Creating Viral Content: Insights from Duolingo's TikTok Success

Aadil Verma

Hatched by Aadil Verma

Jun 02, 2024

4 min read


Creating Viral Content: Insights from Duolingo's TikTok Success


In today's digital landscape, creating viral content has become a key strategy for businesses to engage with their target audience and increase brand visibility. One platform that has seen immense success in this regard is TikTok, with its massive user base and potential for organic reach. In this article, we explore the journey of Duolingo, a language-learning app, and how they scaled to 8 million TikTok followers. We delve into their decision to focus on TikTok, the art versus science debate in content creation, the balance between copying trends and innovating, the importance of storytelling, and the role of repurposed content across different platforms.

Why TikTok?:

For Zaria Parvez, the Social Media Manager at Duolingo, choosing TikTok as their primary platform was a natural decision. Having grown up using TikTok during her college years, Zaria was already familiar with its workings and what resonated with its users. Additionally, the fact that TikTok boasted 1 billion users in September 2021 was a significant tipping point for her. Zaria realized that if people were spending time on TikTok, they were potentially not using the Duolingo app. Thus, the goal became to bring TikTok users back to the Duolingo app.

The Art and Science of Content Creation:

While some may argue that content creation is an art, Zaria believes that understanding the science behind TikTok is crucial for success. When hiring for her team, Zaria prioritizes candidates who can analyze trending audio, create engaging videos, and craft captivating captions. This approach highlights the need for a balance between creativity and knowledge of TikTok's algorithm and user preferences.

Copying Trends vs. Being Authentic:

Zaria suggests that starting with copying trends is a great way to gain traction on TikTok. The platform thrives on users' ability to put their own spin on existing trends. By clicking on trending audio and observing what others are doing, content creators can find inspiration and incorporate their unique perspective. However, Zaria emphasizes the importance of evolving beyond copying trends once a certain level of virality is achieved. Users begin seeking more storylines and fresh ideas, making innovation and authenticity crucial.

Storytelling as a Driver of Engagement:

At Duolingo, every TikTok video is treated as an episode of a sitcom. Each video contributes to building the brand's storyline, with some going viral and others serving as narrative building blocks. By creating lore and engaging narratives, Duolingo aims to capture the attention of users and keep them invested in the brand. Recent examples, such as a mascot intervention featuring Scrub Daddy and the Teletubbies, demonstrate the innovative and fun approach Duolingo takes to engage its audience.

Understanding User Intent:

Interestingly, not every TikTok video needs to tie back directly to the Duolingo app or language learning. Zaria notes that people primarily come to social media platforms for entertainment rather than education. Understanding this user intent, Duolingo focuses on creating content that resonates with its audience's interests, even if it doesn't directly promote the app. This approach allows the brand to build a connection with users on a deeper level.

Repurposed Content Across Platforms:

To maximize their reach, Duolingo repurposes content across different platforms. While the majority of their content is "rip and replace" between TikTok and other platforms like Reels, a portion of their strategy involves tailoring content to suit the specific format and style of each platform. By assigning different generations within their social media team to handle different channels, Duolingo ensures that content is adapted effectively to resonate with each platform's audience.


Creating viral content on TikTok requires a strategic blend of art and science. Duolingo's success in scaling their TikTok following offers valuable insights into the world of content creation. By understanding user preferences, balancing trend replication with innovation, and leveraging the power of storytelling, brands can achieve viral success on TikTok. Additionally, repurposing content across platforms can help amplify brand visibility and engagement.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace TikTok's native format and understand its algorithm to create engaging content that resonates with users.
  • 2. Start by copying trends to gain initial traction, but evolve towards authenticity and innovation to maintain long-term engagement.
  • 3. Focus on building captivating storylines and narratives that keep users invested in your brand.

Remember, viral content creation is a continuous learning process. Experiment, analyze, and adapt your strategies to keep up with the ever-evolving digital landscape.

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