How to go viral on TikTok: Content tips and algorithm tricks

TikTok / Pexels

TikTok is the most popular website and social media app in the world, and as such, there’s a lot of competition for clicks. But if you want to go viral on TikTok, you should start by knowing some algorithm tips and tricks.

Like all content, the best way to get views and engagement is to produce something of quality that meets enough people’s interest. Although knowing exactly what will strike a chord with people is mysterious, there are some general tips to keep in mind – no matter what kind of content you make.

TikTok’s algorithm has been the subject of serious confusion, as the app seemingly directs users to new content with a sophisticated system. Everyone’s “For You Page” (FYP) eventually becomes a curated selection of unique videos, tailored to their interests.

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If you want to go viral on TikTok, making interesting videos is just the first step. You’ll also want to know how the algorithm works and the best ways to work with it, as well as how to design and structure your content.

How the TikTok algorithm works: Getting on the FYP

Cloudflare Tiktok ranking over timeCloudFlare
TikTok’s popularity, and therefore that of its creators, skyrocketed in 2021.

Like all content platforms, getting likes, comments, and follows is valuable on TikTok. But the principal metric you should consider is actually your average watch time.

According to research, TikTok’s algorithm works by prioritizing how long people are watching your video (relative to the entire video’s length) and their completion rate (how many people watch a video until it ends).

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With users quick to skip past videos between one and four seconds in, you’ll want to structure videos to maximize watch time if you want to go viral. It’s important to hook people in early and then flesh out the rest of your video to keep them interested… and some other specific tips can help you do so.

How to go viral on TikTok: Audio and video

Pokemon tiktok charizardUnwrapTherapy / TikTok
You can see how using text during a TikTok video helps build a hook and narrative.

So, if you want people to watch your videos until the end instead of swiping away, there are some technical tips to achieve this. Having a narrative structure helps, since it keeps people engaged, but there are video and audio tricks to complement your content.

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To mitigate TikTok users’ short attention spans and their different methods of viewing, it helps to have an on-screen caption or narration for your videos. And that narration becomes easier to follow when you add subtitles during the video (or even use the POV text feature).

But, to make things even easier to follow along, you should also have a vocal narration. That can either be original or, to give viewers a familiar voice, can use TikTok’s text-to-speech feature.

Going viral on TikTok: Trends and collaborations

Addison Rae and Charli XCXTikTok, Charli XCX
Duets are an easy way to jump on viral trends in a fun, genuine way.

A bonus to adding a voiceover to your own video is that it can become a “sound,” which can then become its own viral trend. Which brings us to the next tips for going viral: Taking advantage of trends.

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Using a viral video format or audio can be a great way to put your own spin on something that people are interested in. All you need to do is sync your video to the sound and you might be able to ride the trend’s wave.

Further, you can collaborate with other creators’ viral videos in other ways than just using their sounds. The duet feature can be a simple, but effective way to go viral by engaging with the community’s current fascinations.

bella poarch death note pokemon chikoritaTwitter, @bellapoarch / Madhouse / Nintendo
Not everyone can be Bella Poarch, but there’s enough room on TikTok for other content to go viral too.

At the end of the day, viral content is subject to luck much of the time. TikTok became the world’s biggest platform thanks in part to authentic videos that accidentally go viral, often without adhering to any of the normal tricks.

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But if you want your video to be seen under the FYP’s bright lights, it doesn’t hurt to know these tips. Oh, and remember to post at the right time, too.