How AURORA got over 3,000 people on TikTok to hold hands for her song, The River

“You can cry / Drinking your eyes / Do you miss the sadness when it’s gone?”

The River, by Norwegian artist AURORA, encourages its audience not to keep their emotions buried within. And that proposition, nay instruction, formed the basis of a viral TikTok campaign that recently took the track to new heights.

AURORA’s UK label, Decca Records, teamed with Gen Z influencer company Fanbytes and Blackstar London to promote a campaign, centred on the song, with “a positive message promoting mental health awareness” at its core.

Fanbytes developed a campaign around two key insights they’d noticed from running over 100 influencer campaigns on the platform.

  1. Mental Health awareness was prevalent on TikTok, with many of Fanbytes’ influencers creating content around it on a daily basis;
  2. There was a growing trend of ‘duets chains’ – where TikTok users mimicked what other users created, setting into motion a potentially never-ending chain of content.

Using these insights, Fanbytes developed the #youcancrychallenge. The idea was a deceptively simple one, taking advantage of the idiosyncratic possibilities of TikTok: ‘TikTokers’ were encouraged to display their raw emotions in videos soundtracked by The River and then, using TikTok’s Duet feature, visually link with other users’ videos by stretching out their arms – giving the impression of a chain of people holding hands in solidarity.

Fanbytes spread the word of the campaign on TikTok using the #youcancrychallenge hashtag. They kicked off proceedings with an initial chain of 13 renowned TikTok influencers, who then encouraged their follower audiences to duet with them, creating what Fanbytes calls a “solidarity chain”.

The results now speak for themselves: over 3,000 fans uploaded their own videos using the song, resulting in a total reach across the platform of 5 million.

By the end of the campaign, which was picked to debut on the central TikTok ‘For You’ page, the influencers’ videos had attracted a total of 649.4K views, while the #youcancrychallenge hashtag was seen by over a million people.

Here, Fanbytes founder and CEO, Timothy Armoo (pictured inset), discusses the strategy – and results – of the AURORA project…

What advantages are there in using TikTok for this kind of artist push right now?

This was a platform that made the most sense considering the song and the artist was an emotional one.

In a world where platforms like Instagram and Facebook are platforms which dominate marketing, these platforms still tend to cater to an idealized version of who you are – although they do indeed have a time and a place.

Therefore a platform like Tiktok where people can be their real authentic self was the natural platform for such a campaign.

Why you think it had such an impact?

It’s the fact that it emotionally resonated with the audience. Mental health is obviously something very very important to today’s younger audience and so being able to form a campaign in solidarity was extremely important to this having such an impact.

Most campaigns on TikTok are just lip-syncing tracks where people create funny skits around a track, however this took a very different approach and connected with people much deeper than just a listen to the song.

With TikTok being such a new platform to many in the music industry, it’s hard to gauge which metrics are meaningful. Which results stand tall for you here, and why do you believe they indicate a strong performance?

Increasingly, we’re seeing that the metric for success is UGC and videos actually uploaded around the song. This is significantly more impactful than just a like or even just a comment because it requires a greater time investment.

“The typical Tiktok video can take 4-7 minutes to create, as opposed to just a throwaway measure of engagement which takes seconds.”

The typical TikTok video can take 4-7 minutes to create, as opposed to just a throwaway measure of engagement which takes seconds.

To see 3,000 people engage with this challenge is pretty outstanding as that means over 21,000 minutes [of engagement in total]. To put that into context, that means it’d take you 15 days to create all the videos that were created in this challenge.

What did you learn from this campaign that you can apply to future artist campaigns?

The most important thing is to think about the audience behavior on the platform first before launching a campaign. So many people don’t understand TikTok – a lot of people just try and shoehorn their song into their campaigns without having context.

Through our research and insights into TikTok, we’d noticed that issues around mental health was one of the most popular [topics on the platform] so when approached with the campaign, we knew that leveraging that audience was invaluable to getting people involved with the campaign.

Do you anticipate in the wake of Old Town Road that TikTok’s role in music industry promotion will grow? What will set creative agencies / labels apart on the platform?

100% and I believe the people that will win will be the people who take the time to innately understand the platform. Tiktok is fundamentally different from other platforms, both from a form factor [perspective] and just user behavior.

As a consequence, you need to spend time understanding how people are using the platform and how you can take part in that conversation, rather than starting your own conversation.

We have a dedicated team in Fanbytes who uncover the latest insights and concepts on TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube and even Tumblr – having that finger on the pulse is crucial for any brand or label that needs to keep at the forefront of marketing and ahead of competitors.Music Business Worldwide

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