompted Amazon and Google to do the same (which they did). Google Doodles even created a fun image to commemorate the event.

We’re witnessing an organic customer interaction that has truly resonated with audiences. Wendy’s accomplished this by creating an environment that values the average user, and not just influencers. This social-media juggernaut was spawned from a real, human conversation — and underscores the ongoing power of person-to-person engagement.


Retail Wendy’s” by is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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