Digital Marketing

Going viral: How does the Tik Tok algorithm work?

Chloe Toogood
8th February 2023
5 minute read

Have you ever wondered how some videos on TikTok go viral while others don’t? If you’re like most people, you’ve probably assumed that it’s all just luck. But the truth is, there’s a lot more to it than that.

Let’s take a look at how the TikTok algorithm works and how you can use it to your advantage to get your videos going viral!


Tik Tok in a nutshell

TikTok is a social media platform that is built around short video content. This is something that is completely unique to the platform, and is something that many other social media channels, like Instagram and Facebook, have tried to cash in on.

The app is extremely popular, with just under 31 million daily users. Tik Tok is especially popular among the younger generation, with over 60% of all Tik Tok users being part of Gen Z.

It’s a great platform for content creators because it’s easy to use and has a lot of built-in features that make creating videos fun and easy. But the most important thing for content creators is the TikTok algorithm.

The Algorithm

The TikTok algorithm is what decides which videos will be shown on your “For You Page”. This is the section of the app where most users find new videos to watch. The algorithm is constantly changing, and no two users will see the same content on their FYP.

Tik Tok describes their algorithm as “a stream of videos curated to your interests, making it easy to find content and creators you love. This feed is powered by a recommendation system that delivers content to each user that is likely to be of interest to that particular user”.

So, we know what the algorithm is, but how does it work? Here is a list of the things that Tik Tok uses to push videos via the algorithm.


User interactions

This may seem an obvious one, and Tik Tok certainly isn’t the first social media platform to use this feature as part of their algorithm, but it’s probably the biggest and most important aspect. Tik Tok’s FYP will recommend videos to the user based on several different things, which include:

  • Videos you’ve liked/shared
  • Accounts you follow
  • Videos you comment on
  • Longer form content that you watch until the end
  • Creators that you’ve hidden

Account settings

From the most important to the ‘least important’ part of the Tik Tok algorithm, and that is the account settings that you have on your device. We say ‘least important’ as this part of the algorithm isn’t based on any interactions you make through the app, but a one-off choice of settings. Therefore, they have less of an overall impact on the content that you end up seeing.

These include:

  • Language preferences
  • Your mobile device
  • What country you’re based in
  • Content categories that you selected as a new user

Video information signals

Video information signals are a little like the user interactions, whereby, the interactions that the user makes, are directly tied to the algorithm, affecting the kind of content that pops up on your FYP. But instead of going based off of your interactions with other accounts, the video information interactions are based off of what you look for in the discover tab of Tik Tok.

This includes things like:

  • Captions
  • Hashtags
  • Audio
  • Effects (like filters)
  • Trending content and topics

How to make the most of the algorithm

So now we know what the algorithm is and how it works, how can we maximise visibility and engagement?

One great thing that we know about Tik Tok is that it doesn’t discriminate when it comes to creators with a low number of followers. The number of followers you have isn’t important, and it doesn’t even matter if you’ve never put out a single video before.

Tik Tok aims to give the user the opportunity to view a diverse range of content and will pepper your FYP with videos that have a low number of likes/comments, encouraging you to discover other creators. This is such a huge benefit as it gives everyone a fighting chance to have their content seen by people from all over the world.


Tips to get your Tik Tok account working with the algorithm

  1. Use Tik Tok Pro: Switch to a Tik Tok pro account rather than just the default one as you will then be able to gain access to insights and the analytics. This will help you to monitor what content people are engaging with the most, and in turn, will aid you in creating more high-quality content that people want to view.
  2. Hook the viewer: You only have around 3 seconds to entice viewers to continue watching your content, so make sure that the videos you put out are engaging from the second they start. Remember that you can also get those engagement points from users watching your whole video, so ensuring the first few seconds is interesting is so important!
  3. Use trending effects: Using certain effects and filters on your video can help your engagement rate as Tik Tok will push videos that are using these and are trending. Effects and filters can help to make your content more interesting and compelling for viewers to watch.
  4. Short form content: It is only recently that Tik Tok have been making longer form content available, the bread and butter of the platform is definitely shorter videos. It’s good to focus on shorter videos, up to 20 seconds, that will engage your audience, and stand a better chance at getting attention.
  5. Captions: With Tik Tok being focused on video content, you may think that the captions are pretty pointless. Including hashtags, you only get 300 characters for your caption, so it’s best to keep it short and sweet, but writing a punchy caption is best. Captions can create curiosity and can tell your audience why they should watch your video.
  6. Posting times: Much like with Instagram, Tik Tok content gets the best engagement when it’s posted at a time when your audience is most active. You can check when your audience is most active by looking at the analytics. By doing this, your videos will have more engagement, and it will happen quicker than if you posted at a time when your audience isn’t active.
  7. Engage: Finally, and probably most obviously, engage with other creators! Showing other members of the community support can help them, and can help you, so get out there and start engaging with other users’ content. We know that user interactions are the thing most valued by the algorithm, and by interacting with other creators, you may even find they engage with your content too.


What’s the takeaway? 

Tik Tok is the hottest social media platform out there at the moment, and its focus on short video content has been somewhat revolutionary. When it comes to the algorithm, Tik Tok is pretty good at helping creators, especially smaller ones, to give their videos a platform, and the best way to make the most of this is to understand how the algorithm works.  

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