How to go viral on TikTok as a musician – Creating a TikTok trend is possible with good planning, some patience and whole lot of creativity. Our trend went viral on Tiktok, caught the attention of industry bigwigs and continues to get visibility for the artist.
How we got the attention of Universal Music, TikTok HQ & WorldStartHipHop with a TikTok trend
In my agency (SMART Music Agency) we often take on artists who are signed to record labels, but are seeking alternative help with their marketing strategies.
Many don’t get the help they need from their labels, after all the record labels have so many artists to take care of, they cannot do everything for every act on their books.
This is exactly what happened recently with a case I was working on.
As we have had success with TikTok within my agency, Steve Spotlight approached me with a case he wanted to collaborate on.
Yes, we as music marketers collaborate also! That’s often how we get the best results on our campaigns.
This particular case was an Afrobeat artist signed to Universal Music. However, because of the successes happening on TikTok, they were interested in exploring this field a bit more. They wanted to know how to go viral on TikTok as a musician!
In this case study, I want to take you through the campaign. Although it’s a small campaign with a small budget, it makes it very relatable to you as a DIY musician.
We received a budget of $500 and set a goal to get 1000 content creators on TikTok doing their thing to the artist’s new release.
So let me take you through how we worked on this campaign and share with you some mistakes we made so you can learn from them.
1. Create a Plan for Your TikTok Trend Campaign As A Musician
The first thing you need to do is create a plan. If you think a TikTok campaign is as easy as paying a few influencers and hope for the best, it’s not quite that easy.
You need to carefully think about how you can create the most momentum online. This is done through planning and creating a launch strategy on TikTok.
TikTok is such a big place but is filled with so many mini niches. If your goal is to go viral with millions of content creators all over TikTok, well, you may need several thousand dollars in the budget to make that happen.
Most of you don’t have this budget to blow. Big record labels do, that’s why many of them are rolling out their music on TikTok through big influencers.
You are essentially placing it in the hands of the public to use right away. It really is the modern version of radio. The awareness you build by getting radio play eventually triggers back to streams and other growth. The same goes for TikTok.
But you cannot go into a TikTok campaign with the goal of conquering the whole platform. That will most likely set you up for failure.
2. Narrow Down & Be Specific With The TikTok Creators
As this particular campaign was for an up-and-coming Afrobeat musician from Nigeria, it helped us narrow down the audience straight away.
We needed to reach people who enjoy Afrobeat music. And, as Afrobeat music is growing rapidly in popularity all over the world, it is becoming a big niche.
Also, as the artist is Nigerian, we can narrow it down even further.
On TikTok you have all these mini niches and tapping into the Afrobeat / Nigerian audience on TikTok seemed like a good plan. We then have to find key influencers within this niche.
As it is a specific niche, there may be a good chance of overlapping visibility. Meaning, the audience may follow 2 or 3 of the influencers we work with and the repetition of seeing a few people create content to the song, will then influence organic creators to create a TikTok to the song.
That is the goal – to get users on the platform organically creating their own content to the music.
The first mistake we made was actually in the planning. We wanted to use this campaign to reach out to audiences in the UK and USA.
However, with the limited budget and the location constraints on TikTok I would have planned it a bit differently had I done it again.
When you first enter the platform, before you belong in any specific niche, the TikTok algorithm will place you so you see content from around your actual location.
Many people do not really have an aim with their content and don’t belong in any niche; so therefore are visible in their geographical location with their content.
This is because the only information TikTok has about you at the very beginning is where you are. Knowing this I would rather have planned on growing the trend first within the home location and then grow it outside Nigeria when the momentum has started.
As the track was also slowly starting to get radio play in the local community, it’s the overall momentum you can create within a specific niche that matters.
With the limited budget we had, I see now looking back that we wouldn’t have been able to create the momentum in a “cold” country that we needed for the organic reach.
We also created a timeline with the different activities we needed to do. For this, we always start with when we are going to go live and work backward. We set the live date and only had two weeks to work on it before.
The things you need to have done before going live with a TikTok trend campaign are:
- Have your content ideas ready and how you can attach the sound to current TikTok trends
- Onboard strategic influencers and confirm the content, the date, the time.
Once you go live with all of the influencers posting their content using the sound on the same day, you must continue growing it through more influencers and content marketing on the artist’s socials.
We set two weeks before and two weeks after to grow (which ended up being eight weeks after, but hey, we learn right!)
3. Create Content Ideas
As the song was about drinking water and minding your own business (focus your energy on yourself rather than other people’s lives).
A key phrase in the song is “drink water and mind your business” which is a part of the hook. We obviously needed to have water in the TikTok trend/content idea.
The first thing we did was to sketch up 5 content ideas and send them to the artist’s team.
We went back and forth for a bit to finalise the content and we ended up with a water challenge trend. Basically, you would chug water in public with no hands, minding your own business.
Challenges can be a great content strategy on TikTok as it triggers people to join in.
However, as challenges are not for everyone, we also had a clip of both artists (as it is a feature on the track) drinking water and minding their business.
Also, we needed some content ideas to pitch to the influencers we wanted to start the trends with too.
Let’s move on to how we got the influencers.
4. Get Influencers Onboard
I wrote about the full process of how we got the influencers onboard here in this blog post.
I even share with you the email template we sent to them and the payment structure we used. Copy it.
But to sum up, the first step is to create a spreadsheet with all the potential influencers.
Here is a link to a template we use for this (Influencer Outreach)
We started searching for niche influencers using hashtags like #nigeriancomedy #afrobeat, etc.
Then we create a list of some large, medium and small accounts. We find both their Instagram and email if possible. The best way of contacting them is by email or DM on Instagram (not on TikTok).
When we contacted them we pitched the content idea but also left the creativity open for them to do something in their own way to the sound. We used the fixed budget method and started partnering with the influencers to start the trend.
We also agreed on alternative methods if their post didn’t perform well (like having them do another TikTok or sharing it on Instagram to an additional following.
When you have the first influencers on board it’s time to get started.
5. Grow the Track, Go Viral As a Musician!
We began by posting the original post with the artists together drinking the water. Then we posted the main artist doing the water challenge. Both of these posts would give the choice for the public of which one they might want to recreate.
Then we had the first influencers post. We immediately saw that it triggered 5 organic content creators to jump on the trend too.
It slowly started to grow with organic content creators. We were monitoring all the organic content creators to see which influencers they came from (go and see if they follow the influencer by looking at their follower list)
After getting a few influencers and some organic creators to post; we got the main artist to repost some examples of the trend on his other channels (Instagram, etc). This triggered even more content creators jumping on the track.
After building some momentum and hype we got the attention of Universal Music, where they now wanted to help out.
They saw the momentum we had achieved and saw the potential.
As Universal works closely with TikTok – this is a big win for us.
They started getting some more content creators and influencers on their end which again helped grow the trend even more.
We ended up spending only $400 of the influencer budget and the track is still organically growing every day!
We also created a compilation video of the best TikTok’s on YouTube. The reason we did this is because a lot of the people on TikTok don’t remember the name of the song, but only the hook that they remember from the video clip.
People will then search for “drink water and mind your business” and not the actual track name: “Man on Fire (Remix)”.
By having a compilation of the best of TikToks on YouTube, you then capture people Googling the track wanting to listen to it. If they google “drink water mind your business TikTok trend” they will discover the YouTube video… Which also will link to Spotify and more info in the description.
The main artist is an upcoming artist but the feature is a big Afrobeat artist. He has 8M followers on Instagram and if he would have posted the trend or some of the content from TikTok, we would have gotten a big wave of content creators making TikToks to the track.
We saw this method worked with the main artist’s Instagram and he has much less followers than the featured artist.
6. Analyze Results
Was it a success? TikTok is tricky because it’s kinda like radio. You can’t really measure the success with hard streaming numbers, as it is the step before they stream the track. It’s the awareness stage where people register your song in their heads.
This happens before they start using it. This is what radio was used for before. Now it’s TikTok.
Analysing the hashtags is a must too. We used both #drinkwaternohands and #idrinkwaterdaily. As you cannot see the total reach on the actual Sound’s page on TikTok, you can at least measure the reach on the hashtag.
Although, when the track goes “viral” people stop using the hashtags and even the original content trend you started. You also need to measure the streaming numbers in parallel and the follower count on your channels. See overall if it had an impact, right?
We spent $400 and paid a total of 7 influencers.
The biggest one we paid was 800K followers. As Steve Spotflight is very active in the Afrobeat community, he also reached out to his network and got some influencers on board for free.
When you have a rapport with people it’s a lot easier to pitch things.
And after creating enough momentum we suddenly woke up one day to 2 BIG influencers with several MILLIONS of followers using the track on TikTok.
One was even a Nollywood star, which gave us the big traction we needed to get the general users of TikTok interested.
We ended up at almost 1200 content creators two months after the campaign started.
The streaming numbers on Spotify are now at 160K.
What’s good is that we got the attention of Universal Music who also started helping out with the campaign. If we got enough momentum we could potentially get a banner from TikTok. Which we are waiting for now.
My Learnings From The TikTok Trend Campaign
A TikTok trend campaign needs to be well thought out and planned. It is not enough just to find a few influencers, pay them and pray your song will go viral.
The key is also to go niche. You shouldn’t have a goal of being niche on TikTok, but rather penetrating a specific niche.
I look at this campaign as a success, as first we are still getting organic growth on the track, even though we have not paid an influencer in many weeks.
1000 content creators may not seem that much, but in a specific niche, it is!
The chances of an overlap audience hearing the track and it registering in their brain is higher. Then when they hear it again on local radio, etc. you are creating the momentum you need for your song to go big.
Awareness is key! And as radio is getting fewer and fewer listeners these days, it’s time to look into the new way of spreading awareness of a track through TikTok.
I also would have started targeting locals in Nigeria where there would be active radio plays, and then grow internationally when we have gotten the initial traction.
Also, I wouldn’t spend too much time on perfecting the content trend as influencers tend to do their own spin on it anyways. Just a general idea to present is fine.
However, the challenge took some time to get traction as people were kinda sticking to just using the drinking water as a concept to minding their own business. But having a few influencers who have done the challenge and the artist himself – it got some big accounts joining in on the challenge. People were having fun with the track through content.
And as I am writing this blog post WorldStarHipHop just reposted one of the trends to the track on both Instagram & TikTok.
There you go! That’s the beauty of TikTok and going viral.