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Whooo’s at the Door? - It’s Duo from Duolingo!


Hello! 你好! 안녕! Bonjour! Merhaba! These are just some of the ways to say Hello in languages around the world, all of which can be learned on Duolingo - a popular language learning website and mobile app. Since its launch in 2011, Duolingo now has over 500+ million users globally with 37 language courses that people can choose to learn from. However, these days the app’s users aren’t the only ones learning. Rather, Duolingo and its furry owl mascot “Duo” have also been learning a new language - the language of TikTok.


Blending traditional digital marketing channels such as social media with guerilla tactics (like its owl mascot), Duolingo has quickly found its way onto the “For You Pages” of over millions of users in the new, highly engaging world of TikTok. Unlike established companies that typically use this short-form video platform to reupload existing content from Instagram and Facebook to sell their products, Duolingo takes a more effective approach by directly playing into key trends and audios that pokes fun at its audience base and brand. This allows Duolingo to actively engage and attract new learners in a less corporate and more playful manner that stands out from the crowded market.


According to an interview from NBC News with Zaria Parvez (the social media manager behind Duolingo’s TikTok account), her team was inspired by the Duolingo Owl mascot costume after their return to office earlier this Fall. Coupled with their knowledge of a popular meme that presented Duo the Owl as an “evil” and “stalkerish” mascot (that sends learners phone notification reminders whenever they didn’t complete their course tasks) they were able to translate this information into viral content.


One of Duolingo’s most viewed videos with over 6.5 million views draws upon the latest “Green Light, Red Light” game trend from the popular movie Squid Game in which Duo the Owl chases a group of employees for using Google Translate. This video not only speaks to those who understand the pop culture reference of Squid Game but also to those who relate to the struggle of learning a new language and “giving up” by simply using Google Translate rather than using Duolingo’s course lessons.

Looking at the comment section below any Duolingo video, it’s easy to understand why Parvez and her team’s creative strategies have been working. Mixed in with the comments complimenting the account are also commenters driven by the feeling of wanting Duo’s “validation” in their learning successes. Whether it’s saying that they’ve completed a 14-day learning streak or that they’ve redownloaded the app to continue their lessons, it’s clear that Duolingo and its TikTok account are helping learners take language learning to new heights.

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