If your social media feeds are anything like mine, you’ve probably seen more than a few posts throughout the day like this:
And, if you’re anything like I am, you and your friends have been playing Wordle religiously, every day, bragging about how you got today’s word in 2 guesses, or bemoaning the tough words, or use of American spellings, that broke your streak (looking at you, LABOR).
It’s no doubt that Wordle is the hottest trend on social media right now, with everyone taking 10 minutes out of their day to play the endlessly addictive game. We have seen this even more so in the past couple of weeks, with the game having been bought by the New York Times. However, Wordle’s explosive success on social media hasn’t just been down to luck. Andrew Wardle, who designed the game for his word-game loving girlfriend, built a product that is near-perfect fit for social media, and is an amazing example of good marketing, and the simplicity that it can come from.
And, in Mr Wardle’s successes, come many lessons that brands and marketing experts can learn in creating a product that is wired for success on social media.
Wordle has pulled off a masterclass in social media’s biggest marketing benefit; shareability.
When completing a Wordle you are greeted with an overlay on the webpage, showing a bar chart of your guess placement and one button – ‘Share’. As soon as you click this button, it copies an emoji mockup of today’s guess placement to your device’s clipboard, making it a case of simply copying and pasting to your social media of choice.
Over the years, countless sites have incorporated unnecessarily complicated social media sharing buttons. From multiple-click layouts to even making the user give the website ‘access’ to their social media account, it’s safe to say that in the task of making sharing easier for users, it’s been made infinitely more complicated.
The ‘one-click, one function’ of Wordle’s share button is a breath of fresh air and puts the onus on the player to share it to their network of choice, which, in Wordle’s case, hasn’t meant people share their results less. In fact, they’re sharing more than ever, entering a literal war of words with their mutual followers, day after day.
However, it’s important to note that this wasn’t a feature that Wordle had from the beginning – it was only when Andrew Wardle noticed in mid-December that some of the game’s players were sharing their results by manually typing out their results and patterns with emojis, that he decided to implement it into the game.
Without Wardle’s constant community management and openness to implementing new ideas to his game, it’s likely Wordle wouldn’t have exploded across social media in the way it has. Community ideas are a powerful tool in the social media marketer’s arsenal, and, as marketers, it is our responsibility to keep up to date, in order to keep our media fresh and relevant.
One of the only complaints about Wordle for most people is that it’s not binge-able. The game only gives you one word per day, resetting at midnight, which has made it very easy for even casual players to pick up and play every single day.
While Wordle’s success might have been accelerated by having multiple levels per day, or even a full stack of words to be guessed whenever you like, it would have also died out much quicker than it looks like it will – the candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long. Users would have inevitably grown tired of the format after doing 10 a day for a week, and Wordle would have petered out on social media, like many of the lockdown trends we’ve seen.
By limiting player access? Wordle has built a following of loyal players that log onto the site daily – some will use today’s puzzle to warm their brain up before work, some will do it after work as a bit of fun, and some will wait until the turn of midnight to do their Wordle. While having the format be open to fit the player is great, the limited access per day for the player and the need to keep your win streak running has left the audience constantly wanting more and thus logging onto the site day after day.
Andrew Wardle created Wordle for his girlfriend, who loved word puzzle games, but could never find an online one that stayed fresh after a while. Wordle was planned, built and published for a target audience of one person, yet it has been adopted and adored by millions of people worldwide. This is why Wordle feels so purpose-built – its audience of one made it easy to finish based on what Mr Wardle’s girlfriend loved and hated.
When creating content or products for social media, it’s completely understandable and normal for you to be concerned about the reaction of your audience. After all, they indirectly control your success, and everyone likes different things. Some people might love it, some might hate it. However, if you get too drawn into this, you could end up creating media or a product that is far too general – you try to satisfy everyone, but in the process of doing so, satisfy nobody and are unable to stand out from the crowd.
When planning media for social platforms, you should always be aware of what your current followers enjoy, but don’t overthink it past that point. Ultimately, social media platforms for brands fall into retention marketing, so as long as you’re satisfying and retaining your current audience and maintaining a slow but steady level of growth, you’re doing it right.
Wordle is not a new concept for a game. Word games have existed for almost as long as words have, and the format of Wordle itself is a reskin of a classic pencil-and-paper game called Bulls & Cows, as well as game shows such as Lingo and Jotto. Mr Wardle drew from these old examples and remastered them for a digital, always-online age, building on their strengths (addictiveness & limited consumption) while tweaking or removing their drawbacks (the 2-player aspect of Bulls & Cows).
This is not an anomaly – many successful ideas do not come from completely new ideas themselves, but instead, build or remix previous ideas that were successful. Mr Wardle struck the perfect balance between making something that is new (a game like Wordle was not prominently known on the internet beforehand) and making something that is familiar. Even if you had never played Bulls & Cows or watched an episode of Jotto before, you could pick up Wordle, and by your second puzzle, know exactly what you’re doing and what the aim is.
On social media, some of the most popular and viral posts are memes. Simple, shareable and humorous, they tick all the boxes for what makes for a hit on a social media platform. And, it’s no surprise that as soon as Wordle started picking up steam, the memes soon followed.
The square emojis used to lay out your results make up the majority of these – from someone comparing the squares to the containers stuck on the Ever Given in the Suez Canal, to brands building pictures out of them, Wordle’s simple layout and ease of access lent itself perfectly to being the subject of memes.
This was brilliant free promotion for Mr Wardle, as many of these tweets would go viral – many of these Tweets would easily pass 50,000 or even 100,000 likes. In going viral, Wordle was exposed to millions of potential players every day – even if only 1 out of every 100 people went on to look Wordle up and started playing it, Wordle could still be gaining thousands of new players consistently.
If you can build a community around your product or posts, the chances of fan-made memes increase, and so does your chance of your product being the subject of a viral post. It’s yet another reason why nurturing a loyal and friendly community around your product or pages is so important, as it can save you a lot of time and work in the future.