TikTok's Algorithm Has Finally Been Revealed

December 9, 2021

Most avid TikTok users know that each person's feed displays a unique assortment of content. But until a recent New York Times report, the specifics of the popular media platform's algorithm hadn't been revealed. Now, we finally have some answers. At its simplest level, TikTok decides which content to show each viewer based on video likes, comments, and how much of each video you watch. Likely, TikTok weighs some of these interactions more highly than others.

How the TikTok Algorithm Works

TikTok algorithm views certain behaviours as positive or negative signals. Therefore, if you watch a video all the way through, or even pause it repeatedly but continue playing it, these are considered positive signals. On the other hand if you skip past a video, this is a negative signal. And based on tags and other details, TikTok's system can interpret what every video is about.

 TikTok phone | TikTok Algorithm

The Four main Objectives

According to the Times, to keep users watching and coming back to the platform, TikTok considers four main objectives:

  1. User value
  2. Long-term user value
  3. Creator value
  4. Platform value.

One way this plays out is the algorithm prioritising a wide variety of content rather than overwhelming users with one single topic they might be interested in. These "forced recommendations" are meant to prevent users from getting bored and closing out of the app.

Essentially, the algorithm is designed to keep your attention, and create a personalised rabbit hole of entertaining content that you'll be hesitant to quit watching! If you're keen to learn how to master the TikTok algorithm and increase your followers, have a look at our extensive blog.

The TikTok Feed Algorithm

TikTok also puts a major focus on creators when judging the value of its 'For You' feed, according to a flow chart from the document that was recreated by the Times. It shows TikTok considering “creation quality,” which is judged by publish rate, creator retention, and creator monetisation. There isn’t further detail on how TikTok judges creator retention and monetisation, but it seems to indicate that whether creators are successful is a real consideration when determining the “quality of videos” in the For You feed.

TIkTok logo

Some of these concepts aren't new, as anyone who runs a content website knows the value the longer a user stays on a page, the better. However this TikTok information leak provides interesting insights into the newest social media giant, and just how it determines the endless content it will show you. 

These details, like the recommendation formula, are “highly simplified,” the document says. But it does reveal that the complex algorithms created by major social platforms can be broken down into clear objectives to provide users with a sense of understanding as to why they're seeing given content, and what how their own content might get seen.'

If you're looking to gain traction on social media to grow your business, but you're on the fence about whether TikTok is the right platform for you, Complete our short Quiz and talk strategy with one of our social media experts. They'll be happy to help you identify the right platforms for your business!

About the author 

Natalya Grabavoy

Natalya Grabavoy is the Social Media/ Product Director of Social Media College, working to develop course material for Australia's leading educator and trainer for social media. Originally from Chicago, she has 7+ years professional experience in marketing and communications, spanning industries such as lifestyle, travel, finance, tech and education. She is most excited about helping brands build their voice and presence through social media strategy, digital and content marketing.

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