How the TikTok algorithm works

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Take your organic content strategy to the next level.

With over one billion active users and an application that has the fastest growth rate worldwide, TikTok represents a critical opportunity to drive greater brand awareness and reap increased sales as a result. 

But before you can go viral on the leading short-form video platform, you first need to understand how the TikTok algorithm works. 

How does the TikTok algorithm work?

The reach of TikTok organic is high, compared to that of other social media platforms. This is because the algorithm is engineered in a way that affords equal opportunity for all users to go viral. Whether you have 5 or 5000 followers, creating a viral hit is anyone’s game.  

Key to going viral on TikTok is earning real estate on the highly coveted FOR YOU page, which according to TikTok is where users spend most of their time. The FOR YOU page is a personalized, scrollable feed of content. Similar to the function of the Instagram home page, the FOR YOU page is designed to generate accurate recommendations based on the user’s actions on TikTok.

The FOR YOU page recommends content according to:

  • accounts you follow
  • interests demonstrated through interaction with organic content and ads
  • longer videos you’ve watched all the way to the end; and
  • videos you’ve liked/shared.

Device and account settings also play a role as they determine factors like language preferences, country setting, and device type, etc. Though, these factors are weighted less heavily by the TikTok algorithm as users don’t actively express these as preferences. 

Crack the TikTok algorithm

The key stake at play in determining how you fare with the TikTok algorithm is average watch time. The watch time, relative to video length is what propels the TikTok algorithm to push the video and enable it to appear in users’ FOR YOU feeds. The more users watch the video in its entirety, the greater chance it has of going viral. 

While likes, shares and follows are still important indicators of reach and engagement, video watch time is arguably the most important data metric in understanding the impact of your TikTok efforts. 

So, what can you do to encourage users to watch your TikTok to the end? 

On average, TikTok users have an attention span of just 3 seconds. In 3 seconds, you need to captivate the audience by showing you have a solution to a pain point. Tips, DIY, fun facts and quick hacks lend themselves greatly to the TikTok format in allowing you to communicate a compelling point quickly. 

One of the well-known features of TikTok is that it allows users to easily customize short-form videos with an extensive array of filters and effects. The text overlay element is critical to capturing user attention, especially when you consider how users typically consume content. 

Users tend to flick through their social media feeds while they’re going between places, either on public transport, in bus depots or moving between buildings. In these situations, the user isn’t always in a position where they have earphones on hand or where they feel comfortable to play sound out loud. Because videos with text overlay allow users to follow the narrative of the video without sound, the chances of a user watching until the end is much higher. 

Balance trendiness with authenticity

It’s well understood that incorporating trending audio into your videos can boost your reach on TikTok. It can help push your video to users who have interacted with other videos that include the same audio and expose your brand to a broader audience as a result. 

For this reason, it’s easy to get caught up in the storm of wanting to participate in trends. But remember that your reputation and credibility as a business is also at stake. You don’t want to jump on too many trends to the point where your core message as a brand gets clouded. It can make your presence on TikTok appear inauthentic and thus turn users away. 

At the end of the day, users want to engage with your brand story and see the original thoughts, insights and expertise you have to offer. They want to see why they should follow you over a competitor and understand what makes you a cut above the rest. 

One way brands can demonstrate their consumer value and unique selling point (USP) is through the voiceover feature. With the voiceover feature, you can narrate videos using an original script. This makes your videos feel more personal as it creates the impression you’re speaking directly to the user. 

If you use original audio and your video goes viral, other creators can then use your audio in their TikToks. The original creator of the audio is always credited in the top left-hand corner of the video. This makes it easy for users to click back to your profile and garner greater brand awareness as a result. 

Before you jump on the latest trend, consider the long-term picture of your business and how the trend can be used to meaningfully draw attention to your brand and what you offer. 

Keep the viral momentum

As we touched on earlier, the TikTok algorithm is designed to afford equal opportunity to all users, regardless of their follower count. While one viral post isn’t too hard a feat, the challenge lies in maintaining the momentum.  

Here are some tips for how you can keep it going: 

  • do a follow-up TikTok (aka, part 2) at least 72 hours after your last viral video
  • interact with audiences in real-time through a TikTok live
  • post consistently (a frequency of 2 to 3 posts a week is optimal) 
  • respond to all comments.

Fundamentally, the TikTok algorithm is governed by user preferences. When you create, share and interact with the target user in mind, the TikTok algorithm should work to your brand’s favor.

But how can you be sure your TikTok efforts are hitting the mark? 

Instant access to the full suite of TikTok metrics in a single view should do the trick. Make this your reality by connecting your accounts in the Digivizer platform. You will easily be able to track the reach, monitor engagement rates and keep tabs on the accounts that mention you at the click of a button. 

Start your free 30 day trial today and fuel your marketing with a data-driven approach.

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