How Does the TikTok Algorithm Work in 2023?

John Beaton
September 9, 2022
Last Updated On
TikTok algorithm

TikTok has completely changed the game for social media marketers, and there is still much to understand about the inner workings of the short-form video channel. TikTok differs from traditional social media in that the content users see is based on algorithmic recommendations, rather than the accounts that they follow.

The biggest challenge this poses for marketers is that they cannot depend on brand recognition to earn followers in the way that they do on other channels—only good content will ultimately find success in TikTok’s algorithm. This also presents an opportunity for smaller brands to earn uncapped reach, which makes TikTok a compelling social channel for marketers to branch out on.

In the following guide, we will answer all of your questions about how the TikTok algorithm works, and what you can do to set yourself up for success as you plan out your TikToks.

What is the TikTok Algorithm?

The TikTok algorithm is the formula that determines what content is shown on your For You page. Countless inputs ultimately determine what you see, and why, and as a result, no two users have the same For You page or TikTok experience.

That being said, there are definitely some commonalities between what users are shown: popular, viral content is more likely to find a larger audience, and any content that capitalizes on trending topics or sounds is also more likely to be seen.

How TikTok Works

TikTok is a social entertainment channel based entirely around video and sound. Users can set their videos to sounds that are currently trending in order to participate in trends. TikTok differs from most social channels in that content skews toward being lo-fi vs hi-fi, and trends change much faster, so brands need to be agile and strategic when deciding which trends to participate in.

From a user’s perspective, TikTok immediately immerses you in an endless feed of videos that match your tastes. There is very little clutter, and instead, the focus is immediately on an entertainment blitz. You don’t have to tell TikTok what to show you, either. It just knows. Of course, there is a lot of science that goes into how TikTok’s algorithm shows you content, but it is seamless to the end user.

How TikTok Knows What to Show You

TikTok does not disclose much about its algorithm, however it has publicly disclosed that ranking signals include engagements (like and comments), as well as information from the video, including captions, sounds, and hashtags.

Out of the videos you are shown, TikTok is able to determine which ones entertained you the most, which is then a factor that determines what it shows you in the future.

How The For You Page on TikTok Works

The For You page is each user’s gateway into TikTok trends and popular culture. It is where the TikTok algorithm comes to life, and you are shown a wide spectrum of content from various niches.

Sometimes you may be shown content that you don’t like, and you can send a signal to TikTok to stop showing you that type of content by long pressing the video and selecting “Not interested,” which will gradually change your For You page (although you may need to select this for multiple videos in order to convey your preferences over the long term).

You are more likely to see content from accounts that you follow, so follower growth is still a fairly important factor in social entertainment, but it is no longer the single determiner of success as it once was.

7 Tips for Performing Well With TikTok’s Algorithm

  1. Stay trendy and pay attention to sounds. Having the right sounds on TikTok is just as important as filming the right video, as TikToks play with the sound turned on automatically, and they are the first impression audiences have of your content.
  1. You need to be more agile than you are on Instagram. TikTok moves fast, and although good content can still earn hundreds of views per day one year after posting (as Cocokind discovered in our case study), you will receive your most valuable engagements while you are on-trend.
  1. Experimentation is key on TikTok, as it is still an emerging channel and trends change day by day. The brands that find the most success are the brands that strike gold on a new or emerging trend and earn millions of views as a result.
  1. Don’t spam or post duplicate content. TikTok’s algorithm is very forgiving, but it does punish accounts that intentionally post spam. Try to avoid any gimmicks that involve posting the same video multiple times, as it may be perceived as duplicate content and suppress your virality.
  1. Partnering with creators allows you to get started with making great content on TikTok without depending entirely on having employees in front of the camera, which is typically the biggest barrier to entry for brands looking to get started. Users love to recognize faces, so partnering with certain creators multiple times will help establish a visual connection.
  1. It is important to focus on entertainment over marketing. TikTok’s audience skews younger, and they are not used to the direct marketing seen on channels like Instagram. It is best to focus on the value your product provides, rather than the product itself.
  1. Keep a pulse on what content truly entertains your audience with Dash Hudson’s Entertainment Score—a proprietary benchmarking score that calculates how well your content is resonating with audiences on a scale from 1 to 10, with 5 being average and 10 being extraordinary.

TikTok Algorithm FAQs

Is it good to post multiple TikToks at once?

TikTok moves faster than most social channels, and you are less likely to annoy your audience by posting multiple TikToks per day, as TikTok content is served based on their preferences, rather than a chronological timeline. The more content you post, the more likely you are to strike a chord with the algorithm, although posting similar content in a short period of time may be flagged as spam, cannibalize your audience, or prevent one video from snowballing into a viral overnight success. It is best to use your judgment to decide if two TikToks can coexist ‌or if it’s better to space them out.

Can an old video on TikTok go viral?

Old videos on TikTok can go viral. Dash Hudson’s Trending Videos tool allows you to monitor which TikToks of yours are going viral at any given point in time, including TikToks that are over a year old. Cocokind wins on TikTok with viral content that has earned 15.6 million views over the course of a year, and continues to rack up hundreds of views per week.

How does TikTok read your mind?

Although it may seem like magic, TikTok’s recommendations are actually quite scientific. TikTok keeps the winning formula behind its algorithm close to its chest, however, it is clear that the content that you are shown is based on what you’ve watched and reacted to in the past. If you tend to hover over or engage with certain types of videos, TikTok will take that as a cue to continue showing you similar content.

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