How does the TikTok algorithm work? And just how do you go viral?
Lucy Askham Senior Social Media Executive
5 min read
Wednesday, 5th October 2022
Updated: Monday, 7th November 2022
The TikTok algorithm is admittedly one of the most complex compared to other social media channels and we often get asked so many questions, including:
- How come some videos go viral and others don’t?
- How does TikTok decide what to share on my FYP?
- How long should my videos be?
- How often should I be posting?
Whilst TikTok is still relatively hush hush about their super personalised algorithm that fuels our For You feeds and makes the app just so addictive, we can share some key details about the latest TikTok update and just what factors influence their algorithm. There are six main factors:
1. Video likes, comments, shares, completions and re-watches
This one is simple - the more engagement a TikTok gets, the more likely it is to get served to larger audiences. Much like Instagram, the TikTok algorithm bases recommendations on a user’s interaction with content - so whilst the volume of likes and comments won’t always be the most relevant, it can help content be shared to a wider audience.
2. Subject matter
TikTok categorises content based on user interest so subject matter is an important factor when it comes to reach - think hashtags, caption keywords, sounds, effects and content (i.e. video transcripts).
3. Device settings
These are settings TikTok uses to optimise performance. This includes language preference, country setting (you’re more likely to see content from people in your own country), type of mobile device and the categories of interest you selected as a new user. However, since they’re based on one-time settings choices rather than active engagements, they do not have as much influence on what you see on the platform.
We all know audio trends are massive on TikTok. Therefore, when a video includes a trending sound or song, the more likely it is to get served to a larger audience. Our top tip for you is to always be on the lookout for any upcoming sound trends and get your content prepped in advance to ensure you’re not missing any reactive and trending opportunities.
5. Hashtags and captions
Hashtags are not just for Instagram - including hashtags and keywords in your TikTok captions lets the algorithm know exactly what your content and page is about, which will in turn direct your videos to the most relevant audience.
6. User activity & ‘not interested’ feedback
The algorithm aims to share high interest content to each user, and it uses previous activity to determine what’s best. Videos you’ve marked as “not interested”, “skipped” or “hidden” are a lot less likely to reappear on your FYP.
HOW TO HACK THE ALGORITHM?
With those factors in mind, there are a few ways you can hack the TikTok algorithm and boost views. However, just remember that TikTok will be continually learning from user experience and the algorithm is always adapting and changing so what works now may not work in three months time.
Here are my top three tips for how to drive traffic, cultivate engagement and boost views:
1. Hook your audience within the first three seconds
Remember what the algorithm likes, and when a user watches a video in full it recognises that viewers like this content and they want to watch it. If your audience is only watching a few seconds of your 30 second video before scrolling to another, the algorithm will flag your video as boring or irrelevant to that person - which is not ideal! So, hook your audience right away! Try starting with a question, or use on screen text to tease what the video is about to entice viewers to watch for longer.
2. Focus on a niche (and use hashtags!)
We learnt this first-hand from growing the Rise TikTok (and if you aren’t following us yet then what are you doing?! @riseatseven 👀). The more you share videos related to your niche and directed at a specific audience, the more the TikTok algorithm will recognise it and begin to push your videos to the right people.
Unlike other social media platforms where we spend the majority of our time engaging with accounts we already follow, on TikTok we spend most of our time on the For You page. That’s why it’s super important to find existing communities or subcultures to engage with - that way, your content is more likely to be amplified to the right audience.
So, make sure you’re aware of what content themes resonate with your target audience - is it beauty tutorials, reviews, comedy sketches? Once you decide your content themes, experiment by using specific hashtags - just like we do for our Rise at Seven TikTok. We use hashtags such as #socialmediatips and #socialmediamanager when sharing content targeting towards, you guessed it, social media managers. Or #creativeagency when our videos are focussed on office and work life and we want to reach young professionals working within the same sector, along with potential clients by promoting our creative agency. Including hashtags such as these essentially tells the algorithm who to show your videos to, which is KEY to growing your audience.
3. On-screen text and captions
To ensure users are watching your videos the whole way through, it is key you are including on-screen text for every single video you put out. This not only helps users who are watching without sound but is also helpful for those who are hearing impaired. It is easy enough to do, and TikTok has an automatic captions feature so you don’t have to transcript your whole video!
SO, WHAT ABOUT GOING VIRAL?
TikTok videos have a very long shelf life. It’s very common that a video pops up on your FYP, you visit the creator’s page and find you’ve recently watched a video that is weeks old. TikTok videos have the ability to go viral after a few days, weeks or even months after you originally shared it. Whilst there is no golden ticket to going viral, follow all of the above steps and you will be well on your way to producing content that has a higher likelihood of success and virality.
Let us know how you get on!
Want to learn more about TikTok or how you can implement TikTok into your next social media strategy? Get in touch
Have a read about our Ultimate Guide to TikTok SEO