How Duolingo Conquered TikTok and How Other Brands Can Too
This article comes to us from the Speaking Human University Program, which gives voice to the opinions and perspectives of the next generation of consumers and marketers…
TikTok is a powerful social media platform that can revolutionize the way marketing departments operate. One company that has conquered the platform is Duolingo. Duolingo is a language learning app that has been able to apply the FATHM formula to their TikTok account, creating massive success for their brand. For example, Duolingo has managed to accumulate 7 million followers and 165 million likes on TikTok. Having an audience that large with that level of engagement allows your firm to reach new prospective users in a way that is significantly cheaper than traditional advertising. So, what is the FATHM formula, and how can your business adopt this strategy to replicate Duolingo’s success?
WHAT IS FATHM?
FATHM, an acronym for Frequent postings, Authenticity, Trends, Humor and Relatability, and Mascot use, encapsulates the attributes that have contributed to the massive success of Duolingo on the TikTok platform. These attributes are not listed in any specific order of importance, but each plays a vital role in engaging with its diverse audience. This article will cover each attribute in detail, accompanied by examples and research to paint a better picture of how Duolingo took advantage of FATHM, and how your organization might be able to utilize the same practices.
When it comes to social media marketing, post frequency is a highly debated topic. Some argue brands should post multiple times a day, while others argue daily is too much. Duolingo uploads daily with small 2-3 day breaks every 7-10 days. Occasionally, they can be seen uploading multiple times a day. Duolingo’s upload schedule creates a higher probability of posting a viral video. As you can see in the image below, some posts do incredibly well while others struggle. Since Duolingo posts daily, a lackluster performance can quickly be followed by a viral video.
Authenticity on social media can be described in multiple ways, but for this context, Duolingo’s authenticity is represented by the organic, low-production value videos it uploads. Duolingo’s posts are not produced with thousands of dollars of equipment. Instead, they are likely recorded with an iPhone. This is further backed up by a survey which states “56% of TikTok users feel closer to brands that publish authentic, human content on the platform.” (Cutler, 2023) TikTok users do not want to view an advertisement, and they do not use the platform to be advertised to. This authenticity is exemplified by the video below:
@duolingo company update: #duolingo #languagelearning #sweetbutpsycho #dulapeep ♬ 原声 – 🦂天蝎男♏JoJo🦂 – ★𝑲𝒆𝒏𝑪𝒉𝒆𝒍★
Arguably the most difficult skill to imitate from the FATHM framework is the trend attribute. Trends can be very difficult to catch if an organization is not constantly looking for them. Duolingo does a phenomenal job at not only catching trends but also joining in on them. Participating in trends can be done in a multitude of ways on TikTok. Some of the most popular trends today include: using music or sound effects, using a text-to-speech bot to read captions or punchlines, and having text on the screen to provide context to the video. A recent trend that is more specific to content generation is the idea of “rizz.” Rizz refers to an individual’s ability to flirt with another individual, and some content creators on TikTok make videos all about “rizzing” someone up. Duolingo took advantage of this trend and created the video below. Duolingo is great at catching and participating in trends. If it makes sense for your organization, you might be able to take advantage of similar trends.
@duolingo rizzlingo #fyp #duolingo #languagelearning #dualipa #lily #dulapeep ♬ 原聲 – yyt12
HUMOR AND RELATABILITY
Humor and relatability are two crucial aspects brands need to have on TikTok. According to two separate studies, “Most TikTok users are on the same page: 60% say they want funny content” (Henderson, 2023), and “61% of respondents found relatable personalities to be the most appealing.” (Santora, 2023) To no surprise, Duolingo produces content that is almost entirely humorous and relatable. If a company is choosing to participate in TikTok, it needs to focus on funny, relatable content.
This final attribute is one that not all companies can participate in but has been crucial to the success of Duolingo’s brand on TikTok. The Duolingo mascot is the centerpiece of almost every post on Duolingo’s TikTok, and its presence is what has helped separate it from the massive pool of content. The use of the mascot “Duo” as a reoccurring character brings a refreshing taste of humor and personality, while simultaneously connecting users to the brand. This attribute is incredibly powerful if used correctly and can help marketing departments develop a massive advantage over the competition.
To conclude, Duolingo has been able to take advantage of five key attributes of TikTok: Frequency of posts, Authenticity, Trends, Humor and Relatability, and Mascot usage (FATHM). As seen in this case study, brands that capitalize on these attributes can likely replicate the success of Duolingo on TikTok. It is important to note that not every brand is going to be able to use this framework. If a brand’s personality revolves around professionalism, it would not be wise to prioritize humorous postings. Companies should pick attributes that make sense for their brand, then watch as the framework generates more engagement than they could fathom.
- Cutler, A. (2023, August 21). 40 Vital Statistics for TikTok Marketers. Upbeat Agency. https://upbeatagency.com/tiktok-statistics/
- Henderson, A. (2023, June 29). What Content Works Best On TikTok, Twitter, And Instagram In 2023. GWI. https://blog.gwi.com/chart-of-the-week/best-content-on-tiktok-twitter-and-instagram/#:~:text=Most%20TikTok%20users%20are%20on,relaxing%20content%20ranks%20highly%20too.
- Santora, J. (2023, July 18). 17 Key Influencer Marketing Statistics to Fuel Your Strategy. Influencer Marketing Hub. https://influencermarketinghub.com/influencer-marketing-statistics/