Tips on how to Be a Social Media Supervisor, From Duolingo TikTok Mastermind

  • Duolingo’s mascot, the giant green owl duo, was a hit on the TikTok video sharing platform.
  • The company’s TikToks often use pop culture references and trending audio on the platform.
  • Zaria Parvez, Duolingo’s social media coordinator, explains how she grew the company’s account.

The newest TikTok star isn’t a dancing teenager or blogging songwriter. It’s a giant green owl: duo.

Duo is the mascot of the language learning app Duolingo. Thanks to Duo (and the social media team behind the bird), Duolingo has garnered 1.5 million followers on the successful social networking app. The most watched video has over 10 million views.

Duolingo’s TikToks push the boundaries of what corporate accounts typically do or say on social media. Videos contain self-deprecating jokes, responses to commenters with cheeky setbacks, and even thirst for Dua Lipa.

And while users joke about the Duolingo social media coordinator being reprimanded for the harsh content on the account, this is actually all deliberate. This is the work of Zaria Parvez, Duolingo’s social media coordinator, who is currently in her first job after graduating with a BS in Advertising from the University of Oregon in 2020. She sees the position as a “blessing”.

“To get the backing and the trust of the upper colleagues, especially as young talents, to be like here, those are the reins, of course there are limits, I think that is so liberating and simply speaks for the culture of Duolingo” , called them.

Insider spoke to Parvez, the brain behind the company’s TikTok fame, to learn what it is like to work as a social media coordinator and how she brought Duo to fame.

‘Interested’, not ‘interesting’

Zaria Parvez, Duolingo's social media coordinator

Parvez is a 2020 graduate of the University of Oregon and the mind behind the company’s TikTok.


Duolingo

Duolingo has around 30 employees in its global marketing team, but Parvez and her manager Michaela Kron, the US marketing director, are the two-women team responsible for the TikTok account “@duolingo”. The secret of the small team’s great success is to stay “interested” and not “interesting,” said Parvez.

“I think a lot of brands, and even just social managers in general, kind of get caught up in the idea that we need to constantly promote ‘interesting’ and unique content,” she said. “Which is so important, but I think the step is to be interested in different things.”

Rather than trying to create new trends, Parvez focuses on understanding existing ones and finding ways for Duolingo to join them. She starts her morning by creating a trending report based on social media newsletters, Twitter’s trending hashtags, and trending TikTok audios.

While Parvez tries to include as much pop culture as possible, she also said that filtering the content and figuring out what is most relevant to the corporate brand is an important step.

“When developing our TikTok, it was very important for us not to jump on every trend,” she said. “But when we’re on trend, that’s very authentic for our brand.”

Establish your basic rules

From the outside, it might seem like Duolingo is taking risks with its content, but Parvez said the company has important ground rules that keep the team from pushing certain boundaries; it does not belittle people or threaten violence.

An example Parvez cited was Duolingo’s “Red (Taylor’s Version)” -related TikTok, which shows Duo preparing for the re-release of “All to Well (Taylor’s Version)”. The pinned user comment on the video says, “How do you say ‘Where’s the scarf, Jake’ in Swiftie?” This is indicative of the fan theory that the song “All to Well” is about Taylor Swift’s relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal.

The Duolingo account’s response to this comment – “To-Do List: Blow up Jake’s phone with push notifications.” – builds on its pop culture reference and branding rather than an actual threat say or explicitly agree to the comment, says Parvez.

“I think that’s part of the strategy,” she said. “Finding clever, unique ways to allude to controversy but never explicitly say it.”

The way Parvez responds and interacts with other users on TikTok is based on the audience of the platform, she says. TikTok is how Duolingo talks to his best friend; Instagram is how it talks to its mom; and facebook is how it talks to its grandmother.

“I think social media is that bridge,” she said, “to bring what people actually do into the world and connect them to our app and the experiences they have.”

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