First things first – beating the TikTok algorithm in the conventional sense is impossible. TikTok’s algorithm is far too sophisticated to allow any creator to gain the upper hand. Instead, it’s better to focus your attention on working with the TikTok algorithm. Which presents quite an important question – how does the TikTok algorithm work?
For most TikTok users worldwide, the goal is pretty much the same. To make it big with high-performing video content, pull in millions of views, and (hopefully) go viral. Not to mention, stack up as many followers for their channels as possible.
All of which is largely – or in some cases exclusively – determined by the TikTok algorithm. This one piece of super-complex coding alone decides the fate of each and every publisher on the platform. Precisely where working with the TikTok algorithm is a far better approach than trying to ‘beat’ it outright.
What is the TikTok Algorithm?
TikTok is engineered to provide each and every user with a steady stream of videos tailored to their personal tastes. Its algorithm is basically an intelligent recommendation system, which determines which videos appear on your For You Page. Or in the words of TikTok itself, this is what its algorithm is all about:
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. Every For You Page on TikTok is unique, as it is tailored in accordance with the user’s preferences and behaviors.
It’s the algorithm that ensures you are not presented with the content of no interest to you. Consequently, appealing to this algorithm holds the key to appearing on people’s FYPs. After which, the rest takes care of itself.
How Does the TikTok Algorithm Work?
All social media algorithms work predominantly the same way. They pick up on a variety of metrics to determine which videos to recommend to which users. Each time you log into your account, you’re presented with content the platform believes you will be interested in.
These recommendations are based on a variety of factors and metrics, though focus predominantly on the following:
TikTok keeps a close eye on everything you do at all times. Every move you make is tracked, recorded, and analyzed automatically. The information collected is subsequently used to present you with the content of relevance to your tastes. Just a few of the dozens of things TikTok monitors with pinpoint precision include:
- What types of videos do you watch most often
- The types of videos you never watch
- Comments and comment replies you have posted
- Which creators you follow and which you’ve hidden
- Each and every like you has left
- Every time you share a video with someone else
- Content added to your favorites
- Any videos you report as inappropriate
- When you watch longer videos all the way to the end
- The number of times you watch any given video
All of which gives the platform a pretty clear indication of what you’re into, along with the kind of content you probably don’t have much interest in.
Information About the Videos
The information above is then correlated with the details TikTok picks up from the content published on the platform. The algorithm knows what you are interested in and so uses the following to pair you with the content of relevance to your tastes:
- Trending topics
From the perspective of the content creator, this highlights the importance of taking full advantage of each of the above. In particular, hashtags and captions tell the algorithm what your content is about. If you want it to reach the right people, you need to be strategic with your use of hashtags and captions.
Device and Account Settings
Along with the basic video information and user interaction data above, there are other factors in the recommendation process on TikTok to consider. Many of which are based on the preferences and settings you choose when opening your account, such as the following:
- Type of mobile device you use
- Country setting
- Preferred language
- Time zone
- Chosen categories of interest
Understandably, TikTok doesn’t generally recommend content in a language the recipient doesn’t speak or understand. You’re also unlikely to receive recommendations based on topics you didn’t select when setting up your account.
What Type of Content is Not Recommended by TikTok’s Algorithm?
There are also certain types of content the TikTok algorithm is engineered not to recommend. Irrespective of your personal preferences and usage habits, these are the types of content you won’t see on your personalized For You Page:
- Videos you have already watched
- Content that has been flagged as spam
- Duplicated content
- Offensive or upsetting content
Videos reported to TikTok as inappropriate for any given reason will also not be recommended by the platform’s algorithm.
How to Work with the TikTok Algorithm?
Leveraging the full reach and influence of the TikTok algorithm isn’t easy. Ultimately, it’s the quality and relevance of the content you publish that will determine the outcome. Nevertheless, there’s plenty that can be done to push content in the direction of the For You Page.
If you’re confident in the general quality of your output, this is how to catch the eye of the TikTok algorithm for all the right reasons:
1. Switch to Pro Account
Anyone looking to make things happen on TikTok needs to go pro. The reason is that it’s only with a pro account that you can use the platform’s in-built analytical tools. This is where you’ll find all the insights you need to optimize and improve every aspect of your campaign.
Simply tap the three dots in the top right corner of the screen, choose the Manage Account option, and hit Switch to Business Account.
2. Focus on a Specific Niche
Evidence suggests that the TikTok algorithm prefers creators who focus on one specific niche. As opposed to those who spread themselves thinly across dozens of different topics, simply to reach as many potential viewers as possible.
Set your sights on building a name for yourself as an authority in your preferred niche. Which should, of course, be a niche you know inside out and are genuinely passionate about.
3. Attract Your Audience within Three Seconds
First up, you’ve literally just 3 seconds to hook the attention of those viewing your videos. Watch time is one of many factors taken into account by the TikTok algorithm. Something that is directly connected with the strength of a video’s opening.
What happens within the first few seconds will determine whether or not they stick around until the end. If you’re serious about hitting the FYP, sticking around until the end is exactly what you need them to do.
4. Write an Engaging Caption
An interesting and engaging captions really can make all the difference. Particularly when it comes to winning over the TikTok algorithm, which relies on this kind of information to determine what your videos are about.
Without an appropriate caption, TikTok won’t be able to categorize or recommend your content to the right people. Nor will those who find your work take much of an interest in it.
5. Create High-Quality Videos
High-quality videos in this context mean two things. Firstly, it means ensuring every video you publish is relevant, credible, and of genuine value. Secondly, it means avoiding low-quality video and/or audio that smacks amateur hour.
Raw and unedited footage is the preferred format on TikTok, but there’s still no room for crappy content that’s downright unpleasant to watch.
6. Use the Right Hashtags
As already touched upon, hashtags are a make-or-break factor for the TikTok algorithm. It’s the hashtags you use that tell TikTok how to categorize your content and who to recommend it to. Trending hashtags are worth a shot, but only if they are relevant to your brand and your content.
By contrast, generic (and plainly obvious) tags like #fyp, #foryou, and #foryoupage don’t work. They’re overused to a ridiculous extent and are therefore ignored almost entirely by TikTok.
7. Use Trending Sounds and Music
In the same vein, getting on board with Popular trending sounds and music is also worth a shot. Though again, only if the sounds and music in question are of relevance to what you do.
Trending sounds can be counterproductive if they’re not to the tastes of your target audience. Embrace the latest trends where appropriate, but don’t instinctively follow every trend that comes along.
8. Engage With Other TikTok Users
TikTok users inherently feel more appreciated and valued by brands that interact with them. Likewise, TikTok itself shows preference to those who keep themselves busy with comments and replies.
Basically, anything you can do to interact and engage with other TikTok users is worth doing. It will help strengthen your relationships with your audience while at the same time satisfying one of the algorithm’s main requirements.
9. Post At the Right Time
Last up, posting at peak hours is a no-brainer across all social media platforms. Whoever you’re looking to reach, it simply makes sense to ensure they are awake and active at the time. The best time to post will (of course) vary from one demographic and time zone to the next. But as a very general rule of thumb, these are the main active hours for most TikTok audiences:
- Monday: 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 10 p.m.
- Tuesday: 2 a.m., 4 a.m., 9 a.m.
- Wednesday: 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 11 p.m.
- Thursday: 9 a.m., 12 p.m., 7 p.m.
- Friday: 5 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m.
- Saturday: 11 a.m., 7 p.m., 8 p.m.
- Sunday: 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 4 p.m.
Switch to a pro account and use the platform’s analytical tools to find out exactly when your audience is most active and engaged
Getting ahead on TikTok begins with accepting you cannot force your way to the top. It’s worth remembering that however awesome your videos are, you’re competing against around 1 billion users from around the world. This is why the TikTok algorithm plays such a pivotal role in determining who gets ahead.
Creating quality content and leaving it to its own devices isn’t enough. If you want to reach the biggest possible audience and potentially go viral, you need to work with the TikTok algorithm.
Each of the tips and tactics above could position you one step closer to hitting the FYP. Convince TikTok you’re worth recommending to its users, and that’s exactly what its algorithm will do.