National / Media | Japan Pulse

Maezawa's offer of prize money for retweets sets Twitter abuzz

by Patrick St. Michel

Contributing Writer

Yusaku Maezawa has accomplished an awful lot in his life. He has founded a number of successful companies, including online fashion retailer Zozotown. He’s worth billions of dollars. He’s secured a trip to space to address one of humanity’s biggest problems — a lack of art inspired by being on the moon. Last week, however, he managed his finest hour, creating the most retweeted tweet in history.

Maezawa surpassed earlier historic posts such as “celebrities hanging out” and “guy wants chicken nuggets” by offering anyone who followed his account and retweeted a specific tweet the chance to win a significant amount of money. Following the success of Zozotown’s recent new year sale, Maezawa wrote that he would choose 100 random people who heeded his directions and gift them ¥1 million ($9,250) each. More than 5 million users jumped at the chance.

The opportunity to win free stuff has long been central to the modern online experience, from avenues to enjoy music and movies without opening up one’s wallet to the faint-but-slight chance of winning a jersey. Maezawa’s ad hoc lottery targeted precisely what people appear to want the most from such giveaways — money — and, given his status, it probably seemed more legitimate than the usual torrent of “Like and RT to win!” scams that appear on the platform.

As some users observed, the number of followers flocking to Maezawa’s account grew significantly soon after his announcement. BuzzFeed Japan wondered if this violated Twitter’s terms of service, as such could be construed as essentially buying followers, which would be a clear violation of its rules. BuzzFeed Japan asked Twitter, which said that such offers were OK. People creating multiple accounts for the sole purpose of winning, meanwhile … well, that’s still a gray area.

Poke around social media and you’ll find a few people digitally rolling their eyes at how seemingly desperate many were to win some cash. While there’s plenty of valid concern over this, it’s arguably also unfair to judge anyone for trying to win the prize, because it’s a nice chunk of change.  

Well, almost everybody. Celebrities of varying backgrounds also retweeted Maezawa’s post, sparking a number of divisive opinions because many assumed that these people didn’t need a few extra thousand in their pockets. TV personalities such as Kurochan and Chinatsu Wakatsuki got in on the action, the latter coming under some criticism for apparently joining Twitter for the sole purpose of winning the prize (that said, such a claim could easily be untrue, as Twitter handle @zozodaisukidesu certainly sounds like something a bot could have made). Comedian Panther Ogata dodged a lot of criticism — and actually won some sympathy — by posting that he could use the cash because his family had just had a baby and he would be paying for a house over the next 35 years. Unfortunately, Ogata does not appear to have won, so one can only assume he’ll have to keep on entertaining.

Maezawa closed the contest at the end of Jan. 7 and messaged the winners directly the following day (not before reminding everyone to watch out for fakes pretending to be him in order to get personal info). And it appears he kept his word, with recipients showing how he contacted them or flexing their bank books.

Those who didn’t win any money tried to guess how the winners were selected. While plenty of variances pop up, user @okera1127 found that many recipients of the cash proposed to use it in a charitable manner, and used their real name and photo on Twitter. Seeing as part of Twitter’s attraction in Japan is its anonymity, some expressed their frustration with this possibility. Then again, these people were up against more than 5 million other followers, so they probably shouldn’t take it all too personally.

Maezawa’s treasure might now be gone and the number of followers may plunge, but his spirit of giving has become something of a trend in itself on Twitter. Inspired by the stunt, everyone from the winners themselves to random folk holding wads of cash is attempting to get in on the act, offering something to random folk who follow and retweet.

Failing that, you can try to win ¥4 from another Twitter user who has lambasted this whole concept. It’s perhaps not a reliable way to boost overall net value, but I guess there’s always a chance.

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