Understanding The TikTok Algorithm (2022): How it Works & How to Use it

How can you hack the TikTok Algorithm? We’ve got the full low-down on TikTok’s algorithm and how you can use it to send your brand viral. So let's get started.
Fanbytes | TikTok Algorithm - how it works & how to use it

In 30 seconds:

  • You need to understand the TikTok algorithm if you want to be successful on the platform. We’re going through every detail so you can get your brand’s TikTok content to go viral.
  • 63% of Gen Z use TikTok weekly. Get the algorithm working in your favour, and you’ll be winning them over in no time.
  • Follow these tips to get better engagement, likes and views on all your TikTok videos.


The TikTok Algorithm. It’s been a hot topic since TikTok’s initial rise- and it continues to draw huge intrigue. Why is it so different from other social media platforms, and how can you use it to achieve viral success?

At the end of last year, TikTok received more online traffic than Google. It’s becoming clear that a strong TikTok presence is vital for modern brands. But how do you get there?

Historically, social platforms guarded their secrets about the logic informing their algorithm; how they prioritised social media posts and what prompted specific pieces of content or social media accounts to “go viral”. But that’s changed – and we have the info to prove it. 

Navigating the TikTok algorithm isn’t one-size-fits-all, but there are key points we recommend to every brand, and they underpin every successful campaign we’ve run on TikTok. So, what’s the formula for success?

The TikTok algorithm: why should you care?

Why is TikTok’s algorithm so talked about? Answer: because it’s so intuitive.

The point of TikTok’s algorithm is to keep users tuned into the app and coming back for more of what they love. It therefore recommends users videos featuring content and themes that they’ve already enjoyed – and no two users’ experience is the same.

In other social media platforms, a user’s content feed (on TikTok, this is called the ForYouPage or FYP) is geared mainly towards accounts they’ve already chosen to follow. Not so for TikTok. Upon opening the app, the user sees content from a mixture of new and known accounts – big or small – that’s simply there because TikTok’s algorithm has predicted they’ll enjoy it.

This is huge news for brands. It means that the TikTok algorithm has the capability to recommend your video content to exactly the kind of person who would like it the most – i.e., your potential ideal customer.

If that’s the case, you may wonder “Why can’t I simply put a video up and hope for the best?”

The answer is: you can. But it might not get the traction you want. There are principles at play behind the TikTok algorithm, so it’s worth learning exactly what the recommendation system is looking for, so you can get ahead of your competition.

How does the TikTok algorithm work?

Here’s some info straight from TikTok: “The system recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors – starting from interests you express as a new user and adjusting for things you indicate you’re not interested in, too – to form your personalised For You feed.”

As a user therefore, the content you see on your ForYouPage is influenced by several factors:

1. User interactions

The way you interact with the content you’ve seen on the app helps determine what new content will be put forward to you. The interactions this is based on are:

  • Likes, Shares, Follows and Comments – If you see a video and actively engage with it, it indicates to the TikTok algorithm that you are interested in this type of content.
  • Own Content – The kind of content you create on your profile will inform the algorithm about the kind of videos you are interested in seeing.
  • Completions and Re-watches – This is less obvious. TikTok’s algorithm takes into account whether you’ve watched a video right to the end, and whether you’ve re-watched it, to determine whether you found it engaging – and whether you’d like to see more like it.

2. Video subject matter & compatibility

A TikTok user’s activity tells the TikTok algorithm the kind of videos they are interested in. The other side of the puzzle, therefore, is for the algorithm to understand new videos themselves and determine whether they fit into the kind of categories that a user likes

The video information factors at play are:

  • Captions and Hashtags – the copy a TikTok poster adds to their video can tell the algorithm a lot about its contents
  • Sounds and Effects – the way a TikTok poster interprets TikTok’s tools can tell the algorithm about the content niche the video fits within.
  • Similar accounts that are liking the video – if the video is popular with accounts that like similar content, this indicates to the algorithm that this is a relevant video to showcase.

3. Device and account settings

These are all the technical factors surrounding your device. These don’t have as great a weight as your interactions, but they are still important:

  • Device type
  • Location or country setting
  • Language preference.


You’ll notice that nowhere in this list have we mentioned follower count. Popular videos on TikTok may draw in a huge number of followers, but whether or not your post becomes a viral video has nothing to do with the size of your following. The recommendation algorithm prioritises the quality and relevance of your content, not your social clout.

Things TikTok won’t show on the FYP

You won’t be shown content on your “for you page” that:

  • You aren’t interested in. If you have tapped “not interested” on a video, TikTok will avoid sending you content similar to it. 
  • Registers as duplicate content. If there are two videos with the same content out there, TikTok will not send it your way.
  • Is something you’ve already seen. The algorithm strives to supply fresh content consistently. 
  • Is spam. Anything flagged as not legitimate will not be shown. 
  • Could be unsafe. TikTok moderators seek to create a safe environment for everyone. 

Did the TikTok algorithm change?

The TikTok algorithm does change from time to time. Last year, a TikTok algorithm update sought to help TikTok users see more diverse content. This prevented users’ recommendations from getting stagnant. This is one of the many ways TikTok continues to improve.

At Fanbytes, we’re uniquely placed to see in real time whether the algorithm is changing. A key example of this comes from our observations on the correct time to post on TikTok for highest engagement

Up until February 2022, this was the old trend for times to post:

Fanbytes | data showing when to point st on TikTok

Fanbytes’ own data from Bytesights showing previous best times to post on TikTok. This has changed very recently.

However, Fanbytes’ own data now indicates that the best time to post new content in order to achieve the best engagement rate (ER) has shifted, with a peak in the morning instead. We judge this change as TikTok “internationalising” content. It used to be that the algorithm was strongly pushing content posted in the UK to UK audiences, and US content to US audiences, but this data implies that may have become less of a priority. 

If you’d like to find out exactly when you should be posting to generate the best engagement on TikTok, get in contact with us

After all, you’re here because you’re researching the TikTok algorithm. Why not find out the most up-to-date data straight from the experts?

What does the TikTok algorithm mean for brands?

Essentially, the more a TikTok user interacts with specific videos, the more videos they will see that are deemed similar by the recommendation system. How should you think about this as a brand?

Understanding your audience’s likes, interests and desires will help you recognise what kind of content you should be putting out there. But there are specific steps you can take to make sure you are getting the most out of the TikTok algorithm.

We talk about how to go viral on TikTok in more detail in our article here. If you create quality videos that capture your audience’s attention and abide by TikTok rules and regulations, you’re already halfway there. But there are more steps you can take. Check out our tips below:

3 tips to beat the algorithm and go viral

For your content to be a success on TikTok, there are a few pointers you should be following. We’ve got the inside scoop on how you can hack the algorithm and watch your content boom. 

1. Keep your videos short and vertical

As we mentioned above, completion rate and re-watches are vital on TikTok. 

As soon as you share a video on TikTok, the algorithm sends the content to a group of users’ ForYouPages – but only for a short time period. This is to help the algorithm learn about how TikTok users engage with your video. The key metrics are watch time and completion rate.  

When someone views your content from start to finish, the algorithm will show it to more people. So what’s the easiest way to give people the best opportunity to do that? Make it snappy. A longer video is more risky. Remember – Gen Z (i.e. TikTok’s core user base) have a famed attention span of 8 seconds. So reel them in as soon as possible, and keep them interested until the end. 

Whilst keeping your content concise, make sure to shoot it in the right way. TikTok videos that are shot vertically have an average 25% higher 6-second watch-through rate. So phones upright and fingers ready at the stop button, please. Your views and engagement depend on it.

2. Stay on-trend

TikTok is a trendsetting app. There are a few ways to ensure you stay up to date with what’s happening:

  • Trending effects. Take a look at what effects are up there on the platform and use them. Check out your “discover tab” in-app and see what effects pop up the most. These will likely be trending and ready for use. 
  • Trending sounds. 88% of TikTok users said that sound is essential to the TikTok experience. Utilise this in your content. Like effects, this is all about seeing what others are using and jumping on board. Make sure to find the sounds through the app.
  • Trending hashtags. You’ll find these along with trending effects and audio in people’s videos on the discover page. It’s always good to combine them with niche hashtags, too, so you get a wide variety of audiences. 

 

How can you always make sure you’re on trend? A handy method is to sign up to our weekly TikTok trends newsletter. It delivers timely TikTok trend updates, plus how your brand can use them, and lands in your inbox every Tuesday.

3. Encourage engagement

We’ve already established that TikTok responds to the activities TikTok users take when they see a TikTok video. Creating a video that encourages engagement, therefore, is an excellent way to hack the TikTok algorithm and make sure you’re shown to more people.

But how do you encourage people to like, comment or share your video?

TikTok has considerably higher engagement rates than both Instagram and Youtube, with an average of 17.96%. That means it’s the perfect platform to get people to connect. Break the fourth wall and ask your audience questions, or make content around a topic that people want to talk about. 

Alternatively, you can collaborate with someone who’s an expert in getting the best engagement. That’s right: influencers are a fantastic way to get engaging, so think about future partnerships. You can read more about how to work with an influencer on TikTok through our excellent article here.

The TikTok algorithm matters, but this matters just as much

What else is key for success on TikTok? Having an ownable, authentic and relatable brand message. 

The tips we’ve shared within this article are fundamental to your TikTok account’s growth, but don’t forget the number one thing you need to factor into all your content: showing who you are

TikTok is not a space to only show your most polished, perfected brand messaging. 64% of TikTok users say they can be their true selves on the platform, and they expect you to do the same. The brands that use the platform best are those who are unafraid to experiment, and share more of the personalities of the real people running their brand’s TikTok account.

Create a hook that people can connect with – and showcase your fun side. If that sounds scary, don’t worry: we’re the experts on all things Gen Z, so we know how to connect your brand with your perfect TikTok audience. We want to power you up with data-driven, expert rocket fuel that will put you ten steps ahead of the game. Get in touch to find out exactly how we can do that.


Need some more savvy tips on how to up your TikTok strategy? Take a look at the links below for some more brilliant articles. 


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