A group of twentysomethings in Manchester are taking over Twitter in Britain, and making hundreds of thousands of pounds in the process. But there are questions they need to answer about possible large-scale plagiarism and less than savoury advertising practices.
Luke Bailey / BuzzFeed
It only takes 26 minutes for the staff of Social Chain to push #YouKnowYoureBritishWhen to the top of Twitter's UK-wide trending list. By the time the hashtag dies down a few hours later, it will have appeared in nearly 40,000 tweets.
"OK, it's trending," Dom McGregor says nonchalantly. The 21-year-old co-founder of the company doesn't sound particularly fazed by the news.
None of the other people present, huddled around computers in a bland temporary office in the heart of Manchester, are particularly bothered, either. Launching UK-wide trends is familiar territory for Social Chain employees, almost all of whom are in their early twenties – or younger. One of the company's content creators, Hannah Anderson, will tweet later that day about the hashtag, saying they did it "for the craic".
Social Chain's Twitter accounts are diverse, massive, and familiar to many British internet users. Fitness Motivation has 1.68 million followers, Friends Reactions has 154,000, British Logic has 198,000, and Primary School Problems has 371,000. There are many, many more. Their tweets are often rounded up by other websites, including BuzzFeed.
Despite only having been going for just over two years, Social Chain's influence over British social media is remarkable. The founders estimate that they own and control between 200 and 300 Twitter accounts, settling on 220 after some discussion. They also claim to be able to post from an even larger group of accounts they do not own but have relationships with – and say they can also use celebrities and YouTube stars to push their marketing messages when necessary.
As a result, Social Chain can start a trend and direct the conversations of thousands of Twitter users with remarkable ease. This daily viral trick has not just helped them take over the British internet, it's earned them hundreds of thousands of pounds in the process. But this success has also been accompanied by numerous accusations of large-scale plagiarism and potentially troubling advertising practices.