We would have done anything to have been in the meeting where a social media manager at Duolingo pitched their take on how the brand account should operate. For those unaware, the Duolingo Owl – yes, the same owl who would drag you if you missed a Spanish lesson – is a life-size mascot-like figure in every video, engaging in every. single. trend. Oh, and also Duolingo is in love with Dua Lipa. Like we said, we would’ve given anything.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part about Duolingo’s TikTok presence is that you’d never expect a language learning app to be so game. Watching the brand’s rise on TikTok even made us want to start up the Spanish lesson we left hanging five years ago. While some brands might evade TikTok believing it’s not “for them”, other brands like Duolingo have fully leaned in, employing a successful strategy that has completely uplifted their brand (further proof that TikTok is the most important social media platform!).
There are a number of ways a brand can execute content on TikTok – like engaging in viral trends or having their social media manager double as a star of their content, to name a few. But aside from the content itself, a brand has a critical choice to make on what the tone their account will adopt – Exciting? Absurd? Informative? This decision largely depends on two questions: “Who is/are my audience(s)?” and “Who do I want my audience to be?”
Here is our list of 10 brand accounts that made strong, smart choices on content and tone to captivate their TikTok audience.
Xbox outshines other gaming system brands on TikTok by a long shot. Their brand was able to identify their target demographic – playful gamers who are into tech – and create content that delivers on exactly that. Xbox creates multiple series on their page: #TechTok videos that explain the latest updates in gaming (“What is ray tracing?”), games IRL like the #AchievementUnlocked series and playful viral trends like Two Friends Saying Goodnight. My favorite of their recent video series was the long-awaiting Unboxing A Box event. All in all, their account is a perfect distillation of knowing your audience.
Movie studios have catalogs of films they could pull content from, but none have put them to use quite like Lionsgate. Lionsgate’s brand account understands how to mash up viral sounds with iconic moments in cinematic history. Like this Twilight TikTok that pokes fun at the difference in stakes between the vampires in the film and Bella’s dad who sits at home. Or this LaLa Land TikTok that uses the Julia Fox “Uncut Gems” line underneath Emma Stone onstage at her play. Even when it comes to their talent interviews (like this video of Pedro Pascal saying “I love you, slay, yass”), Lionsgate’s account is playful and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
3. Washington Post
Unsurprisingly, news organizations thrive on a text-centric platform like Twitter – however TikTok proves to be tricky for news sites that are not Washington Post. WaPo hired producer Dave Jorgenson and likely just by being the person creating the content, he ultimately became the whole face of the operation. Dave (and a few other recent additions) delivers news through clever sketches, like this one about Elon Musk buying Twitter. However when the news is more dire (Roe vs. Wade being the most recent reminder we’re living in Hell), Dave delivers the news with infographics that help illustrate the story through more of a visual essay. The tone of the page is what makes this news organization’s presence so successful – approachable, interesting and serious when it needs to be.
4. Red Bull
Red Bull made the smart decision to shy away from making content that only promotes their product, instead they focus on promoting a lifestyle. The brand has championed X-treme, less traditional sports and their TikTok page is a reflection of that action-packed, adrenaline rush – see: How to Plane Swap. Subcultures are king on TikTok so the specificity of a video like This is How a Timbersports Athlete Trains is catnip to their audience.
5. Amazon Prime Video**
Amazon Prime Video has a giant library of content – likely more than any other streaming service because of the availability to rent virtually any film or TV series on the platform. One could assume that the APV TikTok page could be chaos or lack cohesion – however, it’s quite the opposite. The content is well-balanced between standup comedy, animated and live-action series, new originals and nostalgia titles. Not to mention, their page looks organized with a well thought-out color scheme. Perhaps the most intriguing part of their brand page is its creation of repeatable formats – like remixing moments of dialogue from “The Wilds’ in a “What If” remix.
If you think Crocs aren’t for you…guess again and scroll through the Crocs brand account to discover you’re wrong. In 2022, Crocs are cool and their TikTok presence is to thank for that. The page is gorgeous and filled with beautifully styled promo shoots. But more importantly, the Crocs account showcases the variety of who wears Crocs – skateboarders about to land a kickflip, dancers destroying a Megan Thee Stallion song and basketball players turning their Crocs on to “sport mode”.
7. Taco Bell
Taco Bell (successfully) utilizes an influencer to announce new menu items (like for the Steak White Hot Ranch Fries) or to simply participate in trends like the “What Are You Listening To?” trend. But the most successful content type that the channel has implemented are its tutorial videos. Many independent creators who work at fast food restaurants have found success giving us a look behind-the-curtain at how a Whopper or a Big Mac is made. Taco Bell smartly took this back as a brand to showcase how its menu items are made so when we’re late-night scrolling, we can’t help but DoorDash a Chalupa.
Of the major sports leagues, the NBA blows the others out of the water with double the amount of the NFL’s followers and triple the amount of the MLB’s followers. The NBA brand page implements a variety of content – interviews with players, game recaps and of course, highlights of jaw-dropping moments like this Slam Dunk. It’s essentially bite-sized ESPN. But on top of the content we’d expect from them, they also lean into the Gen Z audience with ‘fit checks and dance videos.
9. Adult Swim**
Adult Swim’s programming is irreverent, strange and hilarious – this allows them, as a brand, to take risks with what they post in a way that more self-serious brands simply could not. For instance, the aforementioned Amazon Prime Video couldn’t post Bobby Hill saying he’s afraid of being a slut (audio that will not doubt go viral any day now!). Adult Swim isn’t afraid to engage in viral trends like this “Umm… Yeah” Rick and Morty and they’ve even created quite a few, like the Adult Swim-style bump trend from last summer. And lastly, the page is pleasing to the eyes, thanks to its colorful animation (a built-in success factor).
And of course, the Miss Congeniality of brand accounts that shocked and awed us all… This account has everything – a “face” (aka the Duolingo owl), the urgency to hop onto trends and sounds, along with an unhinged take on the world. They even have “bits”, like being obsessed with Dua Lipa (whose name of course, sounds like Duolingo). Their content consistently engages with other people in the office, specifically the company’s legal team who (narratively) is always at odds with the brand page’s content. Sometimes the page teams up with influencers, but truly who is more iconic than the owl himself? To borrow a phrase from their bio, they’re “just an owl tryna vibe.” In a word: brilliant.
Now, not every brand needs to go the Duolingo route – truthfully, not every brand should be as unhinged as Duolingo. But in order to grow your TikTok presence you have to be willing to take some risks – whether that’s creating new content formats, engaging in viral trends or allowing either an influencer or your brand’s social producer to become the face of the channel. If your brand is unwilling to do any of those three, it’s likely your page will stay stagnant.
**Run by the Movement Strategy team