This is How the TikTok Algorithm Works
The TikTok algorithm may seem complex and mysterious — but TikTok has (finally!) revealed exactly how it works!
From what hashtags you use, to your location, music choices, and even the very first TikTok video you liked — they can all influence the TikTok algorithm.
Which is some serious intel for brands and businesses looking to get more engagement on their TikTok content.
In this blog post, we’re sharing everything we know about the TikTok algorithm and how you can start using it your advantage:
How the TikTok Algorithm Works (According to TikTok Themselves!)
TikTok has finally lifted the veil on how the algorithm works, putting an end to months of rumors and speculation.
In a recent press statement, TikTok shared exactly how the #ForYou feed is calibrated and personalized to each account.
So before we jump into the nitty-gritty details of the TikTok algorithm, here’s what we know to be true — straight from TikTok HQ!
What Factors Contribute to TikTok’s For You Page Video Suggestions?
If you’ve scrolled TikTok, you’ll know that the For You page is the best place to go to find the best new content.
Previously, we could only make assumptions that the For You page appeared to be a curated feed, pulling videos that are related to your profile, location, and similar to videos you’ve already liked and engaged with.
But now, we have some concrete facts from TikTok on how the For You page reflects preferences unique to each user.
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”.
These factors include things like:
- User interactions: such as the videos you like or share, accounts you follow, comments you post, and content you create.
- Video information: this might include details like captions, sounds, and hashtags.
- Device and account settings: like your language preference, country setting, and device type.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Each of these factors is individually weighted by the TikTok’s For You recommendation system, meaning that each For You page will be completely unique to a user and their level of interest.
For example, TikTok explains that a strong indicator of interest could be if a user finishes watching a longer video from beginning to end.
This would receive greater weight than a weak indicator, such as whether the video’s viewer and creator are both in the same country.
From these “indicators of interest,” For You page videos are then ranked based on the likelihood of a user’s interest in a piece of content.
But what about the age-old question of “do I need thousands of followers to go viral?”. In short, the answer is no.
TikTok explained that while a video is likely to receive more views if posted by an account that has more followers (by virtue of having a larger follower base), “neither follower count nor whether the account has had previous high-performing videos are direct factors in the recommendation system.”
Check out @kei.honey‘s viral post below. With just over 40K followers, Kei’s educational video to support the Black Lives Matter movement gained over 1.2M views and 360K likes (at the time of publishing this blog post).
@kei.honeythe connection between slavery and the prison system ##blacklivesmatter ##blm♬ original sound – kei.honey
So even if you have zero followers, and have never posted to TikTok before, there’s still an opportunity for your video to appear in the For You page of other users!
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 to Personalize Your For You Page:
Now we know how TikTok decides what appears on your For You page, we can explore how to personalize it!
TikTok is an app for discovery — so even if you only follow 5 accounts, you can still spend hours scrolling through videos (trust us, it can happened!).
So to help you get the most out of your TikTok profile, you can take some action to make sure your For You page is always delivering content that you’re interested in.
Here’s some tips from TikTok on how to personalize your For You page:
#1: Getting Started on TikTok with Category Selection
When you first set up a TikTok account, you’ll be prompted to select categories that interest you — like pets, travel, beauty, sports, etc.
TikTok uses this information to tailor the recommendation in your initial For You page feed — as at this stage, you’ve probably not liked, followed, or engaged with any videos yet. TikTok relies on the categories you’ve selected to put the first version of your For You page feed together.
If you don’t select categories, TikTok will start by offering you a generalized feed of popular videos to get the ball rolling.
From here, TikTok starts to learn more about your interests and preferences based on your likes, comments, and replays.
So if you’re brand new to TikTok, it’s worth selecting relevant categories and engaging with the content that you actually enjoy — so the algorithm can learn exactly what type of content you want to see.
#2: Find More of What You’re Interested in
The TikTok algorithm learns from every single action you take on the app.
So the best way to curate your For You page feed is to use and enjoy TikTok. Over time, you’ll see your feed becoming more relevant to your interests.
And according to TikTok, your feed isn’t only shaped by your engagement on the For You page feed itself.
“When you decide to follow new accounts, for example, that action will help refine your recommendations too, as will exploring hashtags, sounds, effects, and trending topics on the Discover tab.”
Using all of TikTok’s features will tailor your experience and determine what content makes it into your feed!
#3: Tell TikTok What You’re Not Interested in
There’s a space on TikTok for everyone, but everyone has their own preferences of what they’d like to see and engage with on the app.
Think of it like your Netflix recommendations, some series might not be for you, but they still deserve their place.
If you come across something that’s not quite to your liking, you can simply long-press on a video and tap “Not Interested” to indicate that you don’t care for a particular video.
You can also choose to hide videos from a given creator or made with a certain sound, or report a video that seems out of line with TikTok’s guidelines.
All these actions contribute to future recommendations in your For You page feed, helping to create a perfectly personalized feed!
How to Use the TikTok Algorithm to Get Your Content on the For You Page:
If you’re a brand, business, or creator on TikTok, the chances are you’d like to get more views, likes, and comments on your content.
After all, the more eyes on your videos, the more opportunity you have to engage with your TikTok audience and show off your brand.
And the key to getting more engagement on your videos is working with the TikTok algorithm to get your content on as many For You page feeds as possible.
But trust us, getting a coveted spot on a For You page takes a lot more than just adding #fyp to your caption.
To help you create the best content, and get more limelight on the TikTok feed, we’re going to jump into the top 6 factors that influence the TikTok algorithm!
From nailing your hashtag strategy to choosing trending songs and sounds, we’re covering everything you need to know to hack the TikTok algorithm:
TikTok Algorithm Factor #1 : Hashtags
As we mentioned above, the For You page is where users aim to land in order to hit the TikTok lottery.
You’re likely to see the following hashtags on content such as #Foryou, #ForYouPage, and #FYP. But based on TikTok’s statement on the algorithm, tapping on one of these hashtags doesn’t guarantee you a spot on the For You page.
@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.
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!
TikTok Algorithm Factor #2: 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.
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.”
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.
TikTok Algorithm Factor #3: 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.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to actually film anything to see what’s hot! Tap “Sounds” at the top of the screen.
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!).
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!
#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 Algorithm Factor #4: 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.
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.
TikTok Algorithm Factor #5: 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 still 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.
TikTok Algorithm Factor #6: 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 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!
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!