Users spend an average of 46 minutes a day with TikTok. The question is, how can you get your videos to get your audience's attention during this time? While there is no magic recipe, it can help you get to grips with the TikTok algorithm, work with it, and improve your chances of success.
So what are you waiting for? Let's examine the various ranking factors and find out how you can use them to bring your content to the sixth largest global social network.
Let us begin.
Bonus: Would you like to know how a viral social video creator generates millions of dollars in sales? Download the free guide now.
How the TikTok algorithm works
TikTok has long been a mother of how content is rated. Influencers and others who managed to get their content on the For You page offered some guesswork that provided a rough framework for compliance. Ultimately, they were all arrows that were thrown into the dark.
Fortunately, TikTok recently lifted the veil and highlighted the key ranking factors that guide the show.
Each of these elements is explained below in the order of their meaning:
1. User interaction
Similar to the Instagram algorithm, the TikTok algorithm serves the users they deal with. If there is a particular account that they interact with frequently, they are more likely to see content from it. This also applies to the videos they like and share the most.
However, the strongest ranking indicator in this category is the video completion rate. When users watch a video in full, they are more likely to be pushed to further feeds than what the viewer passed or watched for a second or two.
For developers and businesses, this means creating videos that get viewers' attention to the end is key to reaching the For You page, the TikTok version of the Instagram Explore page.
2. Video information
Again, the algorithm is more likely to push content that a user is examining. For example, if users frequently search for a specific hashtag or enjoy content with a specific sound bite, they are more likely to watch videos with the same hashtag and sound.
This explains why you will see more # ohnanachallenge videos on your For You page if you've recently watched some videos with the hashtag and are obsessed with who I am (anyone?).
3. Account or device setting
Finally, the location, the language preference and the device type of the users also play a role, since they optimize the viewing experience. However, they don't weigh as much as other ranking signals. In other words, with TikTok you can reach a global audience. However, it also shows videos of users created by people in their area.
The question remains: How do new TikTok accounts go viral?
You see, TikTok shows all videos to all interested users, regardless of who publishes them. So when a video is posted:
- The algorithm shows it to account followers and people who are likely to be interested. If the profile is new, the video will be shown to a small group of users who may be interested in the content.
- From then on, the interaction of the users with the content determines the fate and the further spread: Do people watch it until the completion? Do you leave a comment, give a thumbs up or share it?
- A positive user response to a video instructs the algorithm to show the video to more consumers so that it gets the exposure it deserves. As for the bad user response – well, do the math.
All of this explains why the For You pages contain a combination of highly engaging videos and videos that have few views.
The TikTok algorithm does not explicitly prefer the number of followers as a ranking signal. Sure, people with a high number of followers get more video views and more engagement because of their large fan base. However, this doesn't mean that new accounts don't stand a chance.
11 tips for working with the TikTok algorithm
1. Create short 15 second videos
With TikTok you can create videos of 15 and 60 seconds in length. However, your audience is more likely to watch bite-size, engaging videos longer (or with fingers crossed) than minutes-long videos. Of course, this increases your video completion rate, the strongest TikTok algorithm ranking factor.
2. Create video content that engages viewers from the start
Work on opening your video. Intros that are unnecessarily long are a buzzkill. So add a tick to your video within three seconds so that viewers don't yawn and roll past.
A good way to trim the fluff in your opening is to cut out the opening section of each intro you record until you find the right hook.
My new best friend is a little different, but cool if you get to know him.
♬ Original sound – Washingtonpost
3. Add an attractive label
TikTok beats tweets to write short subtitles. However, one thing is certain: you must be convincing despite being limited to 150 characters (including any hashtags you add). A good caption can encourage your audience to watch your video to the end.
How? Stir the curiosity by saying something like, "You have to watch this to the end" or "I have made X attempts to get the end right".
Question-based subtitles also help. These encourage viewers to leave comments about your content – another “engagement” ranking factor that they can play with.
How many did you guess correctly? #illusion #game
♬ Original sound – Zachking
4. Pay attention to every video you create
TikTok shows all videos regardless of the number of followers of the creator of a number of potentially interested users. So you don't have to build an audience first (as is common today) and then get video views.
In other words, as long as your content is good, it will gain momentum in the algorithm. So don't get discouraged if some of your first videos don't work well with TikTok. You may end up making a video that the audience loves.
5. Create high quality videos that are well edited
If you haven't already given up poor quality, grainy videos, you should do so now. Keep in mind that video completion is the name of the game on TikTok. Good video quality ensures more video views.
TikTok is also the network that rewards good editing skills. Take advantage of TikTok's video editing features, including available filters, stickers, effects, templates, and other editing options. Check out Jason Derulo, who cleverly uses stickers in his video to get inspiration:
What time is it where you are
♬ Original sound – Jasonderulo
6. Post when your audience is active and engaged
While this is obvious for most social platforms, it is especially important for TikTok. By engaging active users with your content, the referral system is instructed to push your video.
Get a free TikTok Pro account to view data on your followers' most active times under "Follower Activity" in the "Followers Tab" section. Then publish when your analysis shows that your followers are most likely to be online.
7. Get involved with other TikTokers
If you leave comments and deal with the content of others, they will be asked to return your comments and shares.
There is also a science, summarized under the law of reciprocity, that if person A does something nice for person B (leaves comments in this case), person B feels the urge to return the favor (i.e., a comment return) and maybe more).
If you receive comments and approvals for your videos, the TikTok algorithm is more likely to record them.
8. Use the right hashtags
Two types of hashtags can help you grow on TikTok:
For you side hashtags
This includes #fyp, #foryou and #foryoupage just like Chipotle:
Ok b̶o̶o̶m̶e̶r̶ millennial #chipotle #chipotlehacks #avocadotoast #fyp
♬ Original sound – Chipotle
While there is no guarantee that you will get a ranking with these hashtags (since the tag is very full), it doesn't hurt to add one.
When something changes, more and more people flock to it. And if you create really great videos for trend hashtags, you will likely win a substantial chunk of the amount for your content
Look for trending hashtags on your account’s Discover tab to give your hashtags your creative touch. Here is Jade Darmawangsa who does the same for the #voguechallenge:
My body type didn't really fit "Vogue", so … #voguechallenge
♬ Gimme punch pls – i.i.i.i.i.il.
9. Take part in hashtag challenges
At TikTok, hashtag challenges are all the rage. In fact, they are a great way to develop new ideas for content.
People like to consume videos created for hashtag challenges and look for those that give the challenge a unique creative touch. Others who want to create a video for the challenge can watch videos during the day for inspiration.
In either case, participating in a hashtag challenge is a great way to expand your video views and gain favor with the algorithm. On the Discover tab, look for the latest hashtag challenges.
10. Use trend tones and music in your videos
Just like hashtags trends, sounds on TikTok ride on the wave of popularity. This means that by creating videos on these trend tones, you can continue to use the algorithm. Check out falafel kimchi with the trendy banana sound:
♬ Banana (feat.Shaggy) – DJ FLe – Minisiren Remix – Conkarah
The question now is, how can you tell which sound or song is trending today? The answer is not as simple as finding trend hashtags. You need to open your video editor and click on "Sounds" above. Scroll down to find trend sounds.
You can also capture trend sounds from your TikTok Pro account. Use the Followers tabs to find out what your followers have heard in the past seven days.
11. Make sure that people can interact with your content
If you didn't know it, TikTok is something really smart: it makes downloading and cross-promoting videos on other platforms a breeze.
By activating your download option, users can share your content on other social channels. You will be surprised at how many TikTokers I tracked that I discovered on Twitter.
Also, leave your duet option open. Duets are videos that a TikTok user creates along with another creator's original video. Like here:
Thanks for the advice! You are a lifesaver! #duet with @brandenzipp
♬ Original sound – brand zipper
If your video is exceptional and people are involved in creating duet videos, you can increase your chances of getting noticed on TikTok. Do you want to duet more people with you? Add the hashtag #duetwithme to your label.
Ultimately, there is no way to "hack" the TikTok algorithm. However, if you use the tips above and create high quality content that engages your audience, you can give your videos a better chance of being seen by more people.