For those wanting to get their brand out there, social media has busted down many barriers. While many options are available, TikTok has provided one of the more creative solutions for prospective industry influencers. With its intentionally short but engaging videos, the platform has taken on a life of its own, allowing the most creative yet underrepresented voices to be heard, recognized, and appreciated.

Every social media platform has its own unique set of rules that apply in determining which posts, images, or videos will prevail in the ocean of daily content that is unleashed on them. TikTok is no different in this regard. While many of the older social media platforms have revealed, elaborated on, or just straight out laid out the complex algorithms that they base their requirements for wider exposure, TikTok has generally kept their strategies under wraps. However, due to recent allegations of the Chinese government’s involvement in their practices, TikTok has pulled back the curtain to allow a peek at the mechanics behind their video ranking algorithm.

The mechanics of the ‘For You’ algorithm

An entrepreneur taking a selfie with her smart phone
An entrepreneur taking a selfie with her smart phone

The TikTok interface allows videos to appear on every ‘For You’ page. The methodology used is one of organic popularity, rather than a forced one. When a new video is first uploaded, it is automatically displayed on the For You pages of a select subset of users. These could involve the creator’s current followers or those users that are not yet followers. Then, based on particular factors contributing to users’ interest and interaction with the new content, the newly added content can quickly grow in popularity. The idea is to find out what users are interested in. In other words, a video that generates a high level of interest will grow in popularity much faster.

Taking into account how many of the users with the video actually watch it, how many times it is watched all the way through, and the level of social interaction (likes, comments, downloads, and shares) it receives, the video is then made available to more and more users. Those videos with more creative and engaging content are the most likely to be viewed more and all the way through, so they are the likeliest candidates for wider distribution. The content is initially presented to those users who the algorithm determines are most likely to enjoy the video type and are therefore most likely to share it further.

A video that receives attention in the form of full watch-throughs, the watch through volume, and user engagement will then be directed by TikTok’s algorithm to be presented to more viewers. This means that the videos users enjoy most get distributed faster. This velocity based methodology can therefore take a video with just a handful of views with positive responses, and exponentially multiply its viewership numbers very quickly. In other words, if a video was to suddenly receive a double-digit percentage in viewership in a short span of time, the algorithm would dictate that the video be more widely distributed right away.

The algorithm also considers other attributes by which it judges its posts. Some of these included the use of hashtags, when the videos are published, the language preference, and whether the highest viewership rate a video receives is highest in the same region that the creator is posting from. These ‘signals’ are weighted differently than some of the aforementioned ones and are considered weaker determinants of a video’s qualifications for more viral distribution. Additionally, the algorithm pays attention to negative comments and videos marked as “not interested,” so these are important to consider for the algorithm as well.

How To Leverage The Algorithm

An entrepreneur holding a smart phone with TikTok on it
An entrepreneur holding a smart phone with TikTok on it

Now that the world has seen behind the veil of TikTok’s qualification criteria, creators and influencers can better assess the approach they take to drive traffic and viewership to their videos more surgically. Given what we know about TikTok’s algorithm, what are some of the best ways to leverage it to promote one’s business, service, or product?

Create good content

One thing matters most regardless of the algorithm: good content is key. The content created in the short span a TikTok video permits should be tailored to act with maximum efficacy in terms of providing value to all video viewers. It’s important to remember that TikTok users, much like consumers of any content, are drawn to authenticity. Anyone who comes off as either fake or like they take themselves way too seriously is a detriment to their own performance. The content that draws the most attention is that which is light-hearted, enjoyable, and shows personality.

View other content

Viewing others’ content is another great way to learn about optimizing your own. Users can find out what videos are trending through hashtags on the discovery page, watch multiple videos, perhaps with the same song, and jumping on the trend train to have your video reach a wider audience using the most popular strategy garnering as many possible views.

Consider upgrading to Pro

Users can also know how they are actually doing and how well their content draws views. An upgrade to the Pro version for TikTok can provide access to tons of essential analytics. These can help gauge how the content is doing and help guide users to make more informed decisions about what type of videos to create going forward.

Have you had success using TikTok to promote your business? Let us know in the comments!

This article originally published on GREY Journal.