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With TikTok recently blowing up to more than 800 million active users worldwide, the app’s algorithm can seem mysterious when compared to veteran platforms like Facebook or Instagram. However, the TikTok algorithm is fairly simple to understand, and considers a ton of factors that impact how viral your videos can go. From the hashtags you use to the time you post, there are plenty of tools and strategies you can use to your advantage to help your TikToks perform well no matter what niche you’re in.
How Does the Algorithm Work?
Unlike Instagram, which has an open and transparent algorithm, the inner-workings of the TikTok algorithm have not been confirmed by the platform. Thus, it was up to most TikTok users to investigate theories themselves by conducting experiments on the app with their own videos.
To truly understand the algorithm, it’s important to bring up the two main tabs: the “For You” page (FYP) and the “Following” page. The Following page focuses on who you’re currently following on your account while the For You page can feature anyone.
Overall, the For You page is the most helpful in terms of discovering new viral TikToks. If it had to be compared in terms of how the page operates, it would be similar to Instagram’s Explore Page. The more you use TikTok, the more that TikTok will curate your personal For You page to highlight the users you’re engaging with. They consider all of the videos that you comment on, save, share, or like. So, if you like a lot of travel videos, you’ll continue to see more and more of them popping up on your FYP.
By doing so, TikTok can feed its users a continuous stream of endless content that they’re interested in, which accounts for the app’s impressive average daily view time of 52 minutes. Basically, TikTok wants you to stay on the app as long as possible, so they’ll show you what they think you want to see.
How Can You Get Your Content Seen?
Contrary to popular belief, TikTok isn’t just about viral dance moves or lip-sync videos – there’s something for everyone! From skincare tips to fashion lookbooks, cooking tutorials to hilarious skits, and politics to travel, there are content creators on TikTok that show any category of content on the app has the ability to gain a lot of views, comments, likes, and shares.
So, how can you get your content seen on TikTok by a lot of people? Here are some tips:
- Know what hashtags are best to use to optimize your content. Using #fyp, #foryou, and #foryoupage, for example, are foolproof ways to get your video to surface on more For You pages. You can also use that day’s trending hashtag to feature more popular and relevant hashtags. Trending hashtags can be found on the Discover Tab and will have the view count and fire icons next to their name.
- The ideal caption for a TikTok should be short and feature hashtags, as mentioned above. The captions that leave viewers wanting more, such as “Part 1” tend to perform well and can help boost engagement on more of your videos. Also, it pays off to start a conversation with your caption that your followers can participate in through your comment section.
- Pay attention to popular and trending music and sounds. To find which sounds are taking off in terms of discoverability, check the sounds while you’re in the Video Editing mode. You can also check which sounds your followers are listening to the most with TikTok’s Pro account analytics.
- Post content when your audience is most active. To find out this information, you can use a TikTok Pro account. Here, you can find other audience demographics such as gender, top territories, and more follower activity. According to Medium, the general best posting times in the U.S. are early evening and noon.
- One theory suggests that shorter videos (10-15 seconds) perform better on the app as their completion rate will likely be higher. With shorter videos, TikTok users will most likely watch until the end or even allow the video to go on a seamless loop so they can watch multiple times, which shows the algorithm that the content has the ability to be viewed and shared more often.
- Use buzzwords. Journalists at Medium found that TikTok uses captions to tailor your FYP. For example, if you like a lot of TikToks that have a text description featuring the word “cats”, you’ll see more videos with “cats” in the description, even if it’s not hashtagged.
- Limit your posts to only 1-2 videos per day. If you post anymore, the algorithm can consider it as spam and stop pushing your videos to more videos.
I don’t remember making this…? @chrisashley
Updates to the Algorithm
Going forward, TikTok has seemed to promote more location-based content. While not confirmed by TikTok themselves, many journalists have done their own digging and found that TikTok promotes videos on a user’s FYP that were made near them in order to give them a more community-based feed.
In fact, the website Later found that users have gradually started to see and engage with more content that was posted closest to them. This has led many to believe that “location” can be the next new factor that impacts the future of the TikTok algorithm.
It’s also important to keep in mind that as the app grows and advances, so does the algorithm. When new features, like Voice Over or certain filters, are added to the platform, they can directly affect the virality of a post by boosting engagement.
Specifically, those who have investigated the TikTok algorithm have found that the app triggers the algorithm to show your video to more people once the ratio reaches 1 like for every 10 views. The algorithm is also triggered by the “velocity of the engagement it receives” according to Hypebot. To break it down, if a video suddenly receives 20% more likes in a day than it previously had, then the video will be pushed to more people.
Therefore, just because your video didn’t go viral immediately, that doesn’t mean it can’t go viral later. By staying patient and paying attention to these tips, you can master the algorithm just like your favorite creators.