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Eighteen-year-old Harrison McNeill made bean jokes on Twitter for fun. Now it’s his job

Why Bush’s Beans hired a college freshman who ran a meme account to be its Brand Twitter

Eighteen-year-old Harrison McNeill made bean jokes on Twitter for fun. Now it’s his job
[Photo: kreatikar/Pixabay; courtesy of Bush’s]

Harrison McNeill started his @goodbeanjokes Twitter account in 2018 while on spring break from the 11th grade.

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The goal? There was no goal.

It was a joke.

The feed eventually started playfully hanging with Brand Twitter and ended up attracting popular accounts like Steak-Umm and MoonPie as followers, along with more than 61,000 others.

But last week, when McNeill tweeted at Bush’s Beans, he got an answer he didn’t quite expect.

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Two hours later:

Yep, the Tennessee-based grocery-store staple actually hired the Florida-based teen. Agency Tombras was behind the move, the same creative shop which runs the popular MoonPie account. So it knows a thing or two about boosting the profile of a niche brand using a unique social personality.

Turns out, Bush’s Beans’ hiring of McNeill wasn’t the fairy-tale, spur-of-the-moment story it seemed to be on Twitter.

But it’s no less a Brand Twitter fairy-tale.

Graduation present

Tombras first got in touch with McNeill just as the teen was getting ready to graduate high school. Agency president Dooley Tombras says they’d been laughing at @goodbeanjokes for months. McNeill kept replying to the agency’s MoonPie tweets, and it got to the point where they started looking forward to the replies.

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“Eventually, I asked (Tombras social media creative director) Patrick Tice to DM @goodbeanjokes and feel out who it was and find out if they’d be open to talking about working for us,” says Tombras. “You have to remember that we didn’t know anything about who ran the account, but we said let’s take a shot. So Patrick comes back and says, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news was that it’s a guy named Harrison and he lives in Florida and he’s interested in talking about working with us. The bad news is that he’s still in high school!’ That was a little over a year ago and we decided to wait and reach back out when Harrison started college.”

McNeill got the call while he was at the gym. “I’m literally, like, sweating and have no idea what to expect, and they told me they wanted to hire me, not for Bush’s or anything, but just to be a writer on a bunch of different accounts,” says McNeill. “It was crazy. I went up to visit, and they hired me.”

Tombras says they initially hired McNeill to work on several brand accounts, but once they told Bush’s they’d hired the @goodbeanjokes guy, the ball was rolling. “Several weeks after Harrison graduated, he’s sitting in our conference room across the table from an iconic national CPG brand discussing social media strategy,” says Tombras. “We laid out what the possibilities could be, and Bush’s was willing to try it out.”

Mr. Bean

Kate Rafferty, Bush’s digital consumer experience manager, says working with McNeill was a no-brainer. “We’re fortunate to have very loyal consumers and a lot of heart for our brand,” says Rafferty. “(He’s) is the perfect person to harness that because he might be the only person on the planet as passionate about our beans as we are.”

McNeill’s hiring and its rollout on Twitter late last week ended up boosting Bush’s Beans follower account by 15%, generated more than a million impressions, and became the brand’s most popular single tweet ever.

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While he’s working at Tombras, McNeill is still going to college, though he decided to change his major. “I was going to do poli sci, but then this opportunity came around, and I got a tip from the team at Tombras that maybe I should consider marketing,” says McNeill. “I started at Florida State University a couple weeks ago, studying Business Marketing.”

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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