If there’s anyone who has mastered the TikTok game, it’s Denise Julia, a 21 year old R&B singer with a number of viral hits under her belt. Ever since her breakout hit “NVMD” took off in 2022, she has consistently maintained the momentum for her career thus far — nine out of 13 of her singles have over 1 million streams and “NVMD” has over 133 million streams.

It’s a significant feat for any new artist in the digital world right now. With platforms like TikTok and Youtube making it possible for any independent artist go viral, sustaining that virality for the rest of their career has become.a new challenge for artists to face. As the music industry recognizes the power of TikTok to shape the popular sounds of today, mastering the social media game has never been more crucial.

In the case of Denise Julia, being both an artist and TikTok user has its advantages in knowing how to maximize the platform. It especially helps that her marketing manager Dom Guyot — a pop singer who also uses TikTok as a platform — is at the helm of her social media campaigns.

Denise Julia and Jason Dhakal: Billboard Philippines Exclusive Photo from Sony Music Philippines.

What sustains an artist’s career beyond a TikTok snippet is the ability to capture new listeners into their fanbase. Denise Julia shares that it’s through actively engaging followers in a more personal way and being unafraid to show the less polished or curated sides of themselves. In the singer’s case, she uses her songs as the background music with funny and relatable captions like “Anong heal heal, ipakita mo kung sino ka, palitan mo agad” (‘Heal [after a breakup?]’ Show them that you can easily get someone new) or “Why would I go for a red flag when I’m independent and don’t need a man (I’m actually a lover girl and I wanna be babied.)”

“When [“NVMD”] started picking up, I made sure to show more of myself, [like] the creative process [of my songs] like singing over a beat until there’s a final product. I feel like that authenticity really held the fans close to me and me to them because I really write about experiences that I go through at the moment…I feel like it resonates with them,” she shares to Billboard Philippines.

Denise Julia is able to establish that personal connection with her fans by responding to playful comments about her — “They keep saying I’m a jejemon, and I really am though because if you hang out with me, it’ll show” — and that equally playful side of her makes the relationship funnier to her audience. “They see that side that they originally think you’re not. My relationship with them is really showing who I am substantially.”

It’s the reason why her fans have dubbed her the “Patron Saint of Situationships,” effectively making her someone relatable to the Gen Z audience. Many have also used the phrase, “in my Denise Julia era,” often to denote getting into “situationships” with other people. Beyond just being relatable, she makes it a point to actively reply to fans and repost their videos. She reveals that she regularly goes through every video that she gets tagged on TikTok and checks what’s trending, what types of videos fans are making to the song, and which parts of her song are being used the most.

“I’m very tutok [engaged],” she says. “I have to know what they like and what they don’t.”

Billboard Philippines Exclusive Photo from Sony Music Philippines.

All of these factor into what goes into the next song she releases. “I think that’s one of the recipes to really hold (capture) the new and the old fans. It’s a journey with me. They have a say in what I’m doing.”

She goes on to share that after “NVMD,” she shares videos of beats that she wrote over, and when fans “hype it up,” she makes it a point to release the song next. “With this album, it’s the same thing, the order of which I would release songs is what they responded to well in the past.”

It also helps that she has a keen ear for which parts of her songs are the best to turn into catchy TikTok snippets. She explains that the secret to that is being first and foremost a listener. When she listens to songs in general, she knows which parts grasp the audience.

“To me, when I play my songs, I don’t listen as an artist, I listen as the listener, [picking out] what I would relate to. With the first single (“BAD”), it’s so catchy. The melody sticks to you. So, [it made sense] to make it the first song to put out. With the next one (“Lackin'”), [the catchy part are] the lyrics. Everyone relates to it.”

For Denise Julia, to really maximize social media today, artists have to go beyond the music to create a closer connection with listeners than ever before. An ear to the ground and a keen eye for what’s sticking to the audience is key in making sure that they no longer become just passive listeners, but listeners that will stay with you for every single release after the first hit.

Listen to Denise Julia’s debut album, Sweet Nothings (Chapter 1) below.