Beginner Guide

tiktok algorithm explained

If your brand is using TikTok for marketing, you are probably looking for ways to gain traction on the platform. How do you get more views and followers on Tiktok? On that note, how do you get more people to find your content in the first place? Understanding how the TikTok algorithm works is the key to making this platform work for your brand.

In this guide, we give you a breakdown of what the TikTok algorithm is and how it works. More importantly, we give you some practical tips on how to “hack” the algorithm. Let’s dive

What is Tiktok Algorithm?

The TikTok algorithm is a system that personalizes content recommendations for each user. It decides which videos the user might like based on their personal interests and displays them on the user’s page for you.

As a result, the page for you is highly personalized for each user. What you see on your For You Page will not be what your friends or coworkers see on their For You Page. Someone who watches a lot of beauty and makeup content will naturally see more recommendations for similar videos. Yet those videos would hardly be visible to someone who mostly consumes sports and gaming-related content.

This also means that the types of content you see on this page will change over time as your viewing behavior and preferences change. For example, when you take a new interest in DIY projects, you can check out more DIY-related videos on my For You page. That’s what happens when you engage with more crafting and DIY stuff.

How does the TikTok algorithm work?

Now you must be wondering that how does Tiktok know which content to recommend. The TikTok algorithm considers a combination of factors to decide which videos a user might like.

Let’s take a look at the most important TikTok ranking factors that affect which videos show up on your For You page:

User interaction and behavior cues

One of the most important considerations TikTok makes is how users behave on the app. This information allows the platform to gain a better understanding of each user’s unique preferences and how they change over time. It then ranks the videos based on how aligned they are with these behavioral cues.

The TikTok algorithm considers the following key data signals:

  • video like and share
  • accounts followed
  • Comments Posted
  • content created
  • video full
  • Favorite Video

TikTok uses this information to understand what types of videos you like to watch and the creators whose content you like. This means you are more likely to recommend videos similar to videos you’ve watched and interacted with before. It can also like videos from creators whose content you regularly engage with.

Video information for content searchability

Information on the video itself such as captions, hashtags and sounds also helps TikTok understand how to rank content. This is mainly because it uses the information to understand what the content is, so it can decide when to display it on your pages for users.

Device and account indicator

TikTok also looks at each user’s device and account settings to optimize for performance. The main information it looks at are:

  • country setting
  • language preferences
  • type of equipment
  • Category Selection

However, since users do not actively express them as a priority, they do not carry as much weight as the other two factors. This means that the algorithm can put more weight on a stronger indicator of interest such as watching a video in its entirety.

6 Tips to Make the TikTok Algorithm Work for You

Given these ranking factors, it is safe to say that the most important way to “hack” an algorithm is through joins. This can seem like a challenge if your brand is new to the platform and you are still building your following.

The good news is that TikTok doesn’t consider the number of followers or the history of high-performing videos as a direct ranking factor. This makes it much easier for relevant users to page you for new accounts—as long as they’re taking the right approach. On that note, here are some tips to improve your chances with the TikTok algorithm:

1. Count the first few seconds

TikTok gives priority to factors such as whether users have finished watching your video. So you should create engaging content to attract more people to watch your video from start to finish. For that, you have to grab their attention in the first few seconds and engage them with you so that they want to watch the rest of the video.

That means skipping the introduction and getting straight to the good part within the first 2-3 seconds. With TikTok being a fast-moving platform, there is no room for slow build-up which can reduce the interest of the audience. Otherwise, viewers will become impatient and quickly move on to the next video on their feed.

Depending on the content, you may need to use text overlays, voiceovers, or sound effects to make the first few seconds count. The goal is to quickly show the value of your videos to retaining viewers.

Here’s an example from ColourPop Cosmetics, where a text overlay tells viewers why they should watch the video.


For those quick eyeshadow days! @Tashi Rodriguez . Eyeshadow Look with 5 Minutes

you and me – lus

2. Lean towards short videos

TikTok recently increased its maximum video length to 10 minutes. However, longer videos do not necessarily give you an advantage with the TikTok algorithm. As mentioned above, the video completion rate carries significant weight in the algorithm. Now, what is the probability that people will watch a full 15-second video versus a 10-minute video?

Try to create shorter, more punchy videos that engage the audience from start to finish. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment with longer format videos, especially if they better align with your brand identity, message, and goals. Just remember to keep at least some of your videos short.

3. Post at the right time

Like other social networks, timing is also important on TikTok. The algorithm looks at the engagement of your video to rank it appropriately. In other words, the more engagement it sees, the more likely it is that your video will appear on relevant users’ For You page. This means that you need to increase engagement as much as possible within the first few minutes of posting in order to improve visibility on the platform.

Posting your TikTok videos when your audience is most active will help you achieve this goal. The best time to post on social media, in general, is from Tuesday to Thursday at 9 am or 10 am. However, every audience is different. It is best to look at your TikTok analytics to access your follower activity and see when your audience is most active.

tiktok analytics dashboard showing follower activity

4. Make trending sounds work for you

Tiktok is a platform that is highly focused on audio, where songs and voices go viral fast. In fact, it is one of the few social networks that allows users to search using audio. So it’s no surprise that the audio you use affects the discoverability of your videos.

When someone interacts with a video that uses a certain audio track, the TikTok algorithm will take this as a signal to recommend other videos using the same audio. This means that using trending songs and sounds in your videos can help you improve your content visibility. If you see a trend that’s popping up on stage, don’t be afraid to jump in and use audio in your own videos, if it’s relevant.

Revolve always makes it a point to include fun and popular music in its TikTok videos.


Back in the office Time for a ‘fit check’ with our team – shop their looks now! #REVOLVE #staff #revolvestaff #fashionforyou #tiktokfashion #fitcheck

House Swinger Nar – Attitude

5. Level up your hashtag game

If you thought hashtags are just for Instagram, think again. The TikTok algorithm uses hashtags to understand the content of a video and how to categorize it. This means that if you want TikTok to show your videos to the right users, you must use hashtags that are relevant to your video and your brand.

For example, Duolingo uses the hashtag #LearnOnTikTok in the following video. This is relevant to the video, which teaches an Italian word.


@samandwendy teach us the #Italian word for the feeling of sleepiness after eating too much! We hope there’s pasta left for us! #learnOnTik Tok #Duolingo

original sound – Duolingo

It’s even better if you can use trending TikTok hashtags that are already getting a ton of visibility and engagement. For example, you can take part in a popular hashtag challenge and add your own twist to it. These trending hashtags can inspire your content creation. They can also increase your content visibility as they are already popular on the platform.

The Trends section under your Discover tab can show you hashtags that are trending right now. Research each trending hashtag to find opportunities your brand can take advantage of.

6. Write Keyword-Rich Captions

While you can keep your caption short or even leave it blank, it is much better if you can use it to your advantage. Write captions that are relevant to the video so that the TikTok algorithm can understand what the content is about.

You can make the most of this space by including relevant keywords for the video. This will make it easier for Tiktok to understand the content of the video and show it to the right users. That said, avoid filling your captions with keywords just for the sake of it. Instead, use keywords strategically to create clear and easy to understand sentences while still being relevant to the content.

See how GoPro uses keywords like “skijoring,” “Colorado” and “sport” in the following TikTok.

@go pro

Welcome to the world of skijoring Nick Burri shows us the coolest Colorado sport ever #gopro #skiing #skitok #pov #colorado #skijoring

Original Soundtrack – GoPro

become a tiktok sensation

Connectivity is key if you want the TikTok algorithm to work for you. Use the tips we have provided to increase visibility and engagement on the platform. If you’re still new to the platform, check out our guide on social media campaign management for some inspiration.


The post explaining The TikTok algorithm first appeared on Sprout Social.

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