Whether you work in social marketing or not, the inner workings of the TikTok algorithm are a popular tech topic. This article explores how the TikTok algorithm works in 2023, plus:
TikTok has completely changed the game for social media marketers, and there is still much to understand about how the short-form video channel works. Although many social channels use an algorithm-based model to recommend new content, they generally recommend a mix of accounts users follow and those they don’t. The TikTok For You Page (FYP) frequently features accounts users do not follow. This is arguably the most popular way to absorb TikTok content, and how creators — and brands — get discovered on TikTok.
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 — ultimately, only good content will 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.
The TikTok algorithm is the formula and set of rules that determine what content is shown on your For You page. Numerous inputs determine what you see and why — 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 TikTok trending sounds or topics is also more likely to be seen. When these trends align with a theme or subject you watch and interact with more frequently, the more likely you are to see this content on your FYP.
TikTok differs from most social channels in that content skews toward being lo-fi vs hi-fi, and trends change much faster, so brands must 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.
The TikTok algorithm also comes into play here — TikTok prioritizes the content it shows users, and attempts to provide content that aligns with your viewing interests. For example, have you always watched beauty tutorials, but have recently been searching and viewing more recipes? You’re more likely to see a stream of fresh content focused on recipes and food.
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.
So, what about content TikTok won’t recommend? You’ve likely noticed slang being used in place of profanities and other language on the app. But what words are not allowed on TikTok, and won’t be prioritized by the algorithm?
Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid profanity of any kind. When it comes to words you might not consider profanity that you can’t use on TikTok, these include:
Be mindful to avoid using these words in audio, captions and even comments and messages. As a rule of thumb, if you have to wonder if a word is banned, it’s good practice to avoid it entirely.
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 gradually changes 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.
So, you want to hack the algorithm? Unfortunately, there’s no one way to bend the algorithm to your will, but there are some best practices that will increase your chance of appearing on relevant FYPs.
Dash Hudson works seamlessly with TikTok to support your social strategy. From scheduling to reporting, TikTok-specific insights that give your team insight into performance trends and ROI to built-in e-commerce tools that provide a seamless browsing and checkout experience for users, Dash Hudson fully equips your team with the tools you need to streamline your short form video strategy and stay on top of trends.
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.
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.
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.
While you can’t reset the TikTok algorithm from scratch completely (although you could make another account), TikTok relies on engagement to determine which content you like, and to show you more of. Avoid watching content you truly don’t wish to see, and go a step further to select ‘Not Interested’ on content you wish to see less of. Eventually, the TikTok algorithm will re-align with your interests and viewing habits.