TikTok’s most powerful—and distinctive—tool is undoubtedly its algorithm. The algorithm is what surfaces hyper-targeted videos to TikTok users’ For You Pages (FYPs), making it possible for a video even from a new user account with a low follower count to go viral.
What exactly goes into that algorithm remains TikTok’s secret sauce, and we can’t exactly be sure why the social platform will display one video to millions of active users but limit how many people see another, very similar video.
Still, we can create a rough outline of what variables are factored into the TikTok algorithm. And for brands trying to break onto the social media platform, understanding the nuances of TikTok’s recommendation system is essential to building their audience.
According to the New York Times, tests conducted by journalists last year found that the defining feature of TikTok’s algorithm seems to be how long people spend watching your video. The more watch time your video garners, the more likely it is to get seen.
That means brands should be making their videos as tight and as engaging as they can, so that as many people as possible watch as much of each video as possible.
TikTok itself says that its algorithm tracks a few different key variables—besides metrics—including:
According to TikTok, the rate at which people like, share, and comment on a video directly correlates to its ultimate success on the FYP.
TikTok analyzes the video information like its description, the sound you attach, and the hashtags you use in order to guess which viewers are most likely to enjoy your new content.
Keeping these details as specific and targeted as possible can help ensure that the right people see your TikTok content.
These can include your device type—maybe you’re using an iPhone or laptop—location, country settings, language preference, and other device or account settings.
Here are some TikTok strategies to help you utilize the platform’s recommendation algorithm.
Right now, TikTok says it is still prioritizing videos in the 21-to-34-second range. Brands should be following that recommendation in as many of their videos as possible. But be aware that TikTok’s preferred video length is starting to change.
In fact, it’s likely to get longer over time. In February 2022, TikTok confirmed that it would soon let all users upload longer videos of up to 10-minute videos, and the company seems likely to increase its recommended video length in the near future.
Hashtags ensure that TikTok displays the right type of content to people that are most likely to enjoy it and help avoid showing your posts to those not interested. This can, in turn, increase your chances of creating a viral video.
While a hashtag won’t necessarily make or break the popularity of your video, it can give the video a push toward the right audience.
You should choose trending hashtags that are popular with shoppers on TikTok, like #TikTokMadeMeBuytIt, but you should also add more specific hashtags tailored to your brand. That will easily increase your visibility on TikTok’s Discover tab. Learn more about how to use TikTok Hashtags here.
If you do decide to add edits—like sound effects or music—to your TikTok, remember that the exact audio you choose can influence who ends up seeing your video content.
A good way to approximate what kinds of people might see your new video is to click through the videos under a certain sound you are considering using. What kinds of people are posting with that sound, and who is commenting under those videos?
If you’re targeting a certain age demographic, for instance, you want to choose trending audio* that specific group uses or listens to.
Older people are a growing demographic on TikTok, but the videos they see—and the sounds and songs that are most prominent on their feeds—look a lot different than those seen by younger users.
*You can easily do the above by opening TikTok’s video editor and clicking on the Sounds tab, where you’ll see trending sounds while scrolling through the list.
The TikTok algorithm tracks how many user likes and comments a video receives, and brands that engage directly with their audiences are more likely to create a culture of commenting around their accounts.
Brands should be active in the comments on TikTok, either making quips or directly addressing customer questions or concerns as they pop up.
TikTokers will often ask questions about how to customize your products or what your return policy is, and it’s important to answer them in the comments or the DMs. Chatdesk Teams supplies flexible customer support staff who can address questions in the comments.
That’s important regardless of the algorithm, but an added benefit is that interacting with customers in the comments will mean your TikTok videos get more traction, too.