Inside the weird world of the accidentally Twitter famous

Don't tweet @Velveeta about Super Bowl queso
Don't tweet @Velveeta about Super Bowl queso

The great Super Bowl Velveeta shortage of 2014 -- otherwise known as #cheesepocalypse -- was a stressful time for queso lovers nationwide. But the lack of available "cheese product" didn't affect anyone as much as Richard Lindsey or Brandon Kraft.

Lindsey and Kraft are members of an exclusive social media community. They were among the earliest to jump on the Twitter bandwagon and snagged their handles - @velveeta for Richard and @kraft for Brandon -- before their respective brand names caught on to the platform.

Today, Kraft the company tweets from the handle @KraftFoods. And Velveeta? They're stuck with @EatLiquidGold.

"People were flooding stores, and trying to buy up as much Velveeta as they could to make sure that they could get theirs, and people were tweeting about cheesepocalypse," Lindsey said. "My inbox certainly did get flooded at that time."

Kraft said people were tweeting at him non-stop for a week or two before the Super Bowl.

"I simply had to uninstall Twitter," he said.

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The two cheese product purveyors aren't alone. Chipotle's handle is @ChipotleTweets, because @Chipotle was already taken. The same goes for companies like Advil, Trident and LEGO. The phenomenon isn't even limited to corporations -- celebrities and public figures can have their social media identities scooped out from under them as well.

Chip Kelly joined Twitter as @chipkelly in 2008. When another Chip Kelly became the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013, his mentions skyrocketed.

"When he went to the NFL, it was a whole new world," Kelly said. "Every week it became a game with my friends, like 'What's the best one you got? Send us the tweet of the week.' And then it just got to be too much to keep up with."

Coach Chip Kelly doesn't actually have a Twitter account, but that doesn't stop football fans from trying to reach him online. When he was fired by the Eagles at the end of the 2015 regular season, the Twittersphere exploded -- as did Kelly's mentions.

"When he got fired, I was on vacation with my family, and my father-in-law stuck his head out the door and said, 'Chip Kelly just got fired,' and as he said it, I felt my phone going off in my pocket."

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At first glance, creating a social media persona that a major corporation or public figure might want in the future seems like a brilliant stroke of business genius. After all, domain name squatting can be lucrative if you have the right amount of luck and foresight. But Twitter's terms of service forbid the buying and selling of usernames -- so unless you're willing to risk getting kicked off the network, you won't get rich from handle squatting.

Lindsey (@velveeta) said Twitter intervened after he had sent the real Velveeta a message, jokingly asking if the company wanted to buy his handle. He said he never brought it up again.

"Velveeta" has been Lindsey's online identity for more than twenty years, ever since he used the moniker as a username for an online role play game. The name of his clan? The Special Cheese Forces.

Kraft said he would have been willing to part with the username for the right dollar amount, had it not been for those pesky terms of service. Kraft Foods actually did reach out to him, but instead of violating Twitter's terms of service with a cash reward, Kraft Foods offered Brandon Kraft a gift basket.

"A really nice one, but just a gift basket," Kraft said.

Even though there isn't any money in it, the accidentally famous Twitter stars all say the same thing about their fame -- that they won't be changing their handles to avoid the mistweets and mistaken followers.

"I look at it kind of like Michael Bolton and the movie 'Office Space,'" says Kraft. "'Why should I change my name? He's the one who sucks.' I don't think Kraft sucks, but it's my name, so why should I get rid of it?"

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