How Does The TikTok Algorithm Work? Here's Everything You Need To Know

By Jessica Worb

Published January 14, 2022

6 minute read

Ready to hack the TikTok algorithm for viral growth?


Stay on top of the biggest social media marketing trends!

If you (like us!) have been wondering, how does the TikTok algorithm work? We've got some exciting news.

TikTok has finally revealed how their elusive algorithm works and what you can do to get your videos in as many For You pages as possible.

Ready to hack the TikTok algorithm? Keep reading to find out how:

How the TikTok Algorithm Works

The TikTok algorithm is a complex system designed to serve users content based on what it believes to be of high interest.

According to TikTok: “The system recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors — starting from interests you express as a new user and adjusting for things you indicate you’re not interested in, too.”

What Factors Influence the TikTok Algorithm:

The TikTok algorithm serves videos to users based on a number of different factors, including:

  • Video Likes, Comments, Shares, Completions, and Re-watches: The more engagements and views a TikTok video receives, the more likely it will be served to larger audiences.

  • Subject Matter: TikTok is great at categorizing content based on user interests, so subject matter is an important factor when it comes to reach potential on the app.

  • Device Settings: The algorithm recognizes a users device settings such as posting location and language — typically sharing local content.

  • Audio: When a video includes a trending sound or song, the more likely it’s served to a larger audience.

  • Hashtags and caption keywords: Including hashtags and keywords in your captions informs the algorithm what your content is about.

  • User Activity and "Not Interested" Feedback: The TikTok algorithm is always trying to serve high-interest videos to every user, and it uses previous activity to determine this. Likes, comments, shares, and re-watches are all major indicators of interest.

Each of these factors is individually weighed by TikTok’s recommendation system, which means each For You page is completely unique.

TikTok explains a strong indicator of interest is if a user finishes watching a video from beginning to end.

This would receive greater weight than a weak indicator, such as whether the viewer and creator of the content are both in the same country.

These “indicators of interest,” help TikTok rank the videos on a user’s For You page.

TikTok explained that, “neither follower count nor whether the account has had previous high-performing videos are direct factors in the recommendation system.”

This means that even if you only have a handful of followers, or have never posted to TikTok before, there’s still an opportunity for your video to go viral. Hooray!

Take your TikTok strategy to the next level. Plan and schedule your TikTok content in advance with Later:

How to Hack the TikTok Algorithm

The TikTok algorithm is always adapting, changing, and learning from user behavior.

Based on everything we know about how the algorithm works, here are five ways to boost your performance and expedite your growth:

  1. Hook Your Audience Within Three Seconds

  2. Focus on a Niche

  3. Jump on Trending Audio

  4. Experiment with New Features 

  5. Create Accessible Content 

TikTok Algorithm Hack #1: Hook Your Audience Within Three Seconds

Since watching a video in full is a strong interest indicator, TikTok typically favors videos that are easy-to-digest, have a seamless loop, and cater to users who have a short attention span.

Because of this, it’s vital to hook your audience within the first three seconds

With over 1B monthly active users on the app, people want to be entertained immediately or else they’re onto the next.

When videos have an intriguing hook, viewers will most likely watch till the end or even on repeat.

This type of user engagement signals to the algorithm that people are enjoying the content and as a result, it should be shared to more users.

TikTok Algorithm Hack #2: Focus on a Niche 

Creating consistent content in your niche is one of the main factors that influences the algorithm. 

The more you share videos related to your niche, the more the TikTok algorithm will recognize your expertise and begin to serve your content to the right audience. 

Think about the content themes that resonate with your target audience best. Is it beauty tutorials, dating advice, comedy sketches, reviews? 

When you create great content that serves a purpose and great value, your audience will come. 

Experiment using industry-specific hashtags – they’re a great way to signal to the algorithm that you know your stuff. 

For example, if you’re an Instagram marketing consultant, you may use hashtags like #instagramtips, #smmtips, or #socialmediamarketing.

Including those hashtags essentially tells the algorithm, “hey, TikTok, look over here! Our account shares tips and tricks for social media managers. Please show our videos to those users.”

TikTok Algorithm Hack #3: Jump on Trending Audio

It goes without saying that trending audio and TikTok get on like a house on fire.

Since the TikTok algorithm tends to favor videos using trending sounds, consider jumping on trends while they’re still hot.

There are a few ways you can find trending audio:

First, scroll through TikTok to see if there are any repeated songs or audio clips. If you think a clip is trending, tap on the music to see how many users have created videos with the sound.

If there are only a handful of videos under the sound, that’s a good thing! It means you’re jumping on the trend early. If you want to use the sound, either create a video right away or save it for later.

Another way to find new and trending sounds on TikTok is through the video editor. Press the plus icon at the bottom of the screen, tap “ Add sound”, and scroll through what’s trending.

TikTok Algorithm Hack #4: Experiment With New Features 

TikTok is all about testing the waters and trying out new ideas. In fact, they’ll actually reward you for doing so.

Being a “beta” user for up and coming tools can play a role in getting more engagement on your content. Especially as TikTok highlights what tools and features you’re using to edit your video when you post.

Keep an eye out for new feature releases, you may want to try them out to gain more visibility!

TikTok Algorithm Hack #5: Create Accessible Content 

To ensure longer watch times, focus on creating accessible content.

This can look different for different accounts, but the easiest way to do this is by adding on-screen text and captions.

The more accessible your video, the broader the audience and the higher the watch time. 

At the end of the day, there’s no surefire way to “beat” the TikTok algorithm. 

However, understanding how the TikTok algorithm works and following the hacks we’ve shared in this post can help you fine tune your strategy and gain an advantage.

Being consistent and building a strong presence is the most powerful way to “hack” the algorithm — and it will work wonders for your brand too.

Ready to plan your TikTok content in advance? Start scheduling with Later, the #1 visual marketing platform – for free!

Stay on top of the biggest social media marketing trends!


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