Viral. Once a word that was solely related to illnesses, has gained a new meaning in the digital age. Since the internet sensations Charlie Bit My Finger and David After Dentist, viral can refer to the rapid circulation of an image, video or content that is shared on the internet.

Remember when the world was abuzz about a blue and black dress… or was it white and gold?

Whatever the case, the newest online commotion belongs to Carter Wilkerson, a 16-year-old from Nevada who tweeted fast food restaurant Wendy’s and jokingly asked how many retweets he needs in exchange for free chicken nuggets for a year.

Wendy’s, whose social media presence regularly receives attention for their quick comebacks and sometimes controversial content, replied with a mere 18 million. Seems a bit far fetched no? Well, Carter accepted the challenge and that was just the beginning.

Fast forward less than two weeks later and the teenager has been mentioned on major news outlets, appeared on Ellen, has a trending hashtag featuring a custom emoji, received a Google Doodle made of nuggets and even started a new t-shirt line benefiting Wendy’s own Dave Thomas Foundation. Not to mention he still has his eyes on the prize! His now verified Twitter account has a post currently standing at 3.1 million retweets, just 300k shy of beating the most retweeted posted ever held by Ellen DeGeneres from the 2014 Oscars.

Having a viral moment in the marketing world is like finding the golden ticket to chocolate factory. The monetary value alone is not even close in comparison. A post surfaced explaining the cost and “assuming the kid gets the medium nugget option for 365 days, the whole year’s worth is valued at $650. Operating at a conservative 25% margin, this would cost Wendy’s $487.50. But 18,000,000 retweets is, according to one service, worth $72,000 – and that’s without any of the media promotions.”

Wendy’s isn’t the only company benefiting from this. Other brands are trying to capitalize on the popularity of Carter’s quest. United, who recently made headlines for their own – not so pleasant – viral moment, offered him a free flight to any Wendy’s in the world that the airline travels to should he reach his goal.

We often hear clients say they want their content to go viral. While no one knows the secret recipe it takes to grab the attention of the social media universe, what we do know is that a strategically planned online presence can increase your brand awareness and engagement, and that a truly viral moment starts with engagement.

Let Spry develop your social media strategy today! Who knows, maybe you could be the next viral sensation.