TikTok’s algorithm, which powers the For You section is what makes the app so addictive. Below is everything brands need to know about how TikTok’s algorithm works in 2023.
What is the TikTok algorithm?
TikTok’s algorithm is a recommendation system that determines which videos will appear on your page for you.
No two users watch the same videos on your For You Tiktok section, and the videos you watch may change over time based on your viewing preferences and even your current mood.
Here’s how TikTok itself defines the algorithm of the TikTok For You page.
“A stream of videos curated based on your interests, making it easy to find content and creators you like… powered by a recommendation system that offers each user content that is likely to be of interest to them.”
How does the TikTok algorithm work?
Initially, social platforms kept their algorithms secret. This makes sense, as the recommendation system is a proprietary technology that helps make each social network unique.
Algorithms are a key way that social networks attract us and keep us on our toes. TikTok doesn’t want spammers and other shady characters to be able to game the algorithm to get more attention than they deserve.
However, as people have become more skeptical about the inner workings of social networks, most platforms have revealed the basic workings of their algorithms.
Fortunately, that means we now know some of the key ranking signals for TikTok’s algorithm, straight from TikTok. They are:
Like Instagram’s algorithm, TikTok’s algorithm bases recommendations on user interactions with the app’s content. What kind of interactions? Anything that offers clues about the type of content the user likes, or dislikes.
The “For You” page recommends content based on several factors, including.
- Accounts you follow
- Creators you have hidden
- Comments you have posted
- Videos you have liked or shared in the application
- Videos you have added to your favorites
- Videos you have marked as “Not interested”.
- Videos you have reported as inappropriate
- Longest videos you watch to the end (video completion rate)
- Content you create in your own account
- Interests you have expressed when interacting with organic content and ads
While user interaction signals are based on how you interact with other users in the application, video information signals are based on the content you tend to look for in the Discover tab.
This can include details such as:
- Trending topics
Device and account settings
These are the settings that TikTok uses to optimize performance. However, since they are based on single configuration options and not active engagements, they do not have as much influence on what is seen on the platform as user interaction and video information signals.
Some of the device and account settings included in the TikTok algorithm are:
- Language preference
- Country setting (you are more likely to see content from people in your own country)
- Mobile device type
- Interest categories you selected as a new user
What’s not included in the TikTok algorithm
The following types of content will NOT be recommended by the algorithm:
- Duplicate content
- Content you have already seen
- Content that the algorithm flags as spam
- potentially annoying content (TikTok gives as examples “graphic medical procedures” or “legal consumption of regulated products”)
And here’s the good news for all new TikTok users, or those who have not yet built a large follower base. TikTok does NOT base recommendations on the number of followers or a history of previous high performing videos.
Of course, accounts with more followers will likely get more views because people are actively searching for that content. However, if you create great content that speaks directly to your target audience, you’re just as likely to land on their “For You” page as an account that has had previous videos go viral (this includes even TikTok’s biggest stars).
Not convinced? Here’s the scoop straight from TikTok:
“You may come across a video in your feed that doesn’t seem…to have accumulated a large number of likes…. The diversity of videos in your feed “For You” page gives additional opportunities to stumble upon new categories of content, discover new creators and experience new perspectives.”
How to use the Algorithm to grow your TikTok account?
Switch to a TikTok Pro account
TikTok offers two types of pros accounts, depending on whether you are a creator or a business. Having a pros account in itself won’t help your videos show up on the For You page, but switching to one is nevertheless an important part of mastering TikTok’s algorithm.
That’s because a Creator or Enterprise account gives you access to metrics and information that can help guide your TikTok strategy. Understanding who your audience is, when they are active on the app, and what type of content they like is critical if you want to create content that they will like and engage with.
Here’s how to become a TikTok Business account:
- From your profile page, tap the three dots icon at the top right of the screen.
- Tap Manage account.
- Select Switch to business account and choose the best category for your business.
Find your subculture
It is important to find existing communities to engage with across all social platforms. But the nature of TikTok’s algorithm makes this step even more important in the app.
That’s because unlike other social networks, where people spend much of their time interacting with accounts they already follow, TikTok users spend most of their time on the “For You” page.
If you can tap into an existing community – or subculture – you have a better chance of reaching the right audience. Fortunately, TikTok subcultures rally around hashtags (more on those later).
Understanding your most valuable subculture can also help you create content that authentically connects with TikTokers, creating greater credibility, brand loyalty and even more exposure.
Maximizing the first moments
TikTok moves fast. This is not the platform to add an introduction before diving into the meat of your video. The hook of your video needs to inspire viewers to stop scrolling.
Grab attention and show the value of watching in the first few seconds of your TikTok.
This stat comes from TikTok ads, but it’s also worth considering for your organic content: Opening a TikTok video with a powerful emotion like surprise created a 1.7x lift over content that started with a neutral expression.
Write an attractive caption
You only have 150 characters for your caption on TikTok, including hashtags. But that’s no excuse for neglecting this prime space. A good caption explains to readers why they should watch your video, which increases engagement and video ranking signals for the algorithm.
Use your caption to create curiosity, or ask a conversation-generating question in the comments.
Creating high quality videos specifically for TikTok
This should be a no-brainer, right? Low quality content isn’t going to find its way onto the page for you.
You don’t need any fancy equipment – in fact, your phone is the best tool for creating an authentic video. What you do need is decent lighting, a good microphone if possible, and some quick edits to keep the content moving. TikToks can last anywhere from 5 seconds to 3 minutes, but aim for 12-15 seconds to keep viewers engaged.
You need to record in vertical 9:16 format. Videos shot vertically average 25% more six-second views. This makes sense, as they take up much more screen space.
Design your videos to play with sound on. 88% of TikTok users say sound is “essential” on the platform. Fast-paced tracks that play at 120 or more beats per minute have the highest viewing rate.
And be sure to use TikTok’s built-in features, such as effects and text treatments. According to TikTok, “These native features help your content feel native to the platform, which can also help it appear on more For You pages.”
Publish at the right time for your audience
While this is important for all social media platforms, it is especially important for TikTok. Active engagement with your content is a key signal to the algorithm.
Participate with other TikTok users
21% of TikTok users said they feel more connected to brands that comment on other people’s posts. Being aware of comments on your own videos is also key to building engagement signals for the algorithm.
TikTok offers some unique ways to interact with other TikTok creators, such as duets, Stitch and video replies to comments.
Stitch is a tool that allows you to clip and embed moments from other TikTokers’ content into your own.
TikTok’s default settings allow others to create Duets and Stitch videos using your content. If you want to change this for any particular video, tap the three dots icon on the video to open the privacy settings, and then adjust as needed.
You can also disable these features for your entire account, but that would limit the opportunities for other TikTok users to engage with your content, decreasing the potential for discovery.
Use the right hashtags
A couple of types of hashtags can help boost your content in the TikTok algorithm:
For You Page hashtags.
Tags like #fyp, #foryou, and #foryoupage are commonly used to try to get on the For You page. TikTok does not confirm whether they work, but given the number of accounts using them, they are worth a try.
To find trending hashtags, go to the Discover tab and then tap Trending at the top of the screen.
Be sure to keep an eye out for hashtags related to challenges. Challenges with hashtags are a great way to get new ideas for content, while sending the algorithm some good trending vibes.
And take note: 61% of TikTokers said they like brands more when they create or participate in a TikTok trend.
You can also search for trending hashtags by region in the TikTok Creative Center. If you’re looking for inspiration, you can also view the top trending TikToks by region in the last seven to 30 days.
Use trending sounds and music
Two-thirds (67%) of TikTokers said they prefer brand videos with popular or trending songs. And, as we’ve already said, participating in any type of trend is a good bet when it comes to targeting the For You page.
So how do you find out which songs and sounds are trending?
From the TikTok home screen, tap the + icon at the bottom, then tap Sounds on the Record Video page. You will see a list of trending sounds.
To find out which sounds are trending with your particular audience, you’ll need to consult TikTok Analytics. Find this data under the Followers tab.