The TikTok Algorithm Explained: What it Is and How it Works

Sep 21, 2021

Social Media Platforms

The TikTok Algorithm Explained: What it Is and How it Works

The TikTok algorithm is the reason the platform has been so successful and popular with users. The algorithm ensures every TikTok user’s experience is highly personalized, which is what makes it so addictive. The hashtags used, location, music used and TikToks liked all contribute to what is shown to users.

So how can brands harness the TikTok algorithm to ensure success? Keep reading to see the TikTok algorithm explained. 

Source: Later: The All-In-One Social Marketing Platform Youtube Channel

What is the tiktok algorithm 2021?

The TikTok algorithm determines the TikTok videos that appear on a user’s For You Page. The stream of recommended videos is completely unique to each user. The types of TikToks shown to a user will change over time based on viewing preferences. 

TikTok defines the TikTok algorithm as: 

“A stream of videos curated to your interests, making it easy to find content and creators you love … powered by a recommendation system that delivers content to each user that is likely to be of interest to that particular user.”

The TikTok algorithm explained

Typically, social media networks like to keep an air of mystery around the inner workings of their algorithms. Algorithms are the reason why users become addicted to particular platforms—if platforms reveal how their algorithms work, it could result in people spamming the algorithm with irrelevant content.  

However, TikTok has revealed key ranking signals for the new TikTok algorithm and how it identifies relevant content for each user.

User interactions

The TikTok algorithm uses a user’s interactions with content on the platform to recommend videos. These interactions include: 

  1. The accounts you follow
  2. Creators you have hidden
  3. Comments you have posted
  4. Videos you have likes and shared 
  5. Videos you have favourited 
  6. Videos you have marked as “Not Interested”
  7. Videos you have reported
  8. Videos you have watched to the end 
  9. Content you have created yourself

Video information

Interaction signals are directly based on interactions with other users on the app. Video information signals are based on the content users seek out through the Discover tab. These include: 

  1. Captions
  2. Sounds
  3. Hashtags
  4. Effects
  5. Trending topics

Device and account settings

The TikTok algorithm uses device and account settings to optimise performance. These are based on one-time settings choices rather than consistent engagements, so they don’t carry as much weight as the other signals. Device and account settings monitored by the TikTok algorithm update include: 

  1. Language preference
  2. Country setting (you may be more likely to see content from people in your own country)
  3. Type of device
  4. Categories of interest selected as a new user

What’s not included in the TikTok algorithm

Now we’ve discussed the key signals for the TikTok algorithm, the following signals are not recommended or monitored by the TikTok algorithm: 

  1. Duplicated content
  2. Content you’ve already seen
  3. Content the algorithm flags as spam
  4. Potentially upsetting content

In addition to this, the number of followers a TikTok account has does not influence the TikTok algorithm. The TikTok algorithm treats every account and video created as an individual recommendation. Accounts with higher followers will naturally receive more views, but you still have a chance of going viral if you have just started a TikTok account

Understanding tiktok’s algorithm

Understanding TikTok’s algorithm can help your brand grow on the platform and be found by relevant audiences. We’ve pulled together some top tips to help make the TikTok algorithm work for your brand’s TikTok account.

Use a TikTok Pro account

There are two types of TikTok Pro accounts: one for creators and another for businesses. Having a pro account won’t immediately put you on the For You Page, but it will help you better understand which videos align with the TikTok algorithm. 

 TikTok Pro accounts give you access to TikTok metrics and insights that can inform your TikTok strategy. It can help you further understand and identify your key audience by showing when they are most active, what content they enjoy and what they will engage with—all things important to the TikTok algorithm.

To convert to a TikTok Business account, complete the following steps:

  1. From your profile page, tap the three dots icon at the top right of the screen.
  2. Tap Manage account.
  3. Select Switch to Business Account and choose the best category for your business.

Find your TikTok niche

There are countless different communities available on TikTok, but rather than engaging with accounts they follow, these communities spend most of their time on the For You Page. If you are able to tap into these communities, you will be amplified to your target audience. 

Understanding TikTok niches and subcultures can help you create authentic content with relevant TikTok stars, creating greater credibility, exposure and brand loyalty. 

Most niches are discoverable through dedicated hashtags. For example, those interested in finance can be found under #MoneyTok or #FinTok (Finance-TikTok).

Write an engaging caption

You only get 150 characters per TikTok caption, so you need to make it count. Your caption should tell readers why they should watch your video or ask a question that prompts a comment. This increases engagement and video completion, which are both important signals to the TikTok algorithm.  

Find the best time to post on TikTok

Finding the best time to post on TikTok means your content will be seen by more users from the moment you post it. The more people that see it, the more engagement you can receive. The analytics within your Pro Business account will be able to tell you the ideal time to post.

Actively engage with others on the platform

You can quickly build a connection with your audience by engaging with them in comment sections. Keep an eye on  your own comment sections, but also the comment sections of videos about your brand. 

Other ways to engage with your audience is by Duetting, Stitching or video replying to a comment.

Use the right hashtags

Using the right hashtags is important to discovery. We’ve already mentioned how TikTok communities can be found through using specific hashtags, but it’s also important to keep an eye on trending hashtags on the Discover page. Keep an eye out for popular hashtag challenges or topics you can discuss. 


What is the TikTok algorithm?

The TikTok algorithm determines the TikTok videos that appear on a user’s For You Page. The stream of recommended videos is completely unique to each user. The types of TikToks shown to a user will change over time based on viewing preferences.

Our Influencer marketing agency and Social agency are located worldwide, with our agency network based in the USA, UK, UAE and China.

If you want to receive our industry insights, visit our Influencer Marketing & Social Media blog.

@ Socially Powerful



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James Hacking


Socially Powerful, founded in 2017, stood as pioneers of the influencer marketing industry. Today we are a global social marketing agency and technology company.

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