That’s all well and good, but will faux pas like this become more common as companies try to run TikTok? The language app Duolingo has 5 million followers on the video platform that likes “unhinged” with its owl mascot, but in May one of the brand’s social media managers apologized after the jokes about witnessing Amber Heard abuse at home on the program.
In September, an unofficial update left its users angry – Duolingo mockingly responded to a customer who was leaving the app with the popular TikTok quote: “No, it’s Melanie. It’s a shame. She’s great.” The caption of the video reads, “I really want to cry when you say you’re leaving” and includes the hashtags #boybye and #leavemealone. The comment below the video reads, “I’m glad you care about your customers…” The comment has nearly 500 likes.
For Duolingo, the mix seems to indicate that the company does not see TikTok as a place to solve customer problems. “Our support team often responds directly to helping customers solve problems on Twitter,” said Katherine Chan, the company’s head of social media and advocacy, but they don’t use TikTok in the same way. Regarding the #leavemealone response, Chan adds, “we were responding to one student who insisted on calling us chickens, when Duo is an owl.”
Sphurti Sewak is a marketing and communications associate at Florida International University who researched how brands use memes on social media. He says that companies first adopted sassy personas on Twitter-Wendy’s, for example, has been “burning” his competition on the program since 2017. Sewak believes Ryanair should not be praised for adopting a bold social media strategy, arguing “they may have followed. Wendy and I just moved on. ” But now Ryanair has seen better, some brands can go one step further, upsetting their customers.
“Sassy solutions make people love, but they can be confused,” says Sewak, “budget airlines like Ryanair can get away with insults because they have the opportunity to offer what their competitors don’t.” For some species, rudeness can be dangerous. “Being rude is one thing, but being rude all the time is another. In the end, customers are the ones who keep you in business, “says Sewak. His research has found that some people find this type of social media inappropriate and stop offering their products to businesses—he himself is one of these people.
Remmington would have no regrets if Uniqlo shot him down publicly and apologized privately, and he’s glad now that it is. Although it’s a myth that social media accounts are run by people who are interns, ultimately the people who own these accounts are people who can make mistakes and make mistakes. However, it appears that face-to-face communication can often be handled on an account-by-account basis. After seeing Uniqlo’s TikTok, Remmington returned the umbrella to the store where it was purchased for a full refund.