TikTok Algorithm Decoded: Elevate Your Content Strategy

TikTok Algorithm Decoded: Elevate Your Content Strategy

When it comes to building a following and converting leads, TikTok is a social media platform that keeps on giving. According to TikTok’s 2023 trends report, 92% of TikTok users say they felt a positive emotion that resulted in off-platform action (conversions and sales, in other words).

Sounds promising, right? But for all that good stuff to happen, you have to play by TikTok’s algorithm’s rules. 

However, nobody can’t seem to agree on how the TikTok algorithm works (check out the TikTok help channel on Reddit to see what I mean).

In this guide, we demystify the TikTok algorithm and explore tactics and strategies that will give your TikToks the push they need to appear in people’s feeds.

TikTok management tool for teams

TikTok management tool for teams

Schedule your TikToks and manage TikTok comments (organic and ads) from one place – with an all-in-one social media tool designed for teams.

Try NapoleonCat for free

14-day trial period. No credit card required.

What is the TikTok algorithm?

The TikTok algorithm is the short video platform’s set of rules that determines what users see in their feeds (or FYP). Put another way, it’s a sophisticated system that determines which TikTok posts should go on top of a user’s FYP (For You Page).

The TikTok algorithm’s goal is to curate a feed tailored to your unique needs and interests. After all, it’s in TikTok’s best interests to keep users within the app (they generate revenue through ads and in-app purchases, after all). 

So, if TikTok is able to serve up videos on your feed that send you into a rabbit hole of endless scrolling, you can say that the platform’s algorithm has done its job.

tiktok algorithm - meme

What are TikTok’s algorithm’s ranking factors?

There’s a system to the madness that is TikTok’s algorithm. To curate a feed that’s going to keep users scrolling and glued to their screens, TikTok designed its algorithm in a way that’s driven by hard KPIs (key performance indicators).

As revealed by a newsroom article by TikTok, the platform’s recommendation engine is influenced by the following ranking factors:

User interactions

Your likes, shares, the creators you follow, the videos you comment on, and the types of content you publish can give the TikTok algorithm the cues it needs to determine which videos you’ll respond to and want to keep watching.

If you’re a DIY creator and fellow DIY enthusiasts start liking your TikTok videos and posting comments to express their admiration for your work, those interactions can signal to the TikTok algorithm that those particular users love DIY content. 

And since TikTok wants to keep users within the app as long as possible, it’s going to keep serving DIY content (and related content) to those users via their feeds.

Bear in mind that not all user interactions are created equal. For example, TikTok gives more weight to user interactions such as watch time and comments, considering them as strong indicators of users’ preferences. 

Video information

The TikTok algorithm also examines the details of the videos themselves, such as captions, sounds, and hashtags. The algorithm takes note of these details to find patterns, enabling them to identify videos you want to see.

By crafting captions, sounds, and hashtags that offer clear context, you help the TikTok algorithm match your videos with users who’ll likely enjoy them.

Device and account settings

Your language, geography, and device type are also taken into account to come up with tailored recommendations, though not to the same extent as the other algorithm factors mentioned in this section. 

How does the TikTok algorithm work?

Now that you know what the TikTok algorithm is and its components, how exactly does it work?

As is the case with most algorithms, TikTok uses machine learning to gather insights about its users’ watching behavior, preferences, and engagement patterns. 

By continuously refining its recommendations based on these insights, TikTok is able to recommend videos that align with the interests of its users. 

Say you like watching fitness videos. So if you keep watching, liking, and commenting on TikTok videos from fitness influencers like Antonie Lokhorst or Rebecca Louise, you can bet your dumbbell plates that TikTok will be serving up more fitness content on your FYP than you can shake a kettlebell at.

The TikTok algorithm and its finer points

With that being said, TikTok knows how complex human behavior is and plays a subtler hand as a result.

For one thing, TikTok’s engineers know that overpersonalization might cause the recommendation engine to keep serving similar types of content. 

Knowing that a homogenized FYP can result in boredom, they designed the TikTok algorithm to recommend diverse types of content. While the videos served up in a user’s feed have similar themes or have connective tissue, the algorithm injects a healthy dose of variety to keep the scrolling experience fresh and exciting.

Say you love fitness videos. Would you want to see videos about calisthenics, weightlifting, and Pilates all the time? Thought so. To keep you interested in browsing your feed, the TikTok algorithm might also show you videos about healthy recipes or motivational content.

How to reset the TikTok algorithm

But what if a TikTok user’s FYP doesn’t accurately represent their interests (maybe the toddler at home has been fiddling with the phone again)?

Here are the steps to reset the TikTok algorithm:

  1. Click on the profile button on the bottom right portion of the screen.
  2. Tap the three-lines icon on the upper-right.
  3. Go to settings and privacy.
  4. Now click on “Free up space.”
  5. Click on the “Clear” button.
TikTok management tool for teams

TikTok management tool for teams

Schedule your TikToks and manage TikTok comments (organic and ads) from one place – with an all-in-one social media tool designed for teams.

Try NapoleonCat for free

14-day trial period. No credit card required.

5 ways to get picked up by the TikTok algorithm

Let’s get to it. Here are tips and strategies you can employ to make sure the TikTok algorithm gives your videos the right push they deserve.

1. Go beyond “understanding your audience”

You know the cliched marketing advice: to create content that resonates with your audience, understand them first.

The advice is not wrong, but it’s become so cliched that many marketers think they’re on the right track by merely knowing their audience’s demographics. But TikTok is a crowded place, and if you want to differentiate your brand, it’s time to take this advice up a notch.

Here are some tips to double down on understanding your audience:

  • Do some deep audience research: Begin by researching the demographics of your target audience. This includes age, gender, location, and any specific interests or hobbies they may have. You can use TikTok’s analytics tools to gather data about your current followers and those engaging with your content.
  • Identify your community and lead them: Identify the subcultures or niche communities within TikTok that resonate with your content. These are the communities you want to connect with. One good way to find your “tribe” is to go to the “Explore” page on TikTok and find hashtags relevant to your target audience. By reading and participating in the conversation via these hashtags, you can better understand their values, aesthetics, and the content they engage with regularly.
  • Engage authentically: Be an active participant in these communities. Follow, engage with, and collaborate with creators who are part of these communities. This not only helps you understand their preferences but also makes you a recognizable presence.

2. Diversify the length of your TikTok content

To boost your reach on TikTok, you want to try casting a wider net among your target audience. By diversifying the length of your TikTok content, you can engage different segments of your target audience.

So try a mix of short, medium, and longer videos. Yes, your longer videos can generate more watch time if they’re interesting to your audience, but they can also discourage some viewers if they see that the content is too long and time-consuming. 

You can strike the right balance by creating short and snappy content that can capture attention quickly and compel users to explore your profile further. Since you’re hitting a broader target, the engagement on your videos, regardless of length, will climb, which can snowball into other posts.

Diversifying your content length is not just about creating a fine balance. It also provides you the opportunity to experiment to see which content length, and by extension, the types of content, performs best. Again, take the time to monitor and analyze your TikTok analytics to find out what your target audience prefers and then adjust accordingly.

3. Leverage storytelling

Our brains are wired for stories. As such, if you leverage storytelling in your TikTok videos, you’re not just effectively grabbing your audience’s attention and keeping them glued to the screen, but you’re also creating a resonance that can compel them to continue their relationship with your brand.

Telling a good story is not just about dropping bits of information; it’s also about creating an emotional connection with your audience. Remember: TikTok users love snappy content, so make sure you condense your narrative into a brief, impactful format. 

Here are some storytelling tips for TikTok:

  • Begin with a hook: Start your video with a hook that piques curiosity or generates intrigue. A compelling opening can make viewers want to watch until the end. (e.g., ”Did you know <insert startling fact here>”)
  • Relatable characters: Create relatable characters or personas in your videos that your audience can connect or identify with emotionally. Or, if you’re the only one in the video, make yourself relatable. (e.g., “One time I locked myself out of my own car, and here’s how I…”)
  • Conflict and resolution: Even in short videos, introduce a conflict or challenge and provide a resolution or solution. This way, you can keep users engaged as they wait with bated breath for the outcome (e.g., “I found myself stranded in the middle of nowhere, but what happened next will surprise you…”)
  • Visual storytelling: Use visuals, body language, and expressions to convey emotions and tell your story. Visual storytelling works wonders on a visual platform like TikTok. Use TikTok’s array of effects and filters to make your visuals pop.
tiktok algorithm - storytime
  • Appeal to emotions: Appeal to viewers’ emotions by showcasing real moments, sharing personal experiences, or highlighting human connections. Emotional content tends to resonate deeply.
  • Use surprise and delight: Incorporate unexpected twists, humor, or surprises into your storytelling. TikTok users love content that is entertaining and unexpected.
  • Include a call to action: End your video with a clear call to action, whether it’s asking viewers to like, comment, share, or follow your account. Make it easy for them to engage further.

Again, TikTok is a creative platform, and you want to give room for experimentation to see what might stick. Over time, you can refine your storytelling skills and even discover techniques that will help you build a strong connection with your TikTok followers.

4. Use trending sounds and music

As you probably know already, TikTok is all about trends. And if you want to grab the attention of your audience and stay on their radar, jumping on trends is a great way to do it. 

To find trending sounds on TikTok, go to the video editor and tap the musical note icon on the right. This will take you to a page where you can browse the latest trending sounds. 

tiktok algorithm - tiktok sounds

That said, don’t just incorporate a particular sound into your videos just because it’s trending. Make sure that the sound or music you choose aligns with your content and brand and that it appeals to your target audience. 

Remember, authenticity is a big deal on TikTok, and users can quickly spot when you’re pushing trends on them.

5. Have fun creating TikTok content

If you want your target audience to give your videos the time of day, create TikTok content and have a blast doing it.

I know that sounds like generic fluff, but it’s generic fluff I can stand behind.

Because let’s face it: if you focus too much on the outcome, the act of creating and publishing TikTok content can feel like a drag.  

And when something stops becoming fun, results often suffer. When you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, your creative juices may stop flowing; worse, your target audience may start to notice it, which can also put a damper on their fun. 

But what if you can’t help feeling bored or frustrated by the creation process?

Here are some tips to help reignite your passion and creativity:

Change up your content

Try something new. Experiment with different types of content to keep things interesting. If you love, say, posting about your woodworking projects, spice it up by using time-lapse videos or trying unconventional woodworking projects. Chances are, your followers and would-be followers would find them interesting, too.

Collaborate with others

Partnering with fellow TikTok creators can inject fresh energy into your content. Besides, collaborating with others not only leads to unique ideas but also helps expand your reach. 

Audience interaction

Engage with your audience and listen to their feedback. What they say can spark new ideas and help you come up with more interesting content. You can organize challenges or set up polls and surveys. 

Calvin Klein, for example, launched the #OnlyInMyCalvins TikTok challenge, inviting users to showcase their unique style and self-expression while wearing Calvin Klein clothing.

tiktok algorithm - calvin klein

Using our previous DIY example, you can challenge your audience to come up with creative project ideas, and the person with the best suggestion wins a shout-out in the next video (preferably while you’re making the suggestion a reality). You can also think of a branded hashtag so a specific challenge can be an ongoing thing (and generate more engagement over the long term). 

Stay true to yourself

Do what feels natural to you. People often become more interesting, funny, and thought-provoking when they’re not trying. 

Besides, 90% of customers say they’re more likely to support brands that are authentic. If you love creating cooking videos and make a few mistakes, embrace those mistakes and laugh them off. Your audience will appreciate your realness, and it can help create a genuine (and lasting) connection with them.

Need better ways to manage your TikTok content?

Let’s face it: All the tips mentioned in this article won’t have the intended impact if you’re unable to manage your TikTok content. After all, the TikTok algorithm will find it difficult to make sense of your content is disorganized and inconsistent.

Using NapoleonCat’s TikTok management tools for business can help you plan your TikTok content better and manage all your TikTok comments from one view.

With NapoleonCat, you can schedule your TikToks and engage with your audience across different social media platforms using one intuitive dashboard. 

napoleoncat-manage-comments-tiktok
Manage TikTok organic and ad comments from one view.

Give NapoleonCat a try for free here – no credit card required during signup.

TikTok management tool for teams

TikTok management tool for teams

Schedule your TikToks and manage TikTok comments (organic and ads) from one place – with an all-in-one social media tool designed for teams.

Try NapoleonCat for free

14-day trial period. No credit card required.

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