How does the TikTok algorithm work?

TikTok algorithm

Well this happened rather quickly. Tiktok now surpasses Google as the worlds most visited domain (https://www.forbes.com/sites/johanmoreno/2021/12/29/tiktok-surpasses-google-facebook-as-worlds-most-popular-web-destination/?sh=5144a29643ef)

This internet thing is moving pretty quickly.

Was it exactly what we all wanted? No, maybe not, unless you were really into Vine back in the day. TikTok focuses heavily on music overlay and short-cut video formats, and it looks like it’s here to stay.

So, let’s take a deep dive into TikTok, the world’s newest social media superpower with over 50 million daily active users on average (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/24/tiktok-reveals-us-global-user-growth-numbers-for-first-time.html)

As is the case with all new social media platforms, the most asked question by brands is always concerning growth, so we want to know… how I grow can my brand through TikTok marketing? Well, that all starts with knowing exactly how the TikTok algorithm works.

Use the TIkTok algorithm to get more followers

What is an algorithm you ask? Well boiled down it’s “the mathematical calculation that sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Snap Chat and TikTok use to understand user habits and to customize the social experience.” (https://www.vizion.com/blog/what-is-a-social-media-algorithm-and-how-does-it-work/).

If we can learn to understand how the TikTok algorithm works we can use it to our advantage which in turn will result in growth. Today we’re going to break down the TikTok algorithm in depth so you can use this insight in order to properly use the platform and gain an edge.

First, we need to understand TikTok’s “For You” page, or FYP. The For You page has been explained by TikTok themselves in a press release from 2020, found here.

For You Page

Generally, they let us all know that the For You page is customized to each user based on user interaction (aka content they engage with and like), video information (aka captions, sounds, hashtags) and account settings (language, country, device type).

Now that you understand what TikTok is looking for you can start to curate content based on these talking points. So let’s break down some strategies that will help you navigate the TikTok algorithm.

Hashtags

Hashtags will give the TikTok algorithm some direction on who might be interested in your TikTok video and secondly it gives you as a creator some sense of participating in TikTok culture.

ranking videos with the TikTok algorithm

There are three different categories of hashtags on TikTok:

Culture Tags – Tags over 1 billion views (ex. #fyp #viral #4u #abc, etc.)

Feature Tags – Associated with a trend or challenge (usually found on Discovery page)

Niche Relevant Tags – Specific to the ideas that you share on your profile

Let’s talk about three different hashtag strategies:

Category diversity method – creating a mix of culture, feature, and niche relevant tags; suggested use: 2 of each.

Keyword research method – creating a set of hashtags that are related to your profile or video idea. Done by identifying your niche keywords by using the discovery page’s hashtag section to search a hashtag relevant to your video then compiling a list of other relevant hashtags shown on this page; suggested use: 5-7

No hashtags method – sometimes not giving the platform a headstart with hashtags forces TikTok to distribute your video to users they think will be relevant.

The key takeaway here is testing, it’s important to test multiple strategies on your brand’s account to determine what will be most effective.

Captions

The TikTok algorithm works in many ways like YouTube’s in that it’s very powerful for your content if a user finishes watching your videos all the way through.

other TikTok users affect the TikTok algorithm

So using captions that will entice users to complete your videos is of the utmost importance.

TikTok analytics tools will allow you to see video information such as this. The analytics tools offered will also allow you to compare your newer content with your previous high-performing videos to help you hone your TikTok strategy.

content strategy

Ask questions – Get users to self-identify with your content. Don’t make this like a sales pitch, it’s much more likable if it’s done in a fashion that promotes relating to the content and organically increases user interactions.

Asking people for the next step – Ex. Comment yes below, Tag a friend or Claim it. These boost engagement naturally because users love to be given permission to engage with content.

Playing into a plot twist – Using a caption that sets up something TikTok users expect from content that may be trending at the moment but at the last minute switch up the finale with something surprising.

A clear CTA (call to action) – Use a two-part request for this so that you don’t limit user interactions. For example: comment below as well as directions to a link in the bio.

A surprise – Add a detail that surprises people.

Adding a layer of interest – Talking about commonality points with your target audience.

Giving brand backstory – TikTok videos don’t always have to be high production value content, basic videos of behind the scenes is actively encouraged.

Trending Sounds

The TikTok algorithm takes into consideration music and sounds used in your videos as part of how your videos are distributed through its recommendation system.

ranking videos based on the sounds used

To find which music is most popular on the app currently you can the following features:

Video Editor – At the top of your screen you can find “Sounds”, and tap it to look through the music that’s trending. Once you’ve chosen a song, you can pick where you want it to start and play it as you record to better sync your video with it. Also, you can add a voice-over and sound effects.

Sound Effects – In the same tab you can search for sound effects by typing in a description of sounds you are looking for in a particular video, for ex. boom, cha-ching, bang.

Using a trending song at the right time on TikTok can result in an uptick in likes and views.

Steer clear of using the same sound in your videos. There have been some very successful TikTok creators who have lost their older videos because they all used the same sound.

Audience Analytics

Using audience analytics can be an invaluable tool to make key decisions in order to increase your content’s reach and engagement.

Device and account settings

To find analytics in TikTok click on the three dots in the upper right corner and then see where it says business (might say creator, might say profile) but you’ll click on that and then click analytics at the top. You will see three categories, overview, content, and followers.

  1. Let’s talk video views first, this data will tell you when are your best days to upload videos. This way you can set a schedule for posting new videos that will perform best for you.
  2. Then there’s the follower section, this data will tell you which of your videos get you the most followers. So you can create more content of this type.
  3. Finally, we have profile views, which is mostly helpful for influencers, so they can show brands their statistics. Not extremely helpful for anything with the TikTok algorithm.

Video Content Styles

TikTok from the get-go has been a unique platform that specializes in short-form personalized video.

It was only a matter of time before brands began finding ways to express themselves in a way that was not only entertaining but insightful.

TikTok ads

When approaching video creation for TikTok, brands need to focus on direct factors which benefit them in terms of the TikTok algorithm.

In order to stand out amongst the crowd as well as even be seen (aka the algorithm) videos must be binge-worthy and re-watchable, because at the end of the day what TikTok wants more than anything is for people to stay on the app.

The longer users stay active on their app the more they can serve ads and thus make money.

Let’s take a look at three key elements of video content style that the TikTok algorithm likes:

Videos curated to keep the user's interest

Looping videos

One very common trick is creating videos that loop.

Have you ever been stuck watching a video multiple times over just because it was so smooth and transitioned seamlessly? Well, the TikTok algorithm is 100% taking this into account and serving you more content based on this activity.

Short videos

Although videos can be up to three minutes long, TikTok has suggested that to their advertisers that videos be 9-15 seconds.

Format

There are always challenges on TikTok or trending video types that will often have punchlines at the finale, having videos that encourage users to complete videos is a key factor.

Matching music

Matching action to music is at its core a pleasing experience and can thus push users to complete your video.

Key Takeaways

Time to post content

So are we all set to conquer TikTok?

It might sound daunting, but since the first implementation of Instagram’s algorithm content creators have been trying to break the code of virality. Whether you are a new user or a seasoned TikTok user, we hope the topics we’ve discussed here will help you navigate this fun and exciting app.

The tides will change over time and we’ll all have to flow with them. For now, we at least have these key takeaways that will keep us on the right track.

  1. Hashtag usage – Test multiple strategies we’ve outlined here and find out which ones start benefiting your analytics the most. Posting consistently with different options from our categories laid out here will help you determine.
  2. Captions – Remember, watching videos to completion is the name of the game, so whatever captions will entice this is most likely your best move.
  3. Trending music – Always be up to date on what music and sounds are trending, use these and TikTok will reward you.
  4. Audience analytics – Numbers are your friend, and we aren’t talking about just your follower count. TikTok is straight-up telling you what is working and what isn’t, use this to your benefit.
  5. Video content styles – Again, video completion is so important but if users watch your content on repeat, you’re really in for a ride.

Good luck out there! It’s a brave new world.

SEO

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