lthough most people are familiar with the Instagram algorithm and how it changes, the TikTok algorithm is still a mystery to brands, creators and users alike. It’s easy for your content to get buried into the scrolling feed of TikTok without understanding how the algorithm works, which is why we’re going to debunk it once and for all.
The TikTok Algorithm
Since the beginning of TikTok, people have been amazed by the algorithm. Compared to other social media apps that use similar “curated” experiences, TikTok had the most advanced system based on recommendations and user behaviors. In order to deliver the best possible experience for each individual user, TikTok’s algorithm incorporates every interaction users have on the platform and translates that into a digital blueprint of each user’s personality. Although the concept of the algorithm made sense, how it worked was still a mystery.
However, in June 2020, TikTok released a statement detailing the exact items that the algorithm takes into consideration for each user, including the criteria for the For You Page (TikTok’s home feed) as well as how it curates your profile and your content.
Here are the main takeaways:
The For You Page operates on user interactions, video information and device settings.
For marketers and advertisers, this is interesting information — particularly for the definition of each item.
For TikTok, user interactions refer to any sort of engagement with (including watching the full duration of) a TikTok video. For those that are unfamiliar, an “engagement” on a TikTok video refers to a view, like, comment, save or share of that piece of content. This means that TikTok actively tracks how you scroll through the For You Page, and curates future content based on which content you interact with the most on that initial scroll. Depending on what you choose to participate in, the algorithm then serves you more content in those niches, interests and patterns — effectively filling your For You page with sea shanties, frog videos and makeup tutorials.
The rest of the blurb is fairly straightforward — video information refers to the items attached to a TikTok video, including hashtags, captions and sounds, while device settings refers to the information gathered from your specific cellular device (location and/or country of residence, language preference, type of device).
Since the For You Page also actively tracks these metrics, that means if you engage with a particular hashtag or TikTok audio, the algorithm will focus on those items and cater your future content along similar themes. This is how certain songs have achieved viral growth via TikTok, and how hopping on existing trends using particular audios and hashtags presents your content to more users. The algorithm also targets your For You Page based on geo-location, so your FYP will show you content from other creators in your area. This makes it easier for users to find other creators in their area, and for brands to find specific demographics in specific areas around the world.
The TikTok algorithm will introduce you to new content, but will also adapt if you don’t resonate with it.
One element that sets TikTok’s algorithm apart from others is its ability to learn. Although TikTok curates content that specifically fits each user’s interests, it also attempts to introduce users to new content. This “testing” allows the algorithm to grow with its audience, and shift to accommodate whatever new interest or niche the user has taken to. This also means that the FYP is always changing, and that interacting with specific content (whether you like it or not) will inevitably give you more of that type of content.
For many creators that fall into a specific category, this presents a problem if they want to branch out into other forms of content. For users, this also complicates their algorithm if the user has multiple interests that cannot fit into a few categories. Because of this, many users have created multiple TikTok accounts, with each For You Page catering to different elements of that person’s personality.
For people that want to have a specifically curated TikTok, this is a good way to make sure your TikTok algorithm will continue to serve you the content that you’re interested in. For people that want to learn new things, this also allows you to access multiple niches without having to search for them.
How does this affect marketers, advertisers and brands?
For teams looking to grow their audience or promote their brand, TikTok’s algorithm provides a unique opportunity to target a niche demographic and resonate with people within those interests. The seemingly limitless abilities of TikTok enable its users to establish and develop relationships across a number of disciplines and interests with minimal effort.
There are influencers, creators, teachers, doctors, social workers, makeup artists, rug-making tutorials, vegan recipes and so much more available thanks to the TikTok algorithm – meaning that brands have equal access to limitless partnership opportunities with people that will authentically engage with their brand.
Thanks to the algorithm, TikTok and its For You Page are always changing based on user behavior. However, that also means it’s developing stronger connections between users with similar interests, giving marketers, advertisers and brands new opportunities to interact with younger audiences.