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Marketing, TikTok

This is How the TikTok Algorithm Works

The TikTok algorithm can seem mysterious, especially if you’re new on the platform, but don’t be fooled.

Just like Instagram, there are factors that impact how well your videos perform. From the hashtags you use, to the time you post, and even your music choice — they can all influence the TikTok algorithm.

In this blog post, we’re sharing everything we know about the TikTok algorithm and how you can start using it your advantage:

Understanding the TikTok Algorithm

If you’re new to TikTok, the app can be an intimidating GenZ-filled place at first glance, but don’t let that put you off!

It’s not just viral dance or lip-sync challenges on the feed — there’s a whole host of brands, businesses, and publishers getting on board.

From skincare tips and tutorials to hilarious skits, and even politics, there is a space for literally every niche on TikTok.

what is tiktok

Before we dive into the TikTok algorithm and how it works, we should note that TikTok is notorious for keeping their algorithm secret.

Unlike Instagram — where they openly explain how your feed is ranked — the inner-workings of the TikTok algorithm are very much unverified by TikTok themselves.

But that hasn’t put a stop to people investigating if for themselves. From journalists like Henry Hien Ton and Matt Schlich at Medium (whose experiments and results alone are worthy of honorary doctorates!) to TikTok users coming up with theories, there’s a lot of talk of how the TikTok algorithm actually works.

@_madydeweyLet me know your observations in the comments! Will gladly make a part 2! ##howtiktok ##algorithm ##secrets♬ original sound – _madydewey

What we do know is that the TikTok algorithm is influenced by many different factors, and while there’s no quick-fix to hacking the algorithm, there are things you can do to help improve our reach and engagement.

Follow along as we walk you through each TikTok algorithm touchpoint and how you can start using it to your advantage!

Ready to take your TikTok strategy up a notch? Watch our free 30-minute video on how to use TikTok to grow your brand!

How Does the TikTok Algorithm Work?

In the social media world, TikTok is still relatively new on the scene, which makes the algorithm hard to pin down as trends, behaviors, and app features are constantly changing.

Once you set up a TikTok profile, your feed experience will be broken down into two categories: the “For You” page and your “Following”.

Both have their own utility — the Following tab focusing on who you are currently following, while the For You page is considered the ultimate real-estate on the platform in terms of discoverability and virality, similar to how Instagram’s Explore page operates.

The Secrets of the TikTok Algorithm

As you continue to use the platform, your For You page will continue to get more and more curated, highlighting what you’re engaging with, commenting on, saving, or sharing.

TikTok’s For You curation and algorithm is responsible for feeding us that endless stream of content — which makes for some seriously addictive scrolling and one of the many reasons users keep coming back for more.

With an average daily view time of 52 minutes, the TikTok algorithm is obviously doing something right! 

While nobody can say the For You page is how you go viral on TikTok, it is often discussed to be a “holy grail” if you land on it as a creator.

Instead of leaving it up to chance and good luck, there’s still plenty of variables TikTok uses to filter and pick what goes on users’ For You pages, including hashtags, music choices, timing, and more.

If you want to jump into the details, check out our Ultimate Guide to TikTok Marketing where we share strategic tips and tricks to growing your brand on TikTok!

The 7 Most Important Factors for the TikTok Algorithm

To help you create the best content, and use those variables to get more limelight on the TikTok feed, we’re going to jump into the top 7 factors that influence the TikTok algorithm!

From nailing your hashtag strategy to choosing trending songs and sounds, we have everything you need to hack the TikTok algorithm.

#1 TikTok Algorithm Explained: Hashtags

As we mentioned above, the For You page is where users aim to land in order to hit the TikTok lottery.

To hack the system, you’re likely to see the following hashtags on content such as #Foryou, #ForYouPage, and #FYP.

@jasonderuloI can’t believe @addisonre can moonwalk so good 🤯 ##fyp ##foryoupage♬ #hiteverybeat – lulbabyynelii

Knowing exactly what hashtag is best in terms of optimizing your content for the FYP is still relatively mysterious. Vice highlights that if posts include at least one of these #fyp, #foryou, or #foryoupage hashtags in their captions, their posts are more likely to surface on more For You pages.

Along with the #FYP tactic, we’ve seen people utilize the trending hashtag feature to tap into what’s gaining momentum in real-time.

Everything You Need To Know About TikTok’s Algorithm

By tapping the Discover Tab, you can find trending hashtags, as well as typing them out if you want to check a hashtag’s performance.

Looking for the ones that are getting a lot of traction right now? Just look for the fire icons next to the hashtags and think about incorporating that hashtag into your captain, if the content aligns.

TikTok lets its users know how many views each hashtag gains. And while these numbers can look intimidating — especially if they’re in the millions — they’re also proving this content is favored.

It almost provides a  “creative brief” for users to tap into, such as the latest #albumlookalike challenge, #jamsessions, and #learnfromme hashtags, all prioritized by TikTok.

TIP: Research what hashtags are trending right now and see if your brand can create content to take part!

But be cautious — jumping on a hashtag just because it’s trending may seem like a good idea, but if the hashtag is completely unrelated to the content in your video, it could backfire!

So always find relatable hashtags that will help people discover your content and inform the TikTok algorithm what your video and your profile is all about!

#2 TikTok Algorithm Explained: TikTok Captions

Unlike the trend of long captions on Instagram and Facebook, TikTok is not the platform to share an essay.

The ideal caption for TikTok should be short, feature hashtags relating back to the content, and be digestible (and complimentary) to the content you’re sharing.

TikTok is a mobile-first video platform, so keeping copy short and quippy tends to bring better results.

Everything You Need To Know About TikTok’s Algorithm

TIP: Want to make your copy most engaging? Consider asking a question, using a joke, or making the copy a little mysterious or something you need to “wait for.”

 This Is The TikTok Algorithm, Explained

These themes tend to perform well, especially for influencers on the platform.

When it comes to boosting engagement, being able to start and lead a conversation in your comments really pays off. Your video’s top comments will have a prime spot at the top of your comments list, which means you could spark even more conversation as people will notice the comments on your video as they scroll through TikTok.

 This Is The TikTok Algorithm, Explained

#3 TikTok Algorithm Explained: Trending Songs & Sounds

Like hashtags, TikTok’s music and sounds play a major part in your content’s discoverability.

The good news is that using a trending song at the right time can mean a quick bump in likes and views.

But unlike TikTok’s Discover tab, TikTok’s Sounds are not as easily accessible as a tap of a tab. Unless you’re actively consuming video or creating one yourself within the app, you need to be a little more stealth in finding what music and sounds are getting the most traction.

Here’s how you can find trending music (and save music for later):

#1: Sounds in Video Editor

To find new, trending, and popular sounds on TikTok, you’ll need to go into TikTok’s video editor.

Press the plus icon at the bottom of the screen.

 This Is The TikTok Algorithm, Explained

Don’t worry, you don’t have to actually film anything to see what’s hot! Tap “Sounds” at the top of the screen.

 This Is The TikTok Algorithm, Explained

Now you can have fun and scroll through what’s trending!

It’s an awesome hub to find new stuff and make sure you’re on the pulse of what sounds people are using! This hub is also where your favorites list lives (more on that below!).

#2: Favorites

When you’re on TikTok, keep an ear out for sounds you like! Similar to “Saves” on Instagram, favoriting a sound collects it for you in one handy spot.

If you like a sound and want to use it in the future, tap on the sound under the username and tap “Add to Favorites”. The Favorites tab is an awesome tool to keep all your favs in one place — it’ll come in handy when you need it most!Gaining More Followers on TikTok: The Basics

#3: Sounds Your Followers Listened to

One of the best-kept secrets of the TikTok app is hidden in the Analytics tab of TikTok Pro accounts.

Under the Followers tab, scroll down to find the top sounds your audience has listened to over the last 7 days — making it a shortlist of music you could use for your next video!TikTok

#4 TikTok Algorithm Explained: When Your Audience is Most Active 

Posting content when your audience is most active is a sure way to get your content seen. And, thanks to TikTok’s Pro Accounts, you can tap into some juicy audience analytics.

TikTok analytics may not be as in-depth as Instagram analytics, but don’t be fooled! TikTok gives you a ton of useful information to help you gain a better understanding of your personal best time to post.

TikTok_Audience

Knowing when your audience is live is a great starting point. To help you find your personalized best time to post on TikTok for your brand and business, we’re covering everything you need to know in this blog post.

Why Some Videos are Instant Hits (and Others are Slow Burners!)

Many people have seen or heard of the “slow burn” phenomenon on TikTok — when something is posted, barely gets engagement or reach, and then suddenly pops off on TikTok.

This timing could be 48-hours after posting or up to weeks later, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it!

For now, we can assume that while videos slowly gain likes, comments, and views, the TikTok algorithm may push your video onto the For You page, even if it’s not a brand new video.

Or, a sound could suddenly get a lot of exposure, based on someone else’s video going viral, and your video that features the same sounds could get a little bump!

So it’s worth keeping in mind that even though you might not get an initial huge reaction, it’s worth waiting and keeping an eye on your video for weeks, and even months after you’ve posted.

#5 TikTok Algorithm Explained: Video Content & Editing 

There’s no denying that TikTok’s video style is unique — there’s nothing off-bounds! It’s a place where creativity flows and you can represent your brand any way you like.

That said, if you’ve covered your bases with the perfect song, the ideal caption, and the timing of your post, but don’t have a strong video to share it with, does the content still perform? This is perhaps the biggest unknown of the TikTok algorithm.

One theory is that TikToks with a seamless loop can potentially be a trigger for the algorithm.

@lifewithericklegends say this video only loads if you have a fast Internet 🌚 ##perfectloop ##foryoupage♬ Perfect Loop – lifewitherick

It’s worth thinking about videos you’ve watched 3 times in a row, or clips you just keep coming back to — these are the ones that really grab audience attention and the algorithm could reward you for it!

This is something TikTok is very likely monitoring, serving more of the content all users are gravitating towards. It could be machine learning over personal preference that determines whether a video goes viral or not.

Once you have a good video concept, it’s worth spending some time editing your TikTok video to make the format even more engaging for viewers.

Looking to level-up your TikTok skills? Join Later’s 10-day Challenge! Each day we’ll show you a new TikTok skill or hack that you can use on your own TikTok feed.

 

#6 TikTok Algorithm Explained: Location

TikTok profile location is something we’re investigating at Later.  We’re predicting TikTok is going to serve hyper-local content to viewers to make a more community-oriented feed.

While the Later team is scattered around the world, we’re all posting to the same TikTok account — that’s why you’ll see so many faces on our TikTok page!

“Location is definitely a key factor in what videos get recommended to users on their For You pages. Having a global team has really allowed us to explore and confirm patterns in how we’re served location-based content.

Because of this, there’s a lot of potential for smaller businesses to benefit from being on TikTok to really increase brand awareness – especially if they’re trying to reach Gen Z and Millennials. ”

Lindsay Ashcraft, Social Media Coordinator at Later

Although we think the location is a small variable for the TikTok algorithm, there’s no denying that users have started to see (and engage!) with content that was posted closest to them.

It’s an interesting thought and one to watch for the future of the TikTok algorithm!

Other Factors That Influence the TikTok Algorithm:

We can only assume that the TikTok algorithm is always growing, changing, and learning from our behaviors on the app.

While there’s no definitive formula for hacking the algorithm, there are a few other factors that we think could be influencing video performance and your follower growth!

#1: Consistency

Some people have said it’s a good idea to flood your TikTok feeds with anything and everything because quantity trumps quality as the app is still growing in popularity.  But others have noted 1-2 posts a day is the sweet spot.

While we certainly are in the camp of making the best content you can, TikTok is a tool to test new content, try new videos, and consistently post if you do want to grow your account.

So our advice would be to start experimenting with your content, be brave with new formats, and try to build a cadence of posting without worrying too much about aesthetics (for now!).

#2: TikTok Duets 

If you’ve spent any time on TikTok, you’ve likely scrolled past Duets.  They are side-by-side videos, one side being the original creator and the other being a TikTok user. Duets are a great way to increase engagement — the more duets your video gets, the wider net you cast.

@abby.horton@salthater ##duet with @charlidamelio ❤️@dameliofamilyofficial @dixiedamelio @marcdamelio @heididamelio ##fyp♬ original sound – samantha_long_

Creating a Duet challenge for your audience is also a smart way to increase and collect user-generated content. For example, create a dance or challenge and ask your followers to duet with you in the caption!

#3: New Features

We did say TikTok was all about experimentation so being a “beta” user for new tools rolling out could play a role in getting more engagement on your videos. Especially as TikTok highlights what tools and features you’re using to edit your video when you post!

One example is the new voice over feature — essentially allowing the next wave of podcasters to find a space for their content on TikTok!

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

#4: Completion rate 

Another theory is that shorter videos of 10 to 15 seconds perform better on the app as their completion rate will be much higher.

With shorter videos, viewers will most likely watch it till the end  (or even multiple times) which is a good signal to the algorithm that people are enjoying this content and it should be shared more often! Take a look at eos, the lip balm brand creates simple and short videos that rack up thousands of views:

@eospov: we handed the aux cord to our new BOOST balm 😜 💃🏻##keepingactive ##beauty ##lipbalm ##dancing ##eos ##fyp♬ Body – Dirtcaps Remix – Loud Luxury feat. brando

With TikTok moving at the speed of light with more and more brands, businesses, and influencers joining the platform, it’s fascinating to see how it will evolve as time goes on.

And while TikTok still has a reputation of being the “wild west” of all the social networking platforms, its anything-goes nature is a great opportunity for brands to start thinking outside the box and making brand new, exciting content for their fans.

Hopefully, these tips and tricks will help you use the TikTok algorithm to your advantage and start to see some real traction on your posts!

Not following us on TikTok yet? We’re sharing social media tips and well as some behind-the-scenes action from the team! 

 

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Written By

Molly McGlew