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Joke About Paid Tweets Fools Media

Submitted by on November 6, 2011 – 5:32 pmOne Comment

News outlets and fans were fooled by actor Rainn Wilson‘s cryptic tweets last week about fast food chain Del Taco. And even though it’s now clear his insults against the restaurant’s food were a joke, no one knows whether Del Taco was in on the gag the whole time.

Wilson, better known as Dwight Schrute on NBC’s The Office, tweeted a message to “Joanne,” telling her that he would “accept $12,000 to plug [Del Taco's] shitty food.” Moments later, he tweeted that the previous tweet was meant to be a private message to his personal assistant. And only moments after that, Wilson tweeted that he was “Loving the new @DelTaco Macho Bellgrande Burrito!”

Social media news site Mashable then printed a story under the headline, “Rainn Wilson Caught In $12K Tweet For Pay?”

But others quickly realized Wilson was mocking celebrities who engage in such paid social media endorsements. (The phrase “Beeftacular,” followed by the “trademark” symbol, should have been a giveaway.) Mashable later changed the article’s headline to “Rainn Wilson Satirzes Paid Tweets,” and added an Editor’s Note about the episode.

Just to be perfectly clear about his intentions, Wilson later tweeted, “Joanne—please call @mashable & let them know they are a bunch of idiots. –Rainn,” before following up with a similar round of apologies and offering to take the Mashable staff to Del Taco.

But was Del Taco just an innocent bystander in Wilson’s statement, or were they in on the joke the whole time? Were they even paying Wilson to mock them for paying him? The restaurant is being coy on the matter.

“Holy Macho Burrito,” a spokesperson told ABC News, “this is a lot fuss! At Del Taco, we do not discuss our advertising or promotional contracts.”

Del Taco’s official Twitter feed later wrote, “Joanne—thanks for setting up the lunch with @RainnWilson—gift cards are on the way!”

But are paid tweet’s really as common and as blatant as Wilson makes them seem? According to USA Today, celebrities (mainly reality stars) can fetch anywhere from $2,000 to more than $10,000 for a single tweet. Ad.ly, a marketing firm that specializes in such work, lists everyone from Lindsay Lohan to business magnate Mark Cuban as one of their paid “Influncers.” Another firm, Izea, showcases a tweet from Holly Madison endorsing LuxGoddess.com.

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