Introduction to TikTok

TikTok, a video sharing platform, rose to fame in 2020, capturing a large audience of over 600 million. Its content are mainly short form videos with a variety of genres. Naturally, with this huge pool of users and engaging content, TikTok is often used as a tool to build audiences. But being a new platform meant that its technology, particularly, the TikTok algorithm, was a blackbox.

The TikTok Algorithm

The TikTok Algorithm

On many other social media platforms, users view content and posts from the people they follow. On the contrary, TikTok users are mainly shown content from outside their social circle via the For You Page (FYP) which shows recommended videos from the TikTok algorithm. TikTok has kept the inner workings of its algorithm under wraps, but in June 2020 a document named “TikTok Algorithm 101” was released by TikTok’s engineers. The document details some factors that affect the TikTok algorithm of recommendations. Thus, this article will summarise these factors and explains creator theories on the TikTok algorithm. Along the way tips and hacks on beating the algorithm will also be highlighted.

How the TikTok Algorithm Works + Hacks & Tips

1. Based on user’s activity

As every individual has different behaviours and interests, every user’s FYP produced by the TikTok algorithm is different. The user’s interest and preferences are determined by user activity and interactions, such as:

  • Likes
  • Clicks
  • Shares
  • Follows
  • Comments

Another noteworthy data point used in the TikTok algorithm is the percentage of video watched. Watching the video until the end indicates strong interest and will be given greater priority in the algorithm. Thus, based on this wide spectrum of determining factors, users are likely to see creators that they have engaged with regardless of whether they follow them. This is good news for those building an audience.

Based on this, a simple but effective tip would be to keep videos short as this makes it easier for users to complete the video and signal their interest to the TikTok algorithm.

TikTok's options for user engagement: Likes, Share, Follow, Music, Hashtag and More

2. Based on Video Content

Video information also plays a role in the TikTok algorithm. Some examples include:

  • Video length
  • Captions
  • Sounds
  • Hashtags
  • Stickers
  • Filters & Effects

Hashtags are pivotal for the TikTok algorithm to identify video content for future recommendations. Users who engage with videos of a certain hashtag are likely to be recommended more videos under the same hashtag. Interestingly, another unique attribute of TikTok is its trending sounds and filters. The TikTok algorithm is able to create these trends by identifying music or effects users have shown interest in and repeatedly showing users these videos.

Thus, unlike Instagram or Facebook where originality piques greater user interest, in TikTok, using trending sounds, effects, filters, hashtags would help creators gain more traction, especially if they are still building a following. This is particularly easy to do considering how easily the TikTok algorithm generates new trends. However, creators still have to adapt trends to their own style of content to keep the trending content fresh.

3. Based on Merit

Yet another unique characteristic of TikTok is its algorithm based on merit rather than past performance. TikTok creators with greater followings may have more visibility but they are not more likely to appear on user’s feed compared to smaller creators. Each video is measured based on its merits, which is derived from user activity and video content.

How does the TikTok algorithm then measure this merit in a fair way before deciding to show to its users? This is information that was not revealed in the document, but creators have come up with the “Batch Theory”. This theory suggests that the TikTok algorithm shows videos to different batches of people. The user activity of each batch then determines the size and number of future batches the video will be shown to. Content creators hold this belief about the TikTok algorithm as they often experience a jump in views after a plateau.

Thus, as the TikTok algorithm is still a mystery, it is important to monitor performance continuously to identify trends and patterns. This can be done by creating a TikTok business account.

Conclusion

In conclusion, although the TikTok algorithm is a relatively foreign tool for many, an understanding of it should make it easy to use to one’s advantage. The TikTok algorithm can then be powerful tool in building an audience and creating meaningful relationships.