Meet Carter Wilkerson. Carter really loves chicken nuggets, and his passion has made him the author of one of the most popular tweets of all time.

The 16-year-old from Reno, Nevada, has said it started out as a joke, when he tweeted fast food restaurant Wendy's: "Yo @Wendys how many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets?"

The answer was a shock. "18 million," joked the company's social media team, according to news.com.au.

Carter Wilkerson contacts Wendy's with a cheeky request.
Carter Wilkerson contacts Wendy's with a cheeky request.

But Carter took it seriously. "Consider it done," he replied, before sharing the exchange with the comment: "HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS."

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And Twitter has gone for it. Carter has 2.38 million retweets and is still gaining more as his story goes viral across the world.

The 18 million goal is an insane figure. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres has the popular tweet of all time with just 3.5 million retweets. Harry Styles is next with 2.4 million.

What no one could have imagined is that in just five days, Carter would be in third place.

While some have suggested it could be one huge marketing ploy, no one has yet found any evidence the teenage nugget fan is a fake.

In an interview with USA Today, Carter said: "I'm one of those people who isn't usually looking for attention. But since it started, it's been pretty cool. In school, it's fun because everyone knows about it."

His father J Wilkerson added thathe would like to see his son donate the nuggets to charity. "My wife and I think it's great if it has a great cause other than eating chicken nuggets for a year," he said. "It would be great to solve a life crisis. But also it's nice to have some whimsical news."

The teenager has released his own line of #NuggsForCarter T-shirt - with the money going to a good cause - and is working on recruiting celebrities to his mission.

Meanwhile, plenty of other brands have noticed the golden advertising opportunity and tried to jump on board.

United Airlines said it would give the young man a free flight to any Wendy's in a country it flies to if he reached his target.

A mobile phone provider said it would give Carter a year's free supply of nuggets "and more" if he switched services.

This is exposure that money can't buy.

Twitter has 313 million monthly active users, and Carter will need to be retweeted by 5.8 per cent of them.

He's set up a website, nuggsforcarter.com, in which he explains that he is "making twitter history" in trying to achieve the "outrageous" tally.

Wendy's declared itself "officially SHOOK" when he reached a million.

Others have been doing the maths. "There are 450 calories in 10 pack of nugs," tweeted Distractify writer Mark Pygas. "Assuming a diet of 2500 calories, that's 55.55555 nugs a day, or 20277 nugs for the year.

"That's 887 RTs per nug.

"If I get 887 RTs, can I have one nug?"

Another user worked out that if Carter had a daily medium nuggets option, it would cost Wendy's $650, whereas 18 million retweets is considered to be worth around $72,000.

If he achieves his goal, the teen says he'll enjoy his nuggets with honey mustard sauce, barbecue or ketchup.

Wendy's is known for its funny and irreverent social media presence. In January, it became involved in a sparring session with a Twitter user and won the argument - and a host of new fans - with its witty replies.

But it also ran into trouble for accidentally tweeting a meme associated with white supremacists.