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How It Works – The TikTok Algorithm

TikTok Algorithm Generates Recommended Content “For You”

The social media platform, TikTok, has gone viral since 2016, gaining popularity through the creation and sharing of diverse 15-30 second videos showcasing anything from trending dance routines to DIY, do-it-yourself, masterpieces. But how does TikTok select what content to show to their users? Well, it’s all in the algorithm.

An algorithm is a sequence of instructions set to achieve a main goal which is either solving a problem, performing a particular function or processing data. Many social media platforms and apps typically have algorithms in place to calculate user data and refer certain content to users. The more each user logs on to the app, the more TikTok will calculate what kind of content would be the most engaging to each individual user using an algorithm specific to their app and content.

Last week, the video-sharing technology company announced the opening of its Transparency and Accountability Centers and new insights, like the app’s algorithm, into how the platform recommends content for returning users. The virtual tours of the centers are for the public to see first-hand how the technology platform is working to build a secure and diverse experience for their community. TikTok put these initiatives in place in an effort to be transparent about how their app functions.

Does TikTok have any say in what you’re watching on their app? 

During their reveal of their new centers, TikTok spilled the details on how exactly their recommendation system works and how these systems are designed to calculate users interactions and give them more of a personalized experience by seeing content they would potentially be interested in. 

This is where the recommendation system comes in. The app’s algorithm considers user preferences by calculating individual’s interactions, for instance when posting comments or following other accounts. This algorithm generates content users like as well as content that would be skipped.

Creating videos can also effect how the app’s algorithm works for other TIkTok users. It isn’t necessary to have a constant and bigger following in order for your video to appear in the “For You” feed. If content is intriguing enough, the algorithm will sense how much traction and engagement the video is receiving.

What’s in it “For You”?

The app’s “For You” feed depends on the preferences that are unique to each individual user. The system’s algorithm recommends content by ranking videos based on user interactions, video information and device and account settings. 

Image via wikiHow website

These factors are processed by the algorithm, determining what the viewer finds most valuable and least valuable. For instance, the longer a user stays on a video, the more likely they are interested in that particular topic and want to continue to see similar videos when they log on the app. The algorithm takes this into account and discovers more content for the user on their “For You” feed. Other factors depend on who users follow and trending elements such as hashtags, sounds and effects. 

TikTok’s algorithm is aimed to avoid repetition and redundancy by shuffling content so the same song or effect isn’t seen back-to-back, which can easily bore a user. The platform-specific recommendation system seems to be working since the number of TikTok users has increased from 54 million to 689 over the past two years, according to Social Media Today’s website.

Due to the boredom the COVID-19 pandemic stay-at home order caused, TikTok’s viewership has surged immensely. In fact, in the first three months of 2020, the technology company broke a record for the most app downloads in a single quarter, according to the LA TImes, logged more than 315 million installs in the first quarter of this year, this is up 58% from the previous quarter.

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