How TikTok Algorithm Works And Best Strategies To Go Viral

June 04, 2021

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How TikTok Algorithm Works And Strategies To Go Viral

Proving to be more than just a fad, TikTok has significantly risen in popularity in the last couple of years. People can no longer turn their heads away from this social platform.

If you are a creator who wants the TikTok algorithm to work in your favor, this article provides you with all the information that you need.

How Does The TikTok Algorithm Work?

The TikTok algorithm is developed to weigh a wide range of factors in four major phases to decide which videos can go viral.

Types Of Factors

Various factors come to play in the recommendation system, which can be grouped into three big categories:

User Interactions 

User engagement is no doubt one of the key factors. You are making videos to show off to other people, so whether they like it or not matters. 

How do you know if your post is well received? This criterion can be measured by the completion rate, the number of likes and shares, how many times viewers hit the “not interested” button, and the number of rewatches.

TikTok’s “Not interested” Option Equals The Dislike Button Of Other Social Media
TikTok’s “Not interested” Option Equals The Dislike Button Of Other Social Media

Video Information

Video information includes the content, caption, hashtag, music, duration, and the editing of the video.

Device And Account Settings

TikTok gives lower weight to these aspects than user interactions and video information.

When you first open your TikTok account, you will be asked a plethora of questions about your gender, birth date, location, language preference, topics of interest, device type, etc. These data are all factored in the algorithm to recommend videos for you.

Four Major Phases Of The Algorithm

The recommendation algorithm works in four phases:

Four Major Phases Of The TikTok Algorithm
Four Major Phases Of The TikTok Algorithm 
  • Phase 1: TikTok shares your video with a small number of users. How these individuals react to your video will decide the fate of it.
  • Phase 2: A wider audience with a similar profile and preferences to those from group 1 who like, share, comment on the video will be tested.
  • Phase 3: The system will push your video to more users’ FYP, thus significantly more people watching it.
  • Phase 4: If the video survives the test (the amount of completion, likes, share, comment, rewatch) of the previous 3 phases, it will be checked manually by the team behind the app before reaching mass distribution.

What Does FYP Mean On TikTok?

FYP is the nuts and bolts of TikTok. Without knowing it, you will not understand how TikTok works and use the algorithm to your advantage. 

Definition

“FYP” stands for “For You Page”. If you are new to TikTok, the For You page is similar to Instagram’s Explore page, where you see posts deemed “relevant” to you.

If you just sign up for TikTok, your For You Page will be a series of the most popular videos or videos that TikTok considers to suit your taste based on your profile.

For example, you list on your profile that you like food. TikTok then serves your fyp with content that has to do with eating, creating recipes, cooking, grocery shopping, etc. You probably will not like them all, watching some and skipping others.

TikTok will then analyze the data that you just gave it: What are the common things that the videos that you like all have? Do they use a certain sound/music? Do they share the same hashtag? Do they feature the same subject, like a cat, for example?

TikTok Algorithm
Another Example Of The TikTok Algorithm At Work

That is a lot of information that a company can get from its client, stemming from a single parameter – your preferred topics. From there, TikTok can work to ensure future recommendations will align with your taste.

For instance, despite being a rather weak indicator of your personality, your location is still a factor in the algorithm. 

If you come from country A, you will likely see videos from country A featured on your fyp, while this is not necessarily the case with someone from country B who shares pretty identical taste as you.

In conclusion, TikTok gathers independent characteristics from users. It sorts them in order of significance and uses them to grade videos. As a result, those with the highest scores will end up on your For You Page.

Other Things About FYP

While follower count has been a significant indicator of success in most social platforms, it is rather irrelevant for TikTok. People flock to this app because it has a relatively lower barrier to entry than others.

Therefore, there is no need to have thousands of likes for your post or a solid base of followers to appear on the For You page. As long as your content is interesting and relevant, you have an equal chance of going viral on this platform.

Additionally, TikTok does not always give you the same content. It is trying to slightly tweak the code to recommend unrelated videos to diversify the content you are being exposed to. 

This strategy helps avoid the filter bubble since people have voiced their concerns that TikTok might trap users in their existing beliefs.

How To Go Viral On TikTok?

How can you put all the information provided above to good use? Check out the tips below:

Using TikTok Features

Some sites like Instagram do not have stellar built-in filters and effects.  You will need to download other apps to touch up your photos and videos. 

TikTok, on the other hand, has a rich resource of sounds, effects, and filters. The algorithm will pay more attention to videos that feature these filters and effects. Using them will increase the chance of your video reaching a wider audience on FYP.

Furthermore, users can look up videos by the features. If you use trending sounds for your clips, you can appear in more people’s searches than when using less popular tunes.

It is advisable to be more attentive to new features. TikTok works restlessly to refresh the system regularly, and by promoting them, you are more likely to be rewarded in return.

Plus, experimenting with new filters and video effects is fun and exciting. Instead of following an existing trend, you can initiate a trend on your own.

Best Posting Time

Below are global best posting times to post on TikTok:

Best Time To Post On TikTok
Best Time To Post On TikTok

TikTok is different from most social media apps in that it does not timestamp the posts. It is not unusual that you are suddenly recommended videos that are up to three-month-old.

Therefore, entirely relying on a fixed, universal posting time to boost the view is not that crucial.

However, you should mind your posting time whenever you can since it is not that burdensome. According to popular theory, the best time to post on social networks is when most viewers are active.

The chart above will come in handy if your audience does not diverge too much from the average global audience. 

Interacting With Other Users

One thing that distinguishes TikTok from other social networking apps is that it does not stress the “social”. Wandering on the TikTok realm, you are interacting with yourself, watching videos curated to your taste, creating videos based on your personalities and normal life.

However, you should not be lost in your four walls and forget that you are creating videos for others to see. Interacting with other users on TikTok is not any less crucial than that on other social media.

One way to do that is to like, comment on videos, and follow other accounts. If you increase other account’s traffic, chances are they will reciprocate your favor.

Another fun way to interact is to play a duet. With this feature, you include an original video from another user in your video. The duet option helps to widen your audience and boost engagement.

TikTok Algorithm
Duet Is Both Fun To Do And Watch

In addition, do not forget to turn on the sharing option in your setting. You can aid your visibility by simply allowing others to share your video on other social media platforms.  

Improving Video Information

Last but not least, it all comes down to building up the quality of your creation. You can try all the tips above as best you can, but investing in quality content is the surest way to increase the odds of your video going viral. 

Duration

According to various statistics, shorter videos tend to perform better than longer ones. 

Fewer people opt to go through the entire video or ignore it in the first place when they see the 60-second duration. Long duration thus can hurt the completion rate and the number of views.

Put yourself in the spectator’s shoes. Would you rather finish a 15-second video or waste 60 seconds of your life on a video that refuses to go straight to the point?

Also, even with a shorter video, make sure that you capture the viewers’ attention in the first few seconds. No one likes to spend fifteen seconds on a video that is not promising either.

Editing

It is no myth that most TikTok users are iOS users as the app is less friendly to other types of devices. Therefore, using the in-app camera would severely lower the image quality.

It is advisable to pay more attention to the way you record. Grainy, poorly-lit videos would not get you far to the FYP. It pays to choose the right recording device and spend more time editing the video to enhance the resolution.

Trending hashtag and music

As briefly mentioned above, featuring anything currently trending is the safest bet to push your posts up the For You page.

We also want to add a small reminder, though you probably already know. Do not forget to include #fyp or #foryoupage or #foryou since the algorithm loves them.

Learning from previous high performing videos

Learn from your previous work or others’ videos, preferably from people who share the same topic of interest with you. 

You can copy the formula used by viral videos: how they use effects, how they present the hook and the emotions they successfully evoke. Copying is a great way of learning. You can only be creative once you are the master of the craft.

Creative Video Content

You probably struggle with your creativity from time to time and cannot come up with interesting themes for your video.

TikTok has a way to keep casual users staying with the platform. It artificially increases views for accounts that have not been active for some time. Usually, this will make the owners interested in posting again.

Posting too much is not a good idea either since your posts might be reported as spam. Keep your number to 1-2 posts a day.

Also, being creative does not mean your posts have to be of completely different themes. The overall theme of your account might be the reason why people decide to follow you in the first place. 

You can explore new ways of presenting your idea all you want, though be mindful that you know your target audience and be consistent in the general theme of your account.

Caption

The general rule of thumb is to keep it short and captivating. People use the platform TikTok primarily not for educational but entertaining videos. 

With all the hashtags that need to be included, a lengthy caption would be a real frustration to the audience.

Some audiences like to read the caption before they start the video. You can use this opportunity to engage your audience and make them stay. Throwing out a question to pique their curiosity or saying something of the same effect as “Stay till the end” are great ways you can try.

tiktok caption - How TikTok Algorithm Works And Best Strategies To Go Viral
An Example Of Good Use Of Question For The Caption

Related article: Tiktok Caption – How To Write An Engaging TikTok Description For Your Videos

Marketing

This information will be more helpful to brands. However, individual users can use it to promote their products, such as their blog posts.

Some brands and marketers admit that they have a harder time on TikTok than with more conventional marketing approaches like Facebook or Instagram. 

These social media platforms focus on content from friends and pages. TikTok, on the other hand, emphasizes emerging content, even if it comes from an account with few followers.

TikTok users prefer content that they feel relatable or connected to. Ads that do not make them feel special or cared for hardly manage to gain traction.

Brands definitely should sign up for the TikTok Pro Account. This version provides analytic tools which help them understand more about the preference of the target audience.  Thus, they can build the appropriate marketing campaigns.

TikTok Algorithm
TikTok Analytics

When making ads on TikTok, businesses should keep in mind that this video-based platform prefers casual things that belong to everyday life. Ads that are not resonating with the target audience not only receive “not interested” feedback but also adverse effects.

Conclusion

Hope the above tips and tricks enable you to take advantage of the TikTok algorithm.

For those working in the advertising field who see promising opportunities there, it takes a lot of outside-the-box thinking to have this wild card in your favor. It is not easy, but it is surely exciting along the way.

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