Mastering the Art and Science of Viral Content: Lessons from Duolingo and the Rebirth of Email

Aadil Verma

Hatched by Aadil Verma

May 31, 2024

4 min read


Mastering the Art and Science of Viral Content: Lessons from Duolingo and the Rebirth of Email


In the ever-evolving landscape of social media and digital communication, two distinct platforms have captured the attention of millions: TikTok and email. While TikTok has revolutionized short-form video content and captivated a young and vibrant user base, email remains a trusted and reliable means of communication. In this article, we will explore the strategies employed by language-learning app Duolingo to amass 8 million TikTok followers and the reinvention of email by 37signals with their product HEY. Through their experiences, we will uncover the commonalities and unique insights that can help creators and marketers navigate the challenges of creating viral content and reclaim the joy of email.

Part 1: The Power of TikTok

1.1 Discovering the Native Platform:

Zaria Parvez, Social Media Manager at Duolingo, explains that choosing TikTok as their primary platform was a natural decision. Having grown up with TikTok during her college years, she was intimately familiar with its workings and what resonated with its users. This familiarity allowed her to understand the platform's nuances and create content that aligned with its culture.

1.2 Science and Art in Content Creation:

Parvez emphasizes the importance of both scientific understanding and creative flair in creating entertaining content. While being able to analyze trending audios and replicate successful formats is crucial, it is equally essential to infuse originality and authenticity into the content. The ability to strike a balance between copying successful elements and offering a unique spin is key to capturing audience attention.

1.3 Storylines and Building Lore:

Beyond the initial trend-based content, Duolingo recognized the significance of weaving storylines into their TikTok episodes. Parvez compares their content to a sitcom, with each video serving as an episode within a larger narrative. By introducing recurring characters and creating engaging storylines, they fostered a sense of community and intrigue among their followers.

Part 2: The Rebirth of Email

2.1 Recognizing Email's Potential:

Jason, CEO of 37signals, acknowledges that email has lost its luster due to an influx of unwanted messages and clutter. However, he reminds us of the power and beauty email still holds as a medium of communication. Despite the challenges, email remains a reliable and universal tool for connecting people across the globe.

2.2 Reinventing Email:

With their product HEY, 37signals sought to reimagine email for the modern era. They aimed to simplify and streamline the email experience, removing the burden of unwanted messages and overwhelming inboxes. HEY offers users greater control over who can reach them and provides a fresh start in rediscovering the joy of email.

2.3 A Love Letter to Email:

HEY is not just a product; it is a testament to the team's love for email and the desire to restore its magic. By addressing the issues that have tarnished the email experience, 37signals hopes to reignite the delight that comes from receiving and sending meaningful messages.

Part 3: Lessons for Creating Viral Content and Revitalizing Email

3.1 Actionable Advice #1: Understand the Platform:

Whether it's TikTok or email, familiarize yourself with the platform's intricacies and user preferences. Study successful content and trends to gain insights into what resonates with the audience. By understanding the science behind the platform, you can effectively craft content that captures attention.

3.2 Actionable Advice #2: Balance Imitation and Originality:

While initial success may come from replicating what works, strive to infuse your unique style and perspective into your content. Find innovative ways to put your own spin on popular trends, ensuring that your content stands out from the crowd.

3.3 Actionable Advice #3: Create Engaging Narratives:

For long-term success, focus on building storylines and lore that keep your audience invested. By introducing recurring characters, evolving narratives, and surprising twists, you can cultivate a loyal community that eagerly awaits your next installment.


In the ever-changing world of social media and digital communication, creators and marketers must adapt to the preferences of their target audience. By understanding the art and science behind platforms like TikTok and email, we can create viral content that resonates with users and revitalize the joy of communication. Through the experiences of Duolingo and the reinvention of email by 37signals, we have learned valuable lessons and actionable advice that can guide us in our pursuit of creating engaging and impactful content.

Remember, whether you're crafting a TikTok video or writing an email, the key lies in understanding your audience, infusing originality into your content, and building captivating narratives that keep them coming back for more.

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