Meet Mike Tague, the PR guy in that viral distorted wedding photo

We caught up with the communications manager to see how he's handling his 15 minutes of internet fame.

Last week, Mike Tague was just a communications manager at Kaplan. Now, a terrible picture of him at a wedding has gone viral, thrusting him into the world of social media stardom.

On November 10, Tague tweeted out the picture—which shows him sitting behind a glass, giving him what appears to be a shrunken head—with the caption, "OK, so did I do something to offend the wedding photographer?"

His tweet has been retweeted 63,000 times and liked 253,000 times.

Outlets such as Mashable, BuzzFeed, and HuffPost have covered the picture. Even U.K. publications, such as Metro and The Independent have written about it, and he ended up being featured on Twitter Moments on Monday.

We caught up with Tague to see how he has been handling his sudden 15 minutes of fame.

When did you realize your tweet had gone viral?
I regularly check Twitter. I noticed that it was getting past a couple thousand retweets. I started to water the garden of the tweet. I started to reply to it and add more commentary to it. But it took a couple of days for it to take off. There wasn’t a specific moment, there was just a continuous barrage, and my phone was going off the hook.

How were you ‘watering the garden?’
A tweet isn’t a one-and-done thing. When you see people interacting with it and enjoying it, there is an opportunity to reply to your own tweet to get it back up in the timeline and to reach out to people who liked it and say "thank you." I also did a Twitter poll to get people’s opinions. I think that people like to give their opinions. Encouraging people to share their opinions helped it take off. People were also doing fan art and Photoshops of the picture, so curating the best of the followers’ content helped it go more viral. That was what the reporters from BuzzFeed, Mashable, and HuffPost were interested in: how other people were responding to it in terms of Photoshops and fan art.  

Did any influencers share your tweet?
I use TweetDeck. So you can see who is verified and interacting with a tweet. There was a steady stream of influencers retweeting it. The biggest name that retweeted me was RuPaul. We are Twitter friends. I am a fan of his show Drag Race, and am always tweeting at him about the show and projects he is working on. We developed a friendship on Twitter. When he came to New York one time, he met me for coffee and another time I went to see the taping of the show in Los Angeles.

What has your experience dealing with media been like?
It is all organic. I think people are interested in it as a human interest, funny meme story. The funny thing is, there is no story. It is one photo that happened to be in the right place at the right time. It is not like I had any agenda in trying to get it out there. Outlets have reached out to me. I’ve had the opportunity to help them write the story because there is no story. So my main objectives have been getting across the point that I am not actually a deformed person, get more followers on social, and position myself as someone who can take a joke and is self-deprecating. I am trying to broaden my own presence online by having the ability to laugh about this.

Have you come across trolls or mean comments on social media?
The feedback has been almost 100% positive. I wasn’t expecting that. Social media has a reputation for anonymous trolling. The worst thing I have gotten is people don’t like bow ties. There hasn’t been gay bashing or homophobic tweets. Maybe because it is just a funny picture and I seem to have a good sense of humor about it and embraced the ugly image of it.

Are you doing anything else to capitalize on this?
This was a flash in the pan. I don’t know how you can use it as a meme going forward. I’ve gotten a thousand followers off this one picture. So as I continue to grow my follower base, it will increase my opportunities online.

Is Kaplan doing anything around this?
No plans at this time.

What are your takeaways, as a PR pro, from this experience?
You can always turn a negative into a positive. You can create a story from anything, because there was no story behind this. I was able to guide reporters to the story being very positive about my personal brand. On Twitter, a lot of people have a tendency to put out a tweet and it lives or dies. But using a variety of mediums—like I used photos, other people’s artwork, video, polls to boost it—and the story became about me interacting with others. There are a variety of tools within twitter you can use to re-engage with content.

Has this experience given you more insight into the world of social influencers?
Yes. One of my key learnings that if you put out something interesting, people will be creative in the way they respond to it. If you credit them and put it back out there to a wider audience, it generates even more response.

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