Getting to Know the TikTok Algorithm

    October 18 2021

    Looking for a new platform to join, a particular meme reference, or how to make Emily Mariko’s salmon and rice dish? Then look no further than TikTok. With 1.1 billion active users, no wonder there’s endless, scrollable video content via your For You Page (FYP). But how is it so specific to each user’s interests? That’s because of TikTok’s algorithm. 

    TikTok’s algorithm isn’t that strange or mysterious compared to other platforms because they’ve revealed everything there is to know. Here we break down the different factors that make up the TikTok algorithm and how you can leverage it to expand your reach and grow your audience. 

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    How TikTok’s Algorithm Works 

    To really understand TikTok’s algorithm, you have to understand the TikTok FYP. The FYP is the first page you land on when opening the app. Each user’s FYP is different and curated with video content based on TikTok’s algorithm. TikTok recommends content based on the following factors: 

    • User Information: This refers to the video's caption, sounds, and hashtags used when shared. 
    • User Interaction: How a user engages with their feed, such as liking, sharing, commenting, and the accounts they follow, and what kinds of videos they post. 
    • Device and Account Settings: Takes into account language preference, location settings, and device type. It helps ensure content performance optimization. 

    So what does that all mean exactly? Since the goal of TikTok’s FYP is to feed you video content that interests you, they run those factors through their recommendation system that ranks the videos on what’s most valuable to the user. For example, if a user finished a video from start to finish, that’s a strong indicator for the type of content they’d like on their FYP. Location isn’t as important as if the viewer is in the same country as the creator. 

    Now that you know the factors that play into TikTok’s algorithm, it’s important to pay attention to all of them in order to expand your reach and promote your brand’s discovery since they carry the most weight when recommending content. 

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    How to Leverage the TikTok Algorithm for Increased Exposure 

    The viral aspect of TikTok is one of the reasons the platform’s so appealing. Many businesses have gone viral organically or from another user talking about or using one of their products.   So how can you use TikTok’s algorithm to get one of your videos on someone else’s FYP, or better yet go viral? Part of it is staying in touch with the viral TikTok trends and sharing your video content with the right people. 

    For example, you might notice that you have a similar FYP to one of your friends you consistently share content with. That’s because if they’re liking and watching the video you send them all the way through, TikTok will eventually start to feed them video content similar to yours, if not the same videos. This same practice is what you want to think about with future customers and followers. 

    You’ll want to explore industry-related hashtags and follow creators or businesses in your space to help target your key demographic. 

    Stay on Top of TikTok Trends & Best Practices 

    Another way to leverage the algorithm is to stay on top of the latest trends. Some of the newest consist of #CouchGuy, Emily Mariko’s salmon and rice bowl, and #MamaSaidThatItWasOkay video trend and sound. These viral trends have viral sounds and hashtags that you use when posting your videos and writing your captions. 

    #1 Use Trending Hashtags & Sounds 

    Located on the bottom navigation bar on your FYP is the Discover tab. Discover is where you can find trending videos and hashtags and search for videos using a specific hashtag via the search bar. Next to each hashtag are the number of videos with that same hashtag. Trending hashtags with a lot of traction are great for getting your brand out there and in front of a lot of people, but also incorporate a mix of niche hashtags that fit your industry to get in front of the right people who would be most interested in your product or content. 

    Also, use trending sounds. To find popular sounds tap the ‘+’ icon on your navigation bar then ‘Add sound’ on the top of your screen. This is where you explore trending songs and sounds via different playlists and categories. “TikTok Viral” is a good place to start. 

    Related: TikTok Hashtags: Guide to Using Hashtags to Boost Visibility

    #2 Experiment with New Features and Filters 

    TikTok is always creating new features and filters which is perfect for creating new TikTok video content. There are video trends dedicated to trying out a certain transition, a dance challenge, or a filter. For example, Doja Cat’s Planet Her challenge uses the color customizer. The point of the video trend is to see what color you would be on Planet Her. 

    #3 Create and Post Consistently 

    Just like you do on Instagram, make posting on TikTok a part of your weekly content strategy. TikTok is a place for you to experiment and explore and see what works. You never know which video is going to go viral. 

    Related: Cracking Instagram’s Algorithm: Creating Content that Reaches your Audience & The Reels Algorithm: How to Use Reels on Instagram

    Other Ways to Pop Up On FYPs 

    Location

    Even though location is a small indicator, you can’t help but see content that was posted closest to you. For example, if you live in Austin, Texas, you might be seeing content posted from Austin such as restaurants to try, where to shop, or just people living in Austin. 

    Contacts 

    Another way to pop up on someone’s FYP is through a phone’s contact book. If your TikTok account is tied to your phone number you might start seeing videos from people in your contacts. This might work for you as a business. For example, when a friend or customer buys something from your store, they might have your number saved and can randomly see your videos on their FYP. 

    TikTok Analytics

    Analyze your TikTok analytics to see when your followers are the most active to make sure you’re posting at optimal times for the best chance of post engagement. 

    We hope this gives you a better understanding of how TikTok operates and how you can start building your business and brand to reach new audiences.

    Learn more about Carrie Boswell, on PLANOLY

    Carrie Boswell

    Carrie Boswell is the Digital Marketing Content Specialist at PLANOLY. She is always finding ways to include pop culture and the Gen Z perspective into the content we create for marketers and small business owners.

    More by Carrie Boswell

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