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When you open TikTok, how many suggested videos do you watch? Are the recommendations spot on? Like all social media networks, TikTok uses an algorithm to suggest personalized content to each user. With TikTok, these curated clips are served up on a “for you page.” While the algorithm is known for its accuracy, U.S. regulators are worried. 

U.S. officials are concerned that the Chinese-owned app could use the algorithm to manipulate suggested content and use information collected to spy on Americans. TikTok has promised regulators some degree of oversight over its recommendations algorithm and has asked a third party to review its algorithm for any manipulations. TikTok hopes its efforts toward transparency ease tensions and calm fears that have sparked legislation to ban the social media app from the U.S. altogether.

How does the algorithm pick content?

While there’s still much to sort out on the political level, TikTok has explained that its recommendations algorithm is designed for watching and quantifying the following data:  

User interactions

The algorithm tracks interactions with videos. If a user reacts positively by commenting, liking, following, or watching the entire video, similar content is suggested. 

Similarities between video and messages

TikTok’s algorithm can scan content and identify similarities. More specifically, the algorithm is looking for common audio tracks, sounds, hashtags, and captions. 

For example, remember when #CornKid went viral? An interview with a corn-on-the-cob-loving boy went viral and turned into a song. In the days and weeks following, hundreds of creators used the song in their own clips. 

The algorithm can identify the audio track and hashtags and recommends them to anyone who took an interest in the original corn-tastic clips. 

Device settings

TikTok also reviews device settings for basic information like a user’s hometown or preferred language. For privacy reasons, TikTok says these settings aren’t heavily factored into the algorithm. 

6 tips to grow your reach

TikTok’s algorithm has grabbed headlines, but the channel is still an effective choice for brands and influencers to reach a tailored audience. If you’re looking to boost your reach, use these algorithm-enticing tips:

Produce shorter videos to boost watch time

As mentioned, TikTok’s algorithm tracks watch time. If followers watch a video from start to finish, it’s a positive indicator to the algorithm, and more of your content will likely be shared with the user. 

TikTok thrives on short-form video clips too, so it’s a natural fit for your feed. 

Interact with like-minded content

Help the algorithm understand who you are by interacting with similar content. 

For instance, if you’re a skincare influencer, consider watching, liking, and commenting on moisturizer tutorials or nighttime face masks. Get involved in your niche. 

Think of it as digital networking. 

Respond to your followers

You get points for engaging with your audience, so don’t let comments go unanswered. You’re trying to create a TikTok community where ideas are shared and exchanged. Focus on two-way communication, as opposed to sharing and ghosting. 

Use TikTok’s tools to increase shareability

Want the algorithm to notice your content? If a bunch of people start sharing it, the algorithm notices. Sounds simple, but how do you get fans to share? Yes, you need to create fun, engaging videos, but you should also leverage the tools TikTok offers by:

  • Adding text to your video, even if it’s just a title
  • Creating a video that doesn’t require sound to be effective
  • Review auto-captions to make sure the translation is correct

Jump on trends

When a new trend hits TikTok, join the crowd. On the side of your TikTok feed, you’ll see a list of trending hashtags. You can start there. Research a hashtag or two, find one that fits your niche and create a video with that hashtag. 

TikTok screenshot of hashtags.

You can do something similar with trending sounds by searching “viral sounds” and selecting the “Sounds” tab. You’ll see a list of hot tracks. Consider incorporating one into your video. 

Forge long-term partnerships

One of the best ways to increase your reach is through partnerships. When a brand and an influencer team up, the impact can be immense. 

Research shows younger generations are straying away from traditional search engines like Google and Bing and, instead, searching for their interests on social media. As consumers make this shift, a strong social media presence and long-term partnerships between influencers and brands will drive reach and engagement. 

Think of these partnerships as a way to boost your social SEO.

Whether you’re a creator or a brand, it’s important to stay on top of the evolving legislative issues that TikTok faces, but it’s also important to focus on your TikTok marketing strategy. By understanding how the algorithm works, you can use that knowledge to serve your audience better. 


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