Always up to date: how the TikTok algorithm works

The first step to success on TikTok is understanding how the algorithm works.
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Knowing how the TikTok algorithm works is crucial to success on the platform. Here’s everything you need to know.

If you want to go viral on TikTok, you’re going to need the TikTok algorithm to work in your favour. Get it right and your videos will appear on the app’s For You page (FYP) of users likely to enjoy your content. Hack the TikTok algorithm and you’ll get more views and a likely increase in followers.

What is the TikTok algorithm?

The TikTok algorithm is the system behind the videos that appear on a user’s For You page, which is what the user sees when they open the app. Everyone’s FYP is unique, because it’s tailored to the individual’s likes and dislikes. Even users who are completely new to TikTok will be shown an endless stream of videos when they open the app. In this instance, it’s based on the likes of people in a similar demographic.

What is the For You feed?

This is what TikTok says about the For You page:

“A stream of videos curated to your interests, making it easy to find content and creators you love, powered by a recommendation system that delivers content to each user that is likely to be of interest to that particular user.”

How the TikTok algorithm works

Algorithms are the formulas used to feed social media users the kind of content that will keep them scrolling. Each social network has its own formula. The three things that influence the TikTok algorithm are:

  • User interactions
  • Video information
  • Device and account settings

The platform’s software analyses all the information it can about the viewer using these three categories and then uses the results to curate content for the For You page.

factors that influence tiktok algorithm Source: Influencer Marketing Hub

What are the TikTok’s algorithm main ranking factors?

Hootsuite has identified the signals that will prompt the TikTok algorithm to increase the ranking of a video in each of the three categories of influence.

User interactions – the TikTok algorithm processes actions that indicate a user’s likes or dislikes. The For You page uses the following information when it comes to recommending content:

  • The accounts you follow
  • Any comments you make
  • Content that you’ve chosen to hide
  • Videos you’ve liked or shared
  • Videos added to your favourites
  • Any videos marked as ‘not interested’
  • Videos reported as inappropriate
  • How long you watch a video for
  • Your own content
  • Interests reflected in your interactions with organic content and ads

Video Information – the TikTok algorithm also processes information signals from the videos you actively seek out. These can include details like:

  • Captions
  • Sounds
  • Hashtags
  • Effects
  • Trending topics

If you want to know more about how hashtags can boost your campaign, try our TikTok hashtag vs. branded hashtag challenge.

Device and account settings – some of these settings will have an effect on the TikTok algorithm, namely:

  • Language preference
  • Country setting
  • Type of mobile device
  • Interest categories selected as a new user

What’s not included in the TikTok algorithm?

According to Hootsuite, the following aren’t included in the TikTok algorithm:

  • Duplicated content
  • Content that you’ve already seen
  • Spam
  • Upsetting content

Creators will also be pleased to know that TikTok doesn’t take the number of followers or a history of previous high-performing videos into account when making recommendations. That means if you create great content that appeals to your target audience, you’ve as much chance of landing on someone’s FYP as TikTok’s biggest stars.

How to get your videos seen on TikTok

To create videos that will get promoted by the TikTok algorithm, try the following:

  • Switch to a TikTok Pro Account – this will provide you with detailed analysis, which you can use to tweak your TikTok campaign. You’ll be able to see weekly and monthly views, and follower growth, along with insights into how your videos are performing
  • Find your niche – choose your area of special interest and then search to find videos in the same category that are performing well
  • Create high quality videos – it goes without saying that your videos should be the best and most creative you can manage. Worried that you don’t have the skills? Practise with all the different in-app editing tools
  • Engage with other TikTok users – talk to your followers. You can also use video in the comments section to answer common questions
  • Post a series – make a succession of videos on the same topic, revealing different information each time to encourage followers to keep coming back

The first rule of going viral is to make sure you post great content. If you’re not sure what makes a really good TikTok video, check out some of your trending rivals to see how they do it.

Influencer Marketing Hub gives Elf Cosmetics as an example of a TikTok creator smashing it on the content front. The brand shares tips, customer tutorials, reviews, and engaging video content.

@elfyeahGet with the program besties 🥰💖

♬ original sound – gracie

Make sure you give your video the best chance, by paying attention to:

Trending sounds

The TikTok app is loaded with creator tools and one of them is the ability to use sounds and music without having to worry about copyright infringement. Using music or sounds that are already trending boosts the chances of being seen – you’ll need to pick sounds that are on their way up and not those that have already peaked.

Use captions, hashtags, and video descriptions

Caption your videos and you have a better chance of grabbing the attention of those who like to watch with the sound turned down or those who are hard of hearing. Also, make sure you describe your video using specific keywords. Search Engine Land quotes TikTok creator Kate Smoothy who says: “We’re seeing a huge shift with the platform where videos optimised for their search feature seem to perform better.”

TikTok urges users to research keywords within the app to ensure you pick the most effective ones.

Collaborate with other users

By collaborating with other users who share your values and vision, you can increase your reach and engagement. You can appear in one another’s videos and tag each other in captions or challenges. Make sure you pick creators with a similar sized following to your own.

Participate in trending hashtag challenges

Search the trending hashtags to find creative new ways to boost your content with topics that people are interested in.

Post regularly

You don’t have to post every day, but don’t leave your account lying dormant for days/weeks on end. It also pays to post your TikTok videos on other social media platforms.

Check out this video made by TikTok to demonstrate what it is about a video that ensures it gets seen. TikTok now shows you why a particular video was recommended to you in your FYP! ✨ #tiktoknews #socialmedianews #tiktokfeature #fypexplained #greenscreen ♬ original sound – Later

How to reset the TikTok algorithm

While you can’t directly influence what the TikTok algorithm chooses to do with your content, you can reset your own For You page. 

Yahoo suggests the following:

  • Tap the three dots on the top right corner of the screen
  • Select free up space
  • Tap clear next to the cache option
  • Go to your For You page and find videos you don’t like. Press on them for a few seconds and select not interested. Once TikTok knows what you don’t want, it will adjust the algorithm and show you more of what you do want to see

TikTok algorithm myths

Search Engine Land lists some of the most common TikTok algorithm myths, which are:

  • You must post daily – TikTok says that this isn’t necessary for growth. Instead, the app suggests experimenting with videos to see what works
  • Those in the TikTok Creator Fund get favourable treatment – you don’t have to be in the TikTok Creator Fund to increase your engagement. Yes, those in that category probably do get lots of likes, shares, etc, but that’s because they know how to create effective content
  • TikTok is only for short form videos – TikTok began as an app for seven second videos, but now you can create videos that are 15 seconds, 60 seconds or three minutes long within the app. You can also make longer videos and upload them to the TikTok app 

How search works on TikTok

The TikTok Discover page allows users to explore content across the TikTok community and shows trending videos, hashtags, creators, and sponsored content. The Discover page can be accessed at the bottom of the screen.

To perform a search on TikTok, tap the Search icon at the top right and enter what it is you’re looking for, making sure you’re as precise as possible. The most relevant results will show in the Top tab. You can also explore the other search tabs, namely Users, Videos, Sounds, LIVE, and Hashtags for related content. The hashtags page displays those creators who started the trend first. 

Using Promote on TikTok 

In addition to growing your following organically, you can pay to get more people to discover your content by using the Promote feature. Using Promote will mean that your video is displayed as an ad and you’ll get insights into:

  • The number of views
  • The number of likes, comments, and shares
  • Website link clicks
  • Demographics of those interacting with your video

You can access Promote through Creator Tools, Business Suite or by clicking on one of your existing videos, tapping More Actions and then Promote.

Starting your TikTok campaign

Ready to start your TikTok influencer marketing campaign? Take a look at our guide to TikTok features to keep you safe and our everything guide to TikTok. Vamp is an official TikTok creative marketing partner and we have plans to suit all budgets.



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