The videos on TikTok may be funny, but the marketing strategies that revolve around it are quite serious on the contrary. What is behind the dances, the lip syncing and the challenges?
Video sharing and social networking platform TikTok has had a meteoric rise over the past year. Founded in 2016, TikTok currently has more than a billion users established in 150 different countries and thanks to this extremely rapid growth, it offers a huge potential for marketing.
A unique tone of voice
The tone used on TikTok is lighter than on other social networks. The video clips of a maximum of three minutes are humorous and often accompanied by musical excerpts. Trends quickly spread thanks to a powerful algorithm unique to the application. This makes it a one-of-a-kind platform, where it is possible for companies to build brand affinity.
@duolingo every time you open Google Translate, I lose a feather. #duolingo #swiftok #enchanted #languagelearning #trend #brandtok #comedy ♬ Enchanted Taylor Swift – Kaylen
This is particularly the case with Duolingo – an app for free language learning. The platform has been able to stand out on TikTok recently by adopting the self-deprecating sense of humor of Generation Z. This allowed Duolingo to amass an impressive 2.3M subscribers on its TikTok account, as well as several million views on its latest videos.
@duolingo CAN YOU GUYS JUST LIKE THIS SO I CAN GO HOME EARLY #Duolingo #comedy #trend #DuaLipa #workplace #milennials #gamergoals ♬ оригинальный звук – _malifisenta007_
According to Duolingo’s 2020 Language Report, 30 million new users decided to learn a new language as a result of the pandemic. Being confined at home has given people the opportunity to finally learn another language, something many have wished to do for a long time. This growing demand prompted Duolingo to devote more attention to social media, particularly TikTok, to differentiate itself from its competitors.
In September 2021, Duolingo began experimenting with new ways to use its TikTok account to engage more followers. The company added two major new twists to its content strategy: featuring more of the company’s green owl mascot, Duo, in videos, and hopping on popular audio trends.
@duolingo This is an SOS #DuolingoEmployee #owltok #livelaughlove #helpme #imscared ♬ original sound – k a r l
The onscreen video caption, “when you’re just tryna do your work without being terrorized by an owl” was a reference to an older meme that portrayed Duo as a dangerous teacher who often threatened users who didn’t complete their daily lessons.
Duolingo soon released another video featuring the Duo’s green owl, using an audio trend that sings out the word “cap” – often used on TikTok to imply that someone is lying. The onscreen caption “I’m going to do my Spanish lesson today” was a shoutout to users who told themselves that they would complete a daily lesson on Duolingo and eventually end up doing nothing at all.
@duolingo Listen…you’re only playin’ yourself 🧢 #cap #run #bescared #comedy #duolingo ♬ original sound – Ladainian Howard
This whimsy new approach to content strategy has resulted in increased engagement, proving that TikTok users value unhinged content. In November, the brand’s TikTok account passed the 1 million follower milestone, with a 1,900% increase in just over a month, and had higher reach and engagement compared to other brands active on the platform like Starbucks and Fortnite.
Duolingo speaks TikTok’s language
Duolingo’s success is no luck, but rather the product of a coherent strategy. Besides its success in coming up with creative content ideas, Duolingo also seems to be good at playing the TikTok comment game.
In response to the Duolingo TikTok team’s question about what kind of snack to bring to the weekly meeting, Chick-fil-A (whose founder is vocal opponent of gay marriage) commented, “Bringing a nugget tray to share. What sauces would y’all like?” Shortly after, Duolingo responded, “Rainbow sauce only plz” and TikTok went wild.
@alexa.23231 #greenscreen I’ve never loved @Duolingo so much #gaypride #pan #chickfilahomo #gay #loveislove #lgbtq ♬ origineel geluid – Andre Felipe
TikTok has started to revolutionize the digital strategy of brands aiming to attract an ever-young audience. Through TikTok, brands have the opportunity to open up to a very young audience, whose average age is between 16 and 24. The key to success is understanding the characteristics of this demographic. Their purchases are not dictated by the lowest price or by the fashion of the moment. Instead, Gen Z links their purchasing decisions with deeper factors such as authenticity, brand purpose, values, sustainability and inclusivity. The communication method on the platform is also totally different from what we usually see in other social networks. The narrative style is dynamic and energetic, the videos are short and of strong impact.
Keep in mind that in about 10 years Generation Z will be people with great purchasing power and quite recurring purchasing habits, so it would be wise for companies from different industries to start using TikTok by tailoring innovative content to the platform.
It’s all about creativity!
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