How does the TikTok algorithm work?

. 6 months ago
TikTok logo on a dark background
Unsplash: Alexander Shatov

Many TikTok users spend hours every day scrolling through their TikTok For You Page, but how does the algorithm that decides what content you see work?

Short-form video platform TikTok has seen a huge rise in popularity over the past couple of years, and it continues to gain more users by the day as people gravitate towards the app.

It’s home to a huge range of content, from dancing and comedy, to life hacks and tutorials, and with thousands of creators posting new content every day, there’s never any shortage of videos for people to scroll through.

TikTok’s most popular feature is the For You Page, which is an algorithm-based feed that recommends content to users based on what they are most likely to be interested in.

TikTok logo on a phone
TikTok: Olivier Bergeron
TikTok hosts all kinds of viral video content.

How does the algorithm work on TikTok?

In a post by the TikTok Newsroom, the company explained how their recommendation systems influence what appears on your FYP.

They said that the system takes into account interests you express as a new user, while also taking into consideration the things you indicate that you’re not interested in in order to generate the list of content that appears on your feed.

Although they say recommendations are based on a number of factors, three key elements are:

  • User interactions — This can be anything from the videos you share or like, creators you follow, videos you leave comments on, and the kind of content you post.
  • Video information — This can include the content of captions in your videos, hashtags you put in your description, and the types of ‘sounds’ you use.
  • Device and account settings — Your preferences such as language and location settings can have some impact on the kind of content you see, however TikTok does state: “These factors are included to make sure the system is optimized for performance, but they receive lower weight in the recommendation system relative to other data points we measure since users don’t actively express these as preferences.”

The app will also measure your interest in certain content by looking at whether you watch a longer video from start to finish, for example.

While some viral success stories on the app seem totally random, there have previously been claims that TikTok has a hand in deciding what goes viral.

The For You Page remains people’s primary source of content on TikTok, and users even make jokes about just how accurate the algorithm can be for some people. If you want to use the algorithm to your advantage, here’s how to go viral on the platform.

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