The TikTok Algorithm: How to Break it and Go Viral in 2024
TikTok Analytics

The TikTok Algorithm: How to Break it and Go Viral in 2024

Learn everything about the TikTok algorithm: what it is, how it works, and how to use it to your advantage and to get on the For You Page.

Anutei Horea-Matei
Anutei Horea-Matei
Table of Contents

Did you know that TikTok has an average engagement rate per post of 4.25%? That’s the highest among all the other social media platforms. By comparison, Instagram sits at an average of 0.70%.

In other words, TikTok is by far the best platform to increase brand awareness and connect with your target audience on a more personal level. That statistic doesn’t guarantee success, though.

TikTok serves content through a meticulously crafted algorithm—understanding it is the key to effective results. That’s what we’re here for. This post will decode TikTok’s algorithm and see how you can use it to reach virality. So, let’s get to it!

TikTok's algorithm explained - secrets unveiled

  1. What’s TikTok’s algorithm and how does it work?

  2. What influences the TikTok algorithm?

  3. How to use TikTok’s algorithm to reach virality
    3.1. Prioritize short videos
    3.2. Capitalize on the first three seconds
    3.3. Use trending songs
    3.4. Don’t appear too professional
    3.5. Use proper keywords and hashtags
    3.6. Engage with your community
    3.7. Go live

1. What’s TikTok’s algorithm and how does it work?

TikTok’s algorithm plays a crucial role in the platform’s For You Page (FYP), which blends content from creators you already follow with content from influencers that aren’t yet on your radar to keep you engaged.

The posts shown in the FYP aren’t random—the platform relies on a feedback-driven algorithm that learns about users’ preferences to show them content they’ll most likely enjoy.

More specifically, TikTok takes into account the content people previously interacted with, the location, language preferences, device settings, the accounts followed, and the type of content created before showing posts on the FYP.

The content that lands on the FYP also goes through a rigorous process. When creators roll out posts, they aren’t immediately shown to all of their followers. Instead, TikTok shows the posts to smaller audience segments where it measures initial engagement rates and user interactions.

If the content does well, the platform will then push it to the broader audience. TikTok will collect engagement data to accurately predict each user’s preferences and keep the FYP relevant.

Note: TikTok won’t consider your follower count, account age, or posting frequency when analyzing your content. Its paid advertisement platform also works independently from the organic content platform—investing in ads won’t boost organic reach.

2. What influences the TikTok algorithm?

Now that we know how TikTok’s algorithm works on a general level, let’s get into the details and see how it manages to match content with the users’ preferences so precisely.

2.1 User interactions

Much like Instagram, TikTok keeps a close eye on how people interact with different posts to figure out which type of content they find most appealing.

More specifically, it monitors the comments, shares, and likes, as well as the posts added to favorites and the creators they follow. The platform also considers watch times and video rewatches to identify the content they’re most interested in.

TikTok also takes the time to understand the content users don’t like to ensure a highly engaging and unique FYP. It monitors the videos they skip or mark as “Not Interested”, and the creators they hide.

2.2 Video information

The algorithm of TikTok also monitors the content itself - so it can send it to relevant audiences. It analyzes captions to identify keywords that indicate the main topic of the post and hashtags to categorize it accordingly and further understand its context, as well as audio tracks.

Including trending songs will make the algorithm put your content in front of a larger audience.

2.3 Account and device settings

TikTok also takes into account language preferences, posting location, and the type of device used when browsing the platform.

For instance, you’re more likely to see content from creators within the same country as you or who speak the same language.

However, this factor is not as important as the others mentioned above—it prioritizes ongoing user behavior over one-time settings.

3. How to use TikTok’s algorithm to reach virality

Now that we’ve got one foot into the understanding of the TikTok algorithm let’s see how you can create posts that TikTok will love and skyrocket your brand visibility.

3.1 Prioritize short videos

Sure, TikTok allows you to upload videos that are up to three minutes long. But remember, the algorithm values video completion rates.

TikTok is a fast-paced environment, so the chances of getting someone to stick around your video ever for a minute are pretty slim.

Ideally, your videos should be no longer than 15 seconds. That’s when you’ll experience the highest view rates—14.49% on average. Anything longer than that, and the average view rates slowly start to drop.

Try to find the sweet spot between keeping content concise, yet engaging, and informative. Your time is short, so you must attract attention, offer something of value, and nudge followers to convert as fast as possible.

This is a chart showing what's the average video view rate for TikTok for different profile sizes.

3.2 Capitalize on the first three seconds

A study conducted by Meta shows that 65% of viewers who watched the first three seconds of a video will likely continue viewing it for up to 10 seconds, while 45% will stick around for thirty.

Given that TikTok videos usually experience the highest view rates when they’re under 15 seconds, hooking viewers within the first three seconds also guarantees higher completion rates. Not to mention that videos on the platform have to be played for at least three seconds to count as a view.

Make sure to include a thought-provoking or curiosity-inducing statement as soon as your video starts—it helps capture the audience’s attention. Then get to the meat of the content as soon as possible.

Dragging your videos for too long before you get to the point will cause viewers to lose their patience and scroll further down. Also, use bold visuals, text overlays, and audio together to make your video accessible to everyone and your point more memorable.

If you’re running a small account, including trendy songs within your content can increase video engagement rates by up to 20%—which makes sense. Although you might be new to some viewers, popular songs add a sense of familiarity to your content.

They help you find some common ground with viewers, leading to increased viewing times. Besides, 90% of TikTok users report that sounds are crucial to the platform’s browsing experience—going silent is not an option.

That said, scroll through a few TikToks yourself and find out which songs are most common, then hop on the trend. You can also use tools like TokChart or TikTok’s Creative Center to identify the most popular songs at any given time.

It also reveals valuable insights, like the number of videos that use a specific track, along with audience demographics and audience hashtags.

Here is a chart showing engagement rate benchmarks for TikTok when using a trendy song vs an original sound.

3.4 Don’t appear too professional

As a business on TikTok, posting videos at the same quality level as TV advertisements can be a huge mistake. 65% of global TikTok users agree that top-notch quality videos from brands on the platform feel misplaced.

In other words, high-quality videos will yield poor results while also leaving a hole in your wallet. Blend in with the crowd and post videos from a consumer perspective—your phone, some decent lighting, and a few quick edits are all you need.

This helps humanize your brand, appear authentic, and become more relatable in your followers’ eyes. In return, you’ll boost video engagement rates and attract the algorithm’s attention.

Moreover, 39% of global report that uplifting content is key to influencing their purchase decisions. Inject a little humor and focus on entertaining videos that cheer up viewers.

3.5 Use proper keywords and hashtags

TikTok allows you to write captions up to 2,200 characters in length—use that space effectively.

Include highly sought-after keywords relevant to your content to help the algorithm pick up and categorize it more easily. The same process applies to text overlays and voiceovers.

Again, TikTok’s Creative Center is an excellent resource for identifying trending search terms. You can filter keywords by region, industry, objective, and even types (e.g., CTAs, pain points, or products).

Also, target relevant hashtags via the platform’s Trend Discovery tool to keep up with the latest trends and boost discoverability. They also help tell the algorithm what your content is about.

You can also use SocialInsider to narrow down your TikTok hashtags even further. Unlike TikTok’s Trend Discovery tool, Socialinsider's TikTok analytics data allows you to identify the top hashtags and keywords based on their average engagement rates—getting you one step closer to virality.

Here’s how you can use SocialInsider to identify high-performing hashtags:

In this particular case, we analyzed a popular influencer’s profile to determine the most effective hashtags by average engagement. We can click on each specific hashtag to reveal the content containing it, along with other TikTok metrics like the reach and engagement levels of each post.

Mind the number of hashtags you include in your posts, though. Too many hashtags will make your content look spammy and lose the algorithm’s favor. It’s best to stick to three to five TikTok hashtags for each post.

Most importantly, create content specifically dedicated to those hashtags. 77% of TikTok users love it when brands jump on trends, show popular memes, or initiate challenges—it helps humanize companies.

Besides, adding trending hashtags just for the sake of it will likely cause your content to be flagged as spam.

3.6 Engage with your community

Consumers love it when they can interact directly with their favorite brands on social media—but you have to take the initiative. 65% of users who receive a reply to a comment or DM are significantly more likely to recommend the brand in question to their peers.

In other words, take the time to respond to your follower’s comments to foster a stronger, more personal connection with them. This also encourages your follower base to regularly interact with you and notify the algorithm your posts consistently experience high engagement levels.

While you’re at it, encourage users to post their own content showcasing your products (user-generated content). This opens up the perfect opportunity to set up branded hashtags, boost brand visibility, and reach a wider audience.

Don’t forget about other creators within your niche either. Leverage TikTok’s Stich and Duet features to create content with other users and increase exposure. Meanwhile, mentioning other creators in your posts works especially well if you run a small account—posts with mention generally experience higher engagement levels.

3.7 Go live

Speaking of fostering a personal connection with your followers, consider going live from time to time. In contrast to other social media platforms, TikTok users are 50% more interested in live content, while half of TikTok’s user base bought something after watching a livestream.

To put it differently, live viewership is a gold mine in terms of establishing a loyal and engaged TikTok follower base. But what type of live content should you host? Luckily, users aren’t that picky—they’re most interested in content ranging from tutorials and Q&As to product reviews and releases.

Make sure to host content that aligns with your brand as well as your audience. Also, be consistent so followers learn to expect when you’re about to go live. Respond to your audience’s questions or comments during the live sessions and always be active or have something going on in the background to maintain the viewers’ attention.

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, winning the TikTok algorithm’s favor is all about posting user-centric content and actively engaging with your community.

Make sure you thoroughly research your target audience, learn what your follower base likes and attracts its attention, and use that information to create highly engaging videos.

Remember—your videos shouldn’t be any longer than 15 seconds and you must attract the viewer’s attention within the first three seconds for the most effective results.

Frequently Asked Questions about TikTok's algorithm

How to beat the TikTok algorithm?

It all boils down to three key elements: authenticity, relevancy, and effective content formats.

Again, don’t appear too professional—you want to humanize your brand and make it part of the community. As such, don’t go overboard with video production and focus on genuine content that triggers positive emotions within your viewers to maximize engagement.

As for relevancy, leverage trending topics to boost your reach. Leverage SocialInsider’s TikTok analytics tool along with TikTok’s Trend Discovery tool to identify popular hashtags and uncover the latest trends.

In terms of content format, keep things short and sweet—no longer than 15 seconds for the best results. Capture the audience’s attention as fast as possible with a strong hook, then state your point right away.

Anutei Horea-Matei

Anutei Horea-Matei

Digital marketing enthusiast, language nerd, and content writer. Horea loves writing about SaaS and anything that involves boosting online presence – from SEO to social media, web design, and more.

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