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How Does the TikTok Algorithm Work? What You Need to Know

Published August 9, 2023

Have you ever wondered why TikTok is so addictive or why you just can’t seem to stop scrolling through your For You Page (FYP)? Yeah, it’s those incredible TikTok algorithms at work. The mechanism that decides what kind of content you will see is so finely tuned that sometimes it feels like the platform has a direct link to your interests and likes. However, that also means you can use this feature to reach more audiences for your page.

If you want to take advantage of the app’s highly personalized algorithm for your own brand, keep reading. Here’s everything you need to know about TikTok’s algorithm.

TikTok Algorithm Explained

First things first — let’s define the algorithm. According to the company, it is a video recommendation system that controls which content will appear on someone’s FYP. So, every single user has a different FYP, all based on their likes, comments, and the topics and accounts they search for.

The algorithm is so personalized that it can change based on your current interests and hobbies. As long as you like the videos appealing to you, your FYP will reflect your preferences almost perfectly.

How Does It All Work?

As already mentioned, the TikTok algorithm is based on several important factors. These include user interactions, information pertaining to videos, and some account and phone settings of each individual user.

1.   User Interactions

Just like the algorithms of most other social media apps, TikTok’s is heavily based on the content users interact with. In other words, your FYP is influenced by the videos you like, comment on, share, save, and so on.

Here are all the factors that can determine which videos show up on your feed:

  • The users you follow
  • Which accounts you’ve blocked or hidden
  • Your comments
  • The videos in the ‘Your Favorites’ folder
  • The videos you have shared or sent to other people
  • Long videos you watched until the very end (or multiple times)
  • The videos you saved to your device
  • The content you create and post on your own profile
  • Any videos you marked as ‘Not Interested’
  • Your interactions with ads on the app

As you can tell, the algorithm takes a lot of elements into account when creating your FYP. That is why many see TikTok as the most personalized app on the market today.

2.   Video Parameters

Video parameters refer to the content you search for in your Discover tab, such as:

  • Specific captions
  • The sounds you click on
  • Hashtags
  • The effects you try
  • The trending topics you explore

Although these elements affect the algorithm to a slightly lesser degree, they still have an important role. For example, if you click on a specific sound and look at a few videos containing it, your FYP will feature more similar videos. The same is the case with hashtags, effects, or captions that you decide to explore.

3.   Account and Phone Settings

Last but not least, the algorithm also depends on certain settings you decide on when setting up your account and device. They refer to:

  • Your language preferences
  • The country you live in
  • The type of device you have (Android or iOS)
  • All the categories you selected as your interests when first joining the app

This algorithm factor explains why English speakers will seldom encounter videos in Arabic, for example. Namely, since their phone is set to English, they’ll mostly see videos featuring that tongue as well.

The only exceptions to this rule can occur if, for instance, a user marks China as their home country but has their phone set to English. In such a case, they might also see videos in Chinese.

Some Good News for New Users

Although you might think otherwise, TikTok does not base FYPs on an account’s follower count and popularity. In other words, your videos can reach your target audience even if you don’t have a ton of followers or haven’t had a viral video before. As long as you provide the content a user is interested in, there is a high chance they will see your video.

Therefore, you can make videos and advertise yourself or your brand right off the bat. Give your content engaging captions, make good use of hashtags, and utilize popular sounds and effects. In addition, try to make your videos creative, interesting, and humorous.

By doing so, you will have an excellent chance to reach your target audience. And every time someone interacts with your video, they will help it reach an even broader audience.

Make the TikTok Algorithm Work for You

The TikTok algorithm is highly personalized, as the company bases it on user interactions, interests, and search history. In addition, FYPs also depend on certain device and account settings, as well as specific video parameters.

Now that you have all the essential info, it’s time to use your knowledge to get the best out of the TikTok experience. With a bit of strategizing and smart planning, you can easily make the app work for you and your brand.

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Written By:
Jessica is a writer who specializes in social media, marketing, and digital strategy. She is a graduate of Antioch College and earned her MBA at Boston College’s Carroll Graduate School of Management, specializing in STEM Management. Her work has been published in numerous academic journals and mainstream publications. She lives in New England with her husband, two children, and three dogs.
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