TikTok Algorithm Factors: What We Know So Far And How To Capitalize On These
Over time, marketing has become more and more like a game.
In the past, the rules were fairly ambiguous: you hired people to create ads and marketing campaigns, and you hoped that they’d give you a return on investment. But these days, the rules have become more concrete. Now, marketers are playing against a new foe: algorithms.
Whether it’s Google, Instagram, or TikTok, understanding how to beat the algorithms to make sure your content appears on as many screens as possible is the secret to winning the marketing game.
To win that game, you need to know what the rules are.
In this guide, we’re going to take a look at what makes TikTok tick. Specifically, we’re going to cover how the TikTok algorithm decides what content to serve up to its viewers, and how you can use that information to your advantage.
The For You Page
When you open TikTok, you’ll start out on the For You page. This is essentially your main feed: a bunch of videos that the TikTok algorithm has decided to recommend to you.
Unlike a Facebook or Instagram feed, the For You feed isn’t filled up with content from creators that you follow. Instead, the For You page is similar to Instagram’s Discover feed — it’s a place you can find new content and creators. That means that the For You page is the battleground where brands and creators will be fighting for the attention of the millions of users on the app.
For the most part, the precise factors that influence what shows up on the For You feed have remained a mystery. But there are some general indicators that TikTok has provided to steer us in the right direction.
The first factor that TikTok takes into account when deciding what videos to recommend to you are the explicit actions you take as a user. Put simply, that means that the TikTok algorithm will look at what videos you like, share, comment on, what accounts you follow, and what content you yourself create.
Based on these inputs, TikTok will then look for videos that are similar in one way or another to the content you already have demonstrated you enjoy.
What’s worth noting here is that the TikTok algorithm doesn’t take follower counts directly into consideration — you’re not going to see content on your feed just because the creator has a ton of followers. This makes TikTok a much more accessible platform than others. In fact, you can have your very first video go viral and catapult your brand to TikTok fame — it’s happened!
If you want to target a certain audience, take a look at what they’re liking and interacting with. Then, try to make content that’s similar to that.
In addition to your explicit interactions, the TikTok algorithm also looks at the types of videos, sounds, and hashtags you spend the most time on. Then, it looks through content to find videos that use similar sounds and hashtags.
Like in the previous section, you can use this information to target users by looking through what types of videos they watch. Then, use the same sounds and hashtags to catch their attention.
Device And Account Settings
Finally, the TikTok algorithm sorts through your device’s and account’s settings, like your geographic location and language.
However, TikTok does not place as much importance on these factors as it does the ones listed above. That’s because these are more passive than the other inputs.
For example, someone may be located in Sweden, but they may be an American expat who is more interested in English content than Swedish content. If TikTok only recommended Swedish content, despite the fact that they primarily interact with English content, that user would not be very happy.
There isn’t much you can do to use this part of the algorithm to your advantage. Just make sure you have your country set to the country your target audience is in. If you’re targeting several different countries, you can also make several different accounts, each targeting a different region.
The Journey Of A TikTok Video
To better understand how the TikTok algorithm works, let’s take a look at what happens when you post a video.
As soon as your video is posted, the TikTok algorithm goes to work trying to find users to push the video to. It will look at what sounds your video used, its hashtags, and quite a few other factors to determine the first users that will see it. These initial viewers will serve as a sort of “test group” that will determine what happens next.
To decide how many viewers will see the video, TikTok will look at how many followers you have and the past performance of your content. The better both of these are, the more viewers will see your video initially.
Once the first batch of viewers has watched your video, the TikTok algorithm evaluates how they responded to it. Specifically, it looks at these factors:
- Completion rate: The average amount of time the video was watched for. If the average watch time was less than the length of the video, that means that most people didn’t watch the whole thing — likely because the content was low quality. If the average watch time is equal to the length of the video, it means most people watched the video one time. If the average watch time is higher than the video’s length, it means most people watched the video more than once — the mark of great TikTok content.
- Shares: The number of people that shared the video. If lots of people are sharing it, that’s a good indication that it’s high quality.
- Comments: When people comment on videos, it generally means that they enjoyed it enough to engage with it, and TikTok takes note of this. It’s even better if commenters tag other users.
- Likes: Likes carry the least weight since they take the least effort, but they are still important.
From there, the TikTok algorithm determines whether it met the required performance criteria to get pushed out again to a new batch of users. If it did, the cycle will repeat at the evaluation stage. If it didn’t, the video won’t be pushed to more viewers.
However, even if the cycle ends, it’s not done forever. Sometimes, significant engagement on an old video can restart the pushing process.
Top Tips For Going Viral With The TikTok Algorithm
Now that you know how the TikTok algorithm works, here are some ways to use it to your advantage.
1. Hook In Your Viewers Early
First impressions count. Make sure your video starts with a bang that will keep your viewers glued to their screens. This will help improve your completion rate, which affects how many people will see your video.
Here are a few examples of videos that do this well:
♬ original sound – Lance Stewart
Wait wait wait , let me pray for you 🙏🏾❤️
♬ Night Trouble By Petit Biscuit – Tyler
& they’re OUT!! 🙌🏼😭 but I’m not done yet! I got to pull them apart! 😍 #verifyitsaboutamanda #longhairdontcare #pensilchallenge #fypage
♬ original sound – 🦙
Reply to @talfishman CRAZIEST ONE YET 😳
♬ original sound – jojo sim
2. Use Popular Sounds And Filters
One of the features that makes TikTok so addicting is that you can find a sound you like and keep watching videos using that same sound — it’s sort of like listening to a song on repeat. By using popular sounds, TikTok users will naturally find your video when they’re flipping through content using their favorite sounds.
I moonwalked with MJ himself 👀 @santana.jackson7
♬ Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
Exit in style 😝
♬ Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
Tb to last year. @nickspiccioli if this doesn’t do good I quit tik tok #MyCostume #fypシ #fye #exprESSIEyourself #ohno
♬ Oh No – Kreepa
when dad says “he’s fine trust me” #ohno #baby #babyfail #fyp #hesfine
♬ Oh No – Kreepa
♬ original sound – Talk Box Guy
3. Learn From TikTok Influencers
Whenever you want to get good at something, it’s a smart idea to learn from the pros. When it comes to TikTok, TikTok influencers are the people you should be learning from. Here are some examples of content that you can draw inspiration from.
you think your cooler than me – 🧛🏼💁🏼♀️
♬ Cooler Than Me – Ethan Fields
♬ A m e r i c a n B o y – favsoundds
@enzoeli @sherinicolee @goolir
♬ Wale – Lotus Flower Bomb (feat. Miguel) – royce🌴
turn the lights off 😈
♬ Put Your Head On My Shoulder – Giulia Di Nicolantonio
@jena @ondreazlopez @hannahstocking #lifestylechallenge
♬ Jason Derulo Lifestyle ft. Adam Levine – Jason Derulo
4. Keep Your Videos Short
One of the factors that the TikTok algorithm looks at is the average watch time for your video, and how that relates to its length. The more people that watch the whole thing, the more likely it is to be recommended to other viewers.
If you keep your videos short, the number of people who watch your entire video (or even loop it), will naturally increase. That means your video is more likely to be recommended to other people.
Freedom lies in being bold #yzfamily #tutorial #fyp #foryoupage #fürdich
♬ Lalala – Y2K & bbno$
♬ original sound – Wimberley
This is the most wholesome thing you’ll see today 🥺 @fandom_brumarr #ftbl #football #soccer
♬ original sound – FTBL
The mind is like an umbrella. It’s most useful when open #yzfamily #tutorial #fürdich #fyp #foryoupage
♬ Roses (Imanbek Remix) – SAINt JHN
omggg SOo GROSSS ahhhh!!!🐛 #TooCold #WomenInSTEM #washyourstrawberries #worm #GROSS
♬ strawberries – A
5. Use Trending Hashtags
TikTok is all about the trends. If you want your content to get seen, you need to jump on the bandwagon and make content for popular hashtags. Here are a few examples.
#married #marriedcouple #marriedlife #marriedmybestfriend #marriedlifehumor #comedy #chamomile #regina #sask #fyp #momsoftiktok #yqr
♬ original sound – Ivan
He is seriously something else!!! #marriedlife #couples #marriedlifehumor #CoupleThings #marriage #prankwars #husbandwife
♬ original sound – Junah Marie
Did you guys see what was in it ?!? 😳😳 im never eating strawberry’s again !!!! #omg #fyp #foru #insane #viral #stayhome #washyourstrawberries
♬ original sound – DK🍣
To the 🐝 🐝 🐝 #fyp
♬ M to the B – Millie B
Turning into an animal TikTok fan account at this stage #fyp #animal #lion #lioness #foryoupage #safari
♬ Such a Whore (Baddest Remix) – JVLA
6. Keep Your Duet And Download Options Open
Duets are a unique TikTok feature where you can take another user’s video and make your own content alongside it. By leaving your duet and download options open, you make it possible for other users to do duets with your videos, which can boost their exposure.
#duet with @be0uty this video will haunt me forever
♬ Originalton – 🦋Be0uty🦋
#duet with @charlidamelio 🖤🧚🏻🖤
♬ Sweet and Salty – goalsounds
#duet with @miagillespiee what you all have been waiting for!! who did it better? #momsordaughters
♬ Potential Breakup Song – Aly & AJ
#duet with @jmko_music im starting to hate this song but here u go #fyp
♬ original sound – ᴊ ᴍ ᴋ ᴏ – ᴊ ᴍ ᴋ ᴏ
#duet with @spence I LOVE THIS SO MUCH😌💕 here 👑 take this
♬ Homies – Spence
Capitalize On The TikTok Algorithm
Unlike most social media algorithms, the TikTok algorithm doesn’t give a high priority to follower counts. Instead, it looks towards user interactions and preferences to decide what content to serve up, even if it’s from a brand new account.
If you want to reach the largest possible audience, strive to make content that is engaging and speaks to your target audience. You can do this by researching the hashtags and videos they interact with the most.
And for good measure: try to keep your videos short. That will make it more likely that your viewers will watch them all the way though, which will increase your average watch time, and make it more likely your videos will be pushed to additional viewers.
Above all, remember what TikTok is all about: fun and addictive videos that your viewers can enjoy on repeat.