Move over, Kodiak. There’s another famous bird in town.
Duo, the green owl mascot for language learning company Duolingo, is trending on TikTok. Though the education tech company has been on the social media platform since February, its profile has gained new traction following Duo’s very cute Times Square appearance after the company’s initial public offering in July.
Since then, Duolingo social media managers have posted new videos of the owl with employees back in the company’s East Liberty office, which reopened in September. From clips of Duo jokingly chasing employees through the space to clapbacks in reply to users saying they prefer Google Translate to a mild obsession with Dua Lipa, the company’s social media coordinator Zaria Parvez has helped Duolingo’s TikTok go from around 50,000 followers to over 1.3 million in a matter of weeks.
“A big part of Duolingo is that we make language learning fun, and I think that quality specifically was such an awesome opportunity to link to TikTok because TikTok is meant for entertainment, it’s meant for people to have fun. Brands are there to entertain, they’re not just there to sell. Brands that try selling things don’t really tend to resonate, but if they entertain, people love it,” Parvez told the Pittsburgh Business Journal in a recent interview. “We kind of saw this natural link where we have this whole idea that language learning is fun. Why don’t we strategically use a platform that’s meant for fun to push that idea?”
Duolingo isn’t the first to use the app for a unique form of brand awareness. Pittsburgh’s own Carnegie Museum of Natural History has also seen massive user engagement with its series of snail jokes from Tim Pearce, the mollusk collection curator. But rather than centering on the museum’s strategy of creating completely original jokes for the app, Parvez takes advantage of trending sounds or memes on TikTok and applying them to Duolingo, usually something to do with the app’s persistent reminders to users to complete their lessons.
While there isn’t necessarily a direct translation from increased TikTok views and likes to increased Duolingo users, Parvez and other marketing employees at the company shared that it helps the app communicate its message to new and younger audiences who frequent TikTok. As the company continues to navigate the post-IPO world with plans for expansion into education tech beyond language learning, both maintaining and increasing its explosive usage during the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic will be vitally important, whether it comes from new product rollouts or funny videos of someone in a big green owl costume.
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Knowledge is power!
Subscribe for free today and stay up to date with news and tips you need to grow your career and connect with our vibrant tech community.