2024 TikTok Algorithm Explained + Tips to Go Viral (2024)

Strategy

While there’s no magic recipe, coming to grips with the TikTok algorithm can help you work with it and improve your odds of success.

Stacey McLachlan March 4, 2024

2024 TikTok Algorithm Explained + Tips to Go Viral (1)

Table of Contents

What is the TikTok algorithm?

How does the TikTok algorithm work?

10 tips for getting picked up by the TikTok algorithm

TikTok algorithm FAQs

The TikTok algorithm is what made the social platform a sensation—and it’s also what makes the app a little bit spooky. (How did it know I would be so into slime videos?!)

TikTok has exploded into a platform with 1.2 million active users precisely because of the hyper-personalized collection of videos it offers each user on their For You Page (FYP). Think of the TikTok FYP as your own personal TV station, one that adapts to your interests and viewing habits on the fly… even if those habits include niche topics like ASMR gardening. (No wonder TikTokers use the app for an average of 1.5 hours each day.)

But even if you’re thoroughly enjoying your custom smorgasbord of #WaterTok videos, it’s hard to shake that lingering question: how exactly does TiKTok decide what to recommend to each person?

If you’re ready to learn about the secret sauce behind the TikTok algorithm (and then use that knowledge to achieve more reach for your own TikTok content), you’ve come to the right place. Let’s do this! Just as soon as I finish this last slime vid.

Get our 2024 Social Trends report, and dig into the juicy data that’ll help you reach your goals in 2024—which is shaping up to be social’s best year yet.

What is the TikTok algorithm?

The TikTok algorithm is a proprietary formula that determines which TikTok videos to recommend to each user.

No two TikTok users will see the same combination of TikTok videos on their For You Page—this feed is unique and highly personalized. In fact, the type of content you see on your FYP will evolve over time, as the algorithm recalibrates to your changing viewing preferences.

Here’s how TikTok itself defines the TikTok For You page algorithm:

“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.”

2024 TikTok Algorithm Explained + Tips to Go Viral (2)

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How does the TikTok algorithm work?

Most social media companies don’t like to reveal exactly how their algorithm works. If a spammer or shifty character got ahold of the specific recipe for viral video success, that would be bad news for all the platform’s users, right?

But in the interest of transparency, some platforms have started to share some details at a basic level—here’s what we know about Facebook’s algorithm, for example.

All of which is to say that TikTok finally made a post in 2020 revealing a handful of the key ranking signals for the TikTok recommendation algorithm. Is it highly likely things have evolved over the past four years? Absolutely. But TikTok hasn’t shared any further details at this point (so mysterious!), so we’ve gotta work with the info we’ve got… even if it’s limited.

TikTok algorithm ranking signals

The main factors that influence the TikTok algorithm are user interactions, video information, and device and account settings.

1. User interactions

Similar to the Instagram algorithm, the TikTok algorithm bases its recommendations on a user’s interactions with content on the app. Any time you give a clue about what kind of content you like or don’t like, the TikTok algorithm clocks that data. Anytime you follow an account or hide an account, TikTok is taking note.

Here are some of the user interactions that will impact what shows up on your For You Page:

  • Videos you’ve liked or shared on the app
  • Videos you’ve added to your favorites
  • Videos you’ve marked as “Not Interested”
  • Videos you’ve reported as inappropriate
  • Interests you’ve expressed by interacting with organic content and ads
  • Which accounts you follow
  • Comments you’ve posted
  • Creators or sounds you’ve chosen to hide
  • Whether you watch all the way to the end of a longer video
  • Content you create on your own account

2. Video information

The TikTok algorithm is also collecting information about the videos you seek out through search. Video information signals include:

  • Captions
  • Sounds
  • Hashtags
  • Effects
  • Trending topics

3. Device and account settings

This doesn’t have as much influence as the user interaction and video information signals, but device and account settings still factor in. These are the settings TikTok uses to optimize performance. But because they’re based on one-time settings choices rather than active engagements, TikTok doesn’t deem them to be quite as relevant.

Some of the device and account settings included in the TikTok algorithm are:

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

If you’re not happy with the recommendations you’re getting, it’s possible to reset your own personal algorithm. For a fresh start, head to Settings and Privacy, tap Content Preferences, then Refresh your For You Page.

What’s not included in the TikTok algorithm

Just as important as what TikTok does take into account when it’s working its magic is the type of content it won’t recommend. This includes:

  • Duplicated content
  • Content you’ve already seen
  • Content the algorithm flags as spam (including videos “seeking to artificially increase traffic”)
  • Potentially upsetting content (TikTok gives the examples of “graphic medical procedures” or “legal consumption of regulated goods”)

One more element that TikTok doesn’t take into account: follower count. This is great news for new TikTok users, or those who haven’t yet built up a large follower base. Anyone can have a hit on the platform, because TikTok doesn’t base any of its recommended content on how many followers you have or the performance of your previous videos.

Of course, accounts that do have more followers will get more views because users are actively seeking that content. But if you have great content that speaks directly to your target audience, you have as much chance to land on their For You page as the biggest TikTok stars.

At least that’s what TikTok claims:

“You may come across a video in your feed that doesn’t appear to … have amassed a huge number of likes…. Bringing a diversity of videos into your For You feed gives you additional opportunities to stumble upon new content categories, discover new creators, and experience new perspectives.”

If you’re interested in learning even more about the ins and outs of the algorithm, TikTok has opened a Transparency Center. People who work in policy, content safety or cyber-security can reach out to book a tour here.

TikTok also introduced a feature for the everyday TikTok user to help understand why certain specific videos are recommended. In your For You feed, tap on the share panel. Then, tap the question mark icon called “Why this video” for a clear rationale.

10 tips for getting picked up by the TikTok algorithm

We know that a huge part of the TikTok algorithm boils down to creating content that other users connect with. Here’s how to make sure your videos get traction in 2024.

1. Find your subculture

Connecting with existing communities is important on every social platform. But the way TikTok’s algorithm works, it’s even more important to engage with specific subcultures here than on, say, Facebook.

On other platforms, people spend most of their time engaging with people they already know and accounts they already follow. On TikTok, though, users are engaging with content primarily through the For You Page: a feed full of fresh content from entertaining strangers.

Tap into an existing community or subculture, and you’ll likely find your content amplified to that audience. TikTok subcultures tend to congregate around hashtags, so it’s easy to tag your content appropriately to get in front of your ideal crew.

Understanding your target market subculture can also help you create content that resonates authentically. That’s where brand loyalty and engagement comes in… and where the algorithm learns that you’re making the kind of content other people in this community group might like, too.

The #DarkAcademia group loves moody autumn days…

https://www.tiktok.com/@co.nfused/video/7279790818574077217?q=%23darkacademia&t=1705440692217

…while #FitTok is obsessed with gains. (And, tbh, butts.)

TikTok’s Audience Insights can help you find your subculture by identifying the interest categories and hashtags most relevant to your audience.

To access Audience Insights, open TikTok Ads Manager and hover over Reporting, then click Audience Insights. Note that you don’t have to be a TikTok advertiser to use this tool.

2. Maximize the first moments

Grab their attention in the first couple of seconds, or risk having someone scroll right past. TikTok moves fast: no time for a long and winding intro. The hook for your video needs to inspire viewers to stop scrolling. Because when the retention time for a video goes up, that tells the TikTok algorithm that this is content worth sharing with other viewers.

The first two seconds are critical for recall and brand awareness. Make the viewer wonder what happens next; if you can stoke a sense of curiousity in those first seconds, you’re 1.4x more likely to keep them hooked through the whole video.

Can this friendly barista make it through a whole menu in 30 seconds, as this TikTok promises right off the top? Color us intrigued!

@starbucks

Hello, winter! ❄️ New Iced Hazelnut Oatmilk Shaken Espresso ❄️ Pistachio Cream Cold Brew ❄️ Pistachio Latte ❄️ Pistachio Frappuccino® drink ❄️ Potato, Cheddar & Chive Bakes ❄️ Vanilla Bean Custard Danish ❄️ Chicken, Maple Butter & Egg Sandwich

♬ original sound – Starbucks – Starbucks

3. Optimize for search

As important as hashtags are for your TikTok long-term social media strategy, don’t forget about the importance of keywords. TikTok SEO is critical to teach the algorithm just what your content is about… and to allow interested TikTokers to find it, of course.

Use trending keywords that match with your content (or use trending keywords to inform your content!) to make sure you get your videos in front of people actively interested in your topics.

TikTok captions can be a maximum length of 2,200 characters, which means you’ve got plenty of room to work with. Start looking for trending keywords by region and industry in the TikTok Creative Center. (And if you’re stumped for what to write, try our social media caption generator.)

Of course, your caption’s not the only place to include keywords. TikTok can also pick them up from your voiceover or text overlay.

4. Create high-quality videos specifically for TikTok

While creating un-polished, authentic content can be a great way of showing your fun side to your audience, truly low-quality content is not going to find its way to the For You page.

What makes “high-quality” content? It really has nothing to do with whether or not you have a high-def camera.

  • Clear sound, clear visuals, can’t lose. Make sure that you’ve got clear audio, decent lighting and have incorporated a few fun edits or transitions to keep the content dynamic. This shouldnt require any special equipment—just a consideration for whether your videos are easy to understand and clear on the screen.
  • Keep it short…ish. While TikTok videos can be up to 10 minutes long, video completion rate is an important signal to the algorithm, so you don’t want people to drop off from your video because it drags on and on. The minimum length a TikTok video should be is 5 seconds… but TikTok suggests videos always be longer than 10 seconds to make the best impression.
  • Stick to vertical orientation (9:16) for your filming. Though there have been rumors that TikTok is testing our horizontal options, the majority of viewers consume content vertically on their phones. Keep ‘em happy with content that looks good in this format.
  • Sound on! Oh, and don’t forget to design your videos to be played with the sound on. 93% of TikTokers use the platform with sound on, and audio has become a huge part of TikTok culture. Sound clips can inspire trends and memes.
  • Experiment with editing. Play around with TikTok’s built-in features like effects and text treatments. According to TikTok: “These native features help keep your content feeling native to the platform which can also help get it on more For You pages!”

This TikTok from 7Eleven didn’t take a fancy camera crew to make, but it still might stop you mid-scroll. It’s vertical, it’s short, it uses snappy edits, it’s clear and it’s… crunchy. If this isn’t rewarded by the algorithm, what will be?

5. Post at the right time for your audience

Posting at the right time is important for all social media platforms, and that includes TikTok. (That’s why we made this handy cheat sheet of the best times to post on every social platform: you’re welcome.)

Engagement with your content is a key signal to the algorithm, and the best way to get engagement is to get in front of TikTokers when they’re actively using the app.

There are a couple of ways to find out when your audience is most active on the app.

1. TikTok analytics

  • From your profile page, tap the three dots icon at the top right of the screen.
  • Tap Creator tools, then Analytics.

For more details, we’ve got a whole post on how to get the maximum benefits from TikTok Analytics.

2. Hootsuite Best Time to Publish

If you have a TikTok Business account (rather than a Creator account), you can use Hootsuite’s Best Time To Publish feature to get custom recommendations on the best time to post for your specific audience.

Start free 30-day trial

Here’s a vid walking you through how to find that info on your own Hootsuite account.

6. Engage with other TikTok users

Interacting with other TikTok users is a surefire way to build engagement… which in turn will tell the algorithm you’re an account worth putting on people’s FYP. Whether you’re an individual content creator or a brand, TikTok recommends a “react, respond, and remix strategy” for maximum engagement.

  • React to trending content
  • Respond to trending questions or prompts
  • Remix trending ideas with creators

Duets, Stitch, and video replies to comments are great ways to engage this strategy.

Stitch is a tool that allows you to clip and integrate moments from other TikTokers’ content into your own.

@gordonramsayofficial

#duet with @Lazy Pot Noodle🍜 #University is back in session but this the poshest dorm meal I’ve ever seen ! #college #ramsayreacts #backtoschool

♬ original sound – Lazy Pot Noodle🍜

Duets, meanwhile, allow one user to record a “duet” with another user by commenting alongside the original creator’s video in real time. Video replies to comments let you create new video content based on comments or questions on your previous posts.

The default settings on TikTok allow others to create Duets and Stitch videos using your content. If you want to change this for any particular video, tap the three dots icon on the video to open Privacy Settings, then adjust as needed.

You can also turn off these features for your whole account, but that would limit the opportunities for other TikTok users to engage with your content, decreasing discovery potential.

7. Use the right hashtags

To find trending hashtags, head to the TikTok Creative Center. Click on the Analytics button next to any trending hashtag to see a full breakdown of its popularity, including audience demographic details and related interests.

Keep your eyes peeled for hashtags related to challenges. These are a good way to come up with new ideas for content… and the algorithm will appreciate the participation, too.

This TikTok chef tagged her content with #dinnerideas #chicken and #easy recipe… and got more than a million likes in the process.

@tiffycooks

Back with anoher 20 minute dinner, ginger glazed chicken #dinnerideas #chicken #easyrecipe

♬ original sound – TIFFY COOKS 🥟

You can also focus on your specific audience and find the top 10 hashtags they interact with using the TikTok Audience Insights tool.

8. Use trending sounds and music

Like we’ve already said, participating in any kind of trend is a good bet when aiming for the For You page. Sounds are a big part of TikTok culture, with audio clips that take on lives of their own. Two-thirds (67%) of TikTokers said they prefer brand videos featuring popular or trending songs. Seems like a pretty great way to drive engagement to us.

You can get a sense of the latest trending sounds just by keeping an eye on your For You page.But to get more specific, you can find trending songs by region in the TikTok Creative Center.

Just like for trending hashtags, you can find analytics data like audience demographics and related interests. Note that this section of the Creative Center only includes songs, not user-generated original sounds.

9. Be real – and have fun

TikTok just isn’t the place for buttoned-up, overly polished content. (Head to LinkedIn if that’s your jam.) The TikTok 2024 trend report recommends that brands proudly spotlight what makes them unique and celebrate their culture, because this is what resonates with TikTok’s diverse audience.

The most popular content on TikTok is stuff that’s playful and unpredictable, so have some fun. Maybe some behind-the-scenes content, like Polaroid?

@polaroid

The most commonly broken New Year’s resolutions. Here’s to another imperfect year!

♬ original sound – Lancesavali

Or a dramatic reveal of your top 10 products, like Lucky’s Bodega?

@luckysexoticbodega

they’re honestly all 10s but i had to choose… i’m open to debate 🤭 #Inverted #fyp #luckysbodega #vancouver #toronto #dancemoms

♬ On the bottom of the pyramid sound – Adam

65% of TikTokers say professional-looking videos from brands feel out of place, and 77% like it when brands give a look behind the scenes or reveal more about themselves. (Vulnerability is trending for 2024, too: bridge trust by being honest.)

10. Try out new features

One surefire way to stand out from the crowd is to be an early adopter of new features on TikTok.

Case in point: TikTok Shops. The ecommerce features are just starting to roll out, giving brands a chance to promote and sell products directly in the app. Try launching your new shop with a TikTok Live—1 in 4 TikTokers are interested in making a purchase this way.

TikTok introduced text posts in 2023 as well. On a platform that’s sometimes over stimulating, taking a minimalist approach with just text might actually be what can help you stand out from the crowd.

TikTok algorithm FAQs

What is the TikTok algorithm?

The TikTok algorithm is a system that decides which videos appear on a user’s For You Page. It’s based on a proprietary combination of signals, but TikTok has revealed at least a few of the factors it takes into account when evaluating recommendations: user interactions, video information and device settings.

That means the TikTok algorithm is taking into account details the kinds of videos a user likes or doesn’t like, the creators they follow (or hide), the keywords mentioned in video titles, hashtags and language preferences.

How to reset the TikTok algorithm

As of spring 2023, you can reset your For You Page on TikTok. If your recommended videos are no longer feeling relevant or varied enough, just head to your TikTok settings, tap Content Preferences and select Refresh Your For You Page. A clean slate, with just a few taps. (But be warned: this action can’t be undone.)

What are the TikTok algorithm’s main ranking factors?

Though the TikTok algorithm does take into account device settings (region, language) and video information (captions, hashtags), the main ranking factor is user interactions.

The TikTok algorithm is keeping track of which videos you like and don’t like, who you follow, which search terms you’re using, which videos you watch until the end, which videos you skip, which videos you comment on, and which ones you share.

TLDR: TikTok videos that engage and delight users are going to have the best bet of being shared with other people with similar interests. Focus on making great content, and the TikTok algorithm will reward you.

Grow your TikTok presence alongside your other social channels using Hootsuite. Schedule and publish posts for the best times, engage your audience, and measure performance — all from one easy-to-use dashboard. Try it free today.

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By Stacey McLachlan

Stacey McLachlan is an award-winning writer and editor from Vancouver with more than a decade of experience working for print and digital publications.

She is editor-at-large for Western Living and Vancouver Magazine, author of the National Magazine Award-nominated 'City Informer' column, and a regular contributor to Dwell. Her previous work covers a wide range of topics, from SEO-focused thought-leadership to profiles of mushroom foragers, but her specialties include design, people, social media strategy, and humor.

You can usually find her at the beach, or cleaning sand out of her bag.

Read more by Stacey McLachlan

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