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  • Magali Goblot

How Squid Game Gained Popularity Through Social Media

By Magali Goblot

Squid Game Social Media Trends

When Netflix first released its dystopian Korean drama Squid Game, it almost immediately gained traction and popularity worldwide. People were sharing all kinds of theories, jokes, and commentary on the show through social media. As more and more people got exposed to the show, Squid Game received the kind of publicity that most marketers dream of. The kind of marketing that required very little effort on their part. That is not to say that Netflix did not market the show—it was publicized on the main page, on their social media, through pop-up locations, etc. However, in an age where the public starts to question marketing tactics and question consumer culture, many people prioritize promotion coming from their friends, family, or random people on the internet with no incentive to see the show succeed. These genuine interactions convince the public that a show must be good, and they, in turn, check it out. This pattern becomes almost cyclical as these viewers would promote it to their circles as well if the show lived up to their expectations. If not, they might still bring it up if only to critique its ‘hype’.

Squid Game. Netflix.

Word-of-mouth marketing is not revolutionary and has always existed. However, since the rise of social media, this form of marketing has transformed from the promotion or praise of an item given by a friend or family member to that given by strangers on the internet. The initial consumers of this show will make edits, dress in costumes, write think pieces, or any other form of content and it will reach a global audience. This kind of traction could not have existed before, and it allows this mass consumption and the creation of global ‘trends.’

One of the most notable platforms that contributed to Squid Game’s success is arguably TikTok. From the release of the show, people were making films to point out ‘hidden’ details, plot twists, and their thoughts and opinions, as well as making edits, jokes, or even criticizing certain aspects. This constant stream of content made its way through the app and built on each other. Several different trends rose in their associations with the show. For example, the song “Money” by the K-pop singer Lisa was used in the background of fancams and videos relating to Squid Game despite not being in the actual soundtrack. To date, over 5.1 million videos have been made using that official sound, not including remixes or unofficial sounds, and most (if not all) are associated with Squid Game. Another sound that gained popularity is the “Red Light, Green Light” sounds both in English and the original Korean. The sound by @golden._.stables combining both the “Red Light, Green Light” voiceover and a verse from Florence + the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over” has been used in over 380 000 videos. The Squid Game hashtag itself has over 65.2 billion views only on TikTok.

TikTok has created a shift in consumer culture and trends, notably within the music industry. In the past couple of years since the app has gained popularity, especially among the youth, the background music or ‘sounds’ used by creators have had a substantial impact on deciding music charts and ‘popular’ music. Examples of TikTok success sounds include “Dance Monkey” by Tones And I, Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour album (notably “Driver’s License” & “good 4 u”), Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”, and many more.

Several other viral aspects of the show remain clear-cut. Jung Ho-Yeon, who played Sae-Byeok (Player 067) immediately rose to fame, partially due to her performance as well as her appearance. Her Instagram account following rose from a couple hundred thousand to several million, now reaching 23.8 million. Additionally, there was a sudden craze surrounding the making of dalgona candy; viewers began to seek out recipes to make the candy at home. In studying the rise in popularity of these secondary elements, it becomes evident that trends and popularity are not unilinear but instead have a sort of trickle-down effect and bolster supporting elements, such as music, food, or even actresses.

Squid Game. Netflix.

However, Squid Game remains a trend. Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict the outcome of trends as oversaturation in the market (or in this case social media) discourages sustained consumption of content as consumers become overwhelmed or indifferent to what used to be so popular. The dangers of social media are that it is very volatile, and it is somewhat difficult to predict trends. Several marketing attempts that seem too artificial or that are out of touch are very easily uncovered or critiqued by anonymous users on the internet that place importance on authenticity. There is a rising need for individuality and distinctiveness. As aforementioned, people have grown weary of curated content and online tracking, and they have started to prioritize and put an emphasis on genuine and ‘unbiased’ opinions. This marketing technique is not sustainable—trends come and go. For the producers and makers of the show, it is difficult to know if they will receive a similar response to a second season. It all depends on the market and whether the audience will still be interested.

This article won first place in the first edition of the CBR Writing Competition. This edition called for entries that related the South Korean Netflix series Squid Game to business topics.


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