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This is How the TikTok Algorithm Works

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How Does The TikTok Algorithm Work? (+10 Hacks to Go Viral)


By Jessica Worb

Updated on September 19, 2022

10 minute read

Everything you need to know about the TikTok algorithm, with added tips for going viral 🔥

Published January 14, 2022

Stay on top of the biggest social media marketing trends!

Curious about how the TikTok algorithm works?

We're sharing all the important details, along with what you can do to get your videos on as many For You Pages as possible.

Ready to jump into the details? Get the low-down by watching this video — or read the full blog post below.

What Is the TikTok Algorithm?

The TikTok algorithm is a complex system designed to serve users content on the app’s homepage — the For You page (FYP).

Much like Instagram’s Explore page, the FYP is an endless feed of curated content that TikTok’s algorithm thinks you’ll be interested in.

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.”

The algorithm considers videos you’ve interacted with in the past, accounts and hashtags you follow, your location and language preferences, and even the type of content you create.

So instead of being populated entirely with videos from the people you follow, your FYP is filled with videos TikTok’s algorithm thinks you’ll enjoy — mostly from creators you don’t already know.

Translation: no two FYPs are the same!

FYI: Later is an approved TikTok Content Marketing Partner trusted by over 4M brands and creators! Start planning and scheduling your TikTok videos in advance — create an account today:

How Does the TikTok Algorithm Work in 2022?

There are multiple factors that influence how TikTok's algorithm serves content to users.

The main contributors being: user activity, video subject matter, location and language, audio, and “Not Interested” feedback. So, let's break them down.

1. User Activity

The more engagement and views a TikTok video receives, the more likely it will be served to larger audiences. Positive indicators include:

  • Likes

  • Comments

  • Shares

  • Completions and re-watches

  • Account follows

2. Subject Matter (Video Information)

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.

TikTok determines subject matter from:

  • Caption keywords

  • Sounds

  • Hashtags

  • Effects

  • Content (i.e video transcripts)

3. Location and Language

The algorithm recognizes a user's device settings (including location and language) when deciding who may be interested in a video. These include:

  • Posting location

  • Language preferences

  • Type of mobile device

4. Audio

When a video includes a trending sound or song, the algorithm will use this to categorize your content and serve it to relevant audiences.

Tapping into trending audio is a great way to reach new audiences, as the algorithm will serve your video to people who have already engaged with the trend.

PSA: If you need help finding the latest TikTok trends, bookmark this weekly TikTok trends resource!

5. "Not Interested" Feedback

TikTok's algorithm is always trying to serve high-interest videos to every user, and it uses previous activity to determine this:

  • Videos you've marked as "Not Interested"

  • Users you've hidden

  • Videos you skip through

Each of these factors is individually weighed by TikTok’s recommendation system (with some indicators being more important than others), which means each For You page is completely unique.

Factors That Do Not Influence the TikTok Algorithm

There are a few factors that do not influence how the TikTok algorithm ranks your content. These include:

  • Follower count

  • Whether you've had previous high-performing videos

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!

Types of Content the Algorithm Won't Recommend

Much like in baseball, there are a set of rules and regulations you must follow in order to play ball (and win big) with TikTok's algorithm.

To help foster the TikTok experience, the algorithm is designed to take “user safety as a primary consideration.”

According to the platform, "Provided that it does not violate local laws, the following types of content may be allowed on our platform, searchable, and viewed in Following feeds but not eligible for recommendation."

Such content includes:

  • Minor safety

  • Dangerous sports and stunts

  • Overtly sexualized content 

  • Tobacco and alcohol products

  • Violent and graphic content

  • Spam, inauthentic, or misleading content

  • Unoriginal, low-quality, and QR code content

So, in order to avoid the algorithm flagging your content, it's best practice to steer clear of all the above and follow the app's community guidelines.

ICYMI: Later has the perfect scheduling tools for planning and scheduling your TikTok videos in advance. Create an account today — for free!

How to Hack the TikTok Algorithm For More Views in 2022

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

Based on everything we know about how the algorithm works, here are 10 ways to boost your performance and beat the algorithm for growth:

  1. Hook Your Audience Within Three Seconds

  2. Focus on a Niche

  3. Use Trending TikTok Audio

  4. Experiment with New TikTok Features 

  5. Use Relevant Hashtags

  6. Engage with Similar Content Creators

  7. Create Accessible Content 

  8. Find the Best Time to Post

  9. Make Shorter Videos

  10. Don't Delete Old 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 

The more consistently 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, or OOTDs? 

Once you've nailed down your niche, consistently add keywords to your captions and video content. Give the algorithm everything it needs to categorize your content.

Stills of Maddie White's get ready with me type videos

TikTok Algorithm Hack #3: Use Trending TikTok 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.

How to Find Trending Audio on TikTok:

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

    A user clicks a trending TikTok sound to see all videos using that sound
  2. Check the "TikTok Viral" tab via the video editor. Select "Sounds" to browse the latest trending audio tracks.

    A user adds a trending sound to a TikTok video

TikTok Algorithm Hack #4: Experiment With New TikTok Features 

TikTok is all about testing the waters and trying out new ideas.

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’ve used to edit your video when you post.

Still of Hannah's video using green screen feature to edit her TikTok

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

TikTok Algorithm Hack #5: Use Relevant Hashtags

Similar to Instagram, hashtags on TikTok help categorize content and make it easier for users to search for content.

But it's important to use relevant hashtags. Think of them as keywords — they'll signal to the TikTok algorithm what your content is about.

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.”

And if you're jumping on a trend, be sure to use the appropriate trending hashtag in your caption too.

TikTok Algorithm Hack #6: Engage With Content Creators in Your Niche

Social media is meant to be social — so it's important not to post and ghost!

Chrissy Ford replying to comments on TikTok

Replying to comments and starting conversations with similar creators in your niche is a great way to boost your engagement, which is a key indicator for the TikTok algorithm.

TikTok Algorithm Hack #7: Create Accessible Content 

Creating accessible content is another valuable algorithm hack, and will also make your content more inclusive.

The easiest way to do this is by adding on-screen text and captions.

The more accessible your video, the more people can view and engage with your content.

TikTok Algorithm Hack #8: Find the Best Time to Post

While the TikTok algorithm ranks content based on a combination of factors, posting at your most optimal time is still valuable.

Why? If you post when most of your community is online, you’ll reach more people right away. 

However, there's no universal best time to post on TikTok — it'll range depending on your audience’s location and scrolling habits.  

So figuring out when your audience is most active is key.

To find out how to do that, read this: The Best Time to Post on TikTok in 2022

TikTok Algorithm Hack #9: Make Shorter Videos

TikTok has been gradually upping video limits over the last few years. First 15 seconds. Then one minute. Then three minutes. And now it's extended its video length to 10 minutes.

While this does create more opportunities for storytelling or to be creative, there's no doubt that 10 minutes is incredibly long — especially on a platform where short is key.

The TikTok algorithm rewards content that is watched all the way through, so aiming for snappy 15-30 seconds is a good place to start.

However, if you want to experiment with long-form videos, give them a try and see how your audience responds.

TikTok Algorithm Hack #10: Don't Delete Old Content

TikTok videos can go viral days, even weeks, after they've been posted.

So, there's a good chance that with a consistent posting cadence, one of your videos will land a spot on the For You Page.

Case in point: DJ @koozebane posted a PSY X Steve Lacy mashup in 2021 and it went viral months later in 2022 — sparking its own trend.

And if one of your old videos does gain momentum, you'll have tons of similar content that users can scroll through and engage with.

Ready to kick-start your TikTok strategy? Create an account today to plan and schedule all your TikTok content in advance!

In Summary...

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 tips we’ve shared can help you fine-tune your strategy and improve your chances of being seen.

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

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

Plan, schedule, and automatically publish your social media posts with Later.

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