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Never Knowingly Undershared

The story of how I went viral entirely by accident, and gained a patient man in Virginia over 3,500 new Twitter followers in a night.


  1. My story begins with the release of the 2013 Christmas advert for the British retailer John Lewis. The chain of upmarket department stores, whose slogan is “Never Knowingly Undersold”, produces a heart-warming festive film for their annual seasonal sales push.

    This year's ad is set in a wintry woodland wonderland, and stars an excitable hare alongside a sleepy bear:
  2. John Lewis Christmas Advert 2013 - The Bear & The Hare
  3. The advert was released on YouTube and shared via Twitter the day before its national TV début, during the first commercial break of ITV's The X Factor. Keen to add my voice to the growing chorus of users sharing their thoughts on the ad, I hastily composed the following tweet – and made a schoolboy error:
  4. Have you spotted my social slip-up? It turns out that @JohnLewis isn't actually the Twitter account of John Lewis the retail store. Rather, it's the personal account of a man from Virginia whose name is – you guessed it! – John Lewis.

    And he is very patient.
  5. Very patient. In fact, he sent similarly personal replies to everyone who had mistaken him for the ‘other’ John Lewis:
  6. Things really picked up for John the following night, when the advert was broadcast on TV.
  7. I noticed that John was still fighting valiantly to direct hordes the way of @johnlewisretail, and that a couple of users had added his response to my initial error to their favourites.

    Delighted by his continued East Coast charm, I sent the following tweet.
  8. I then sent one final tweet, alerting the brilliant copywriter Holly Brockwell (@hollybrocks) to my preceding post as I thought it was something she would enjoy.

    Achievement unlocked: virality

    After Holly retweeted the post to her audience of nearly 5,000 Twitter users, things started to take off. Fast. My mobile started to ping repeatedly. Waves upon waves of blue notifications washed across my monitor. The post had gone viral, ending up with over 225 retweets and more than 60 favourites.

    The snowball which had been tumbling down the hill and growing in circumference began to split apart. Each child snowball carried on rolling, so now multiple tweets with dozens of retweets were reporting the @johnlewis story.
  9. Journalists and broadcasters shared the story.
  10. Then major feeds joined the party. Millions of users were seeing @johnlewis appear in their timelines.