How can Tik Tok track your location

TikTok explains the app's algorithm for the first time

TikTok has always been criticized for the platform's opaque guidelines. In addition to the controversial set of rules for the moderators and the denial of data access for their own employees, there was also regular speculation about the TikTok algorithm. A Transparency Center was planned to be set up in Los Angeles so that users around the world can continue to trust the app. In this, external observers can largely find out about TikTok.

Now the social media group goes one step further and explains how the platform's algorithm works. The company explains on its own website:

When you open TikTok and land in your For You feed, you're presented with a stream of videos curated to your interests, making it easy to find content and creators you love. This feed is powered by a recommendation system that delivers content to each user that is likely to be of interest to that particular user.

Suggested clips on the For You Page: The TikTok algorithm takes these three factors into account

According to TikTok, the main factors behind suggesting a video to users are:

  • User interactions: Likes and shares are also decisive for TikTok as to whether users see a video or not. The algorithm also takes into account which accounts the users are following and which profiles they have subscribed to. Comments posted and received, as well as the type of content uploaded (for example dance clips) are also decisive for which videos are shown to the user on the For You Page.
  • Video information: Those who add hashtags, clip descriptions or special sounds and songs to their own video have a greater chance of being taken into account by the TikTok algorithm.
  • Device and settings: While these factors are less critical than the previous two, they shouldn't be overlooked entirely. Language, location and device type are important for TikTok in order to be able to optimally display the content for the user.

With regard to content recommendations, the TikTok algorithm takes into account the same factors as the algorithms of other social media platforms. If users increasingly interact with certain content and profiles, content that is more and more similar is also recommended and displayed to them.

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If users watch the clip to the end, the algorithm evaluates this as positive

However, TikTok provides another factor that could be decisive for the fact that videos are displayed in other users' feed:

A strong indicator of interest, such as whether a user finishes watching a longer video from beginning to end, would receive greater weight than a weak indicator, such as whether the video’s viewer and creator are both in the same country.

Accordingly, it increases the reach of a video if users watch it to the end. TikTok further describes:

To help kick things off we invite new users to select categories of interest, like pets or travel, to help tailor recommendations on their preferences. This allows the app to develop an initial feed, and it will start to polish recommendations based on your interactions with an early set of videos. [...] Your For You feed isn’t only shaped by your engagement through the feed itself. When you decide to follow new accounts, for example, that action will help refine your recommendations too, as will exploring hashtags, sounds, effects, and trending topics on the Discover tab.

Therefore, all user interactions are important for which clips the app shows the user. This also means that, for example, search queries are taken into account by the TikTok algorithm.

What role does the performance and the profile status play for the algorithm?

In addition to the main factors behind the video suggestions, TikTok also revealed how users should discover new content:

[...] Sometimes you may come across a video in your feed that doesn't appear to be relevant to your expressed interests or have amassed a huge number of likes. This is an important and intentional component of our approach to recommendation: 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 and ideas as you scroll through your feed .

TikTok tries to make the users' feed as varied as possible. In this way, users should be able to discover new content and unknown creators. However, the following insight is likely to be more important than this information for brands and users:

While a video is likely to receive more views if posted by an account that has more followers, by virtue of that account having built up a larger follower base, neither follower count nor whether the account has had previous high-performing videos are direct factors in the recommendation system.

This is where TikTok differs from other social networks. Because the company declares that the previous performance and the status of an account do not affect the algorithm. Well-known TikTokers would only have a greater reach because more users follow their account. The TikTok algorithm would check each clip individually and then play it out in a suitable user feed.

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The TikTok algorithm: Brands have to pay attention to this

The algorithm shows users based on user activity and engagement content. In addition, each video is individually rated and checked to see whether it fits into a user's feed. TikTok does not indicate the weighting of the respective factors.

Advertisers and brands looking to develop a social media marketing strategy for TikTok should therefore keep these three factors in mind if they want to maximize the reach of their content:

  1. A viral video is not enough to maintain a large reach over the long term
  2. Brands should pay attention to currently trending topics and create content for them in order to come into contact with more users
  3. Clips should be designed and produced in such a way that users watch them until the end

You can find all the insights that TikTok gives about its own algorithm here.