In the digital sphere, companies and corporations must decide how to build a social media presence that users will interact with. Additionally, Duolingo recently emerged as a success story for how to control all of the social media. But, a recent tweet might indicate that the company has to tone down its use of edgelord meme humor.
The offending tweet by Duolingo
The tweet shows a video from the 2010 Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards, showing pop sensation Katy Perry getting covered in green slime. Since the award event aired more than ten years ago, people widely use it for memes and share it on social media. And this time, Duolingo contributed to the discussion.
The company tweeted, “hold up is that my —.” Then, in a follow-up, the company responded, “we’re all thinking it, I just said it.” For those who did not get it, Duolingo just cracked a dirty joke.
Of course, the edgy brand Twitter is not novel—Wendy’s is internationally recognized for shattering the facade of corporate social media beginning in 2017 by tweeting as an individual rather than a company. In addition, as more businesses saw the potential of approaching Twitter in a more casual light, the rise of TikTok saw marketers begin to tackle this new digital frontier in a similar manner. And this includes Duolingo.
Furthermore, Duolingo has a huge following on TikTok, with 4.9 million followers and more than 97 million likes across all of its postings. Additionally, the company started posting in February 2021, with TikToks focusing on how to utter various words and phrases in many languages, which is the sole aim of the service.
However, Duolingo started experimenting with TikTok more in October 2021, and as a result, its audience increased. Therefore, the company chose to broadcast more videos depicting its workplace, mascot, parasocial relationship with Dua Lipa, and current memes and trends. Plus, the majority of Duolingo’s most popular TikToks don’t even include the company’s real product, and some hardly even mention it.
A slippery slope exists when a brand’s presence becomes edgier. The Internet publicly supported Johnny Depp while openly ridiculing Amber Heard during their widely reported domestic abuse trial this past summer. The official Duolingo account on TikTok asked, “Y’all think Amber watches TikTok?” following the publication of trial footage by NBC News in which Heard mentions the online hate she had been receiving.
And this triggered criticism of the firm for making an inappropriate remark in the wake of a case involving allegations of physical abuse and sexual assault that was at the time still in progress. Zaria Parvez, who was the account’s creator at the time and is 24 years old, immediately apologized.
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Moreover, Parvez is the global social media manager for Duolingo, suggesting that she may be the brains behind the aforementioned Katy Perry tweet. And even if some of the individuals who commented thought the joke a little too far-fetched, the tweet got people talking. Yes, dirty jokes and memes are entertaining, but when you give edgy content from brands more than two seconds of thought, it often feels empty.
Duolingo’s social media activity, particularly on TikTok, reflects a developing trend of brand friend-ification. Brands all around the world are soon realizing that going viral is the best kind of advertising and that Twitter timelines and TikTok comment sections make for the best billboards. So, their plan of action is straightforward – stop presenting yourself as a brand. Only, the issue is that if you try too hard to stand out with the coolest/sexiest/funniest tweet you can think of, you’ll inevitably come off as desperate and turn off potential users in the process.