Social Media

Understanding TikTok’s algorithm and how to make it work for your business

- April 21, 2022 3 MIN READ

For as long as social media has been with us, algorithms have baffled us, frustrated us and driven us to the brink of insanity, writes business coach and social media strategist for the NRL, Emily-Rose Hills. Why do some posts go viral and others that you meticulously planned fall flat on their faces?

Almost as secret as the 11 herbs and spices Colonel Sanders created, beating social media algorithms has become like a guessing game. And even when you think you’ve got the secret formula, it changes again.

The creators of TikTok have finally released some insight into how the TikTok algorithm works. So keep on reading and get ready to go viral (maybe!).

How does the TikTok algorithm work?

Like with Facebook and Instagram algorithms, the ultimate goal is to serve up content they predict you are interested in, based on what you like and what you scroll past.


A number of elements influence the TikTok algorithm:

  • Vanity metrics such as likes, shares and rewatches matter!

The more people who comment, like and share, the more your content will show up in users’ feeds. The more people who watch your video from start to finish also influence the algorithm.

  • Video optimisation

Video information such as the hashtags you select, whether the sound is trending, and captions all play a role in whether your content shows up on the For You page.

  • Location, location, location

TikTok optimises content based on your location, the kind of device you use, and even your language. Admittedly, these aren’t a huge influence but they still play a role in what you see in your feed.


  • Video topic

The topic of your video plays a large role. Graphic, illegal or nudity content may see your videos being removed or your account suspended or blocked. TikTok removed more than 81 million videos for violating its policies from 1 April to 30 June 2021.

Woman video recording herself using a mobile phone

TikTok also revealed that it doesn’t matter if you are a mega-influencer or a new user, you have the same potential to go viral. Past performance is no indicator of future success.

How to make TikTok work for you

  • Be strategic!

This requires a little research before you post. Take a look at what’s trending. What videos are getting the most engagement? What videos are you watching to the end?

Then ask yourself why. How does the video hook you in? What hashtags are they using? Apply these to your own TikTok content.

  • Choose a niche

People follow you because of your niche and your originality. Whether you’re posting air fryer recipes, ukelele lessons or funny dog videos, it pays to stick to your one subject.

For example; if your followers have joined your journey of renovating your home and suddenly you become bored and switch to nail art, you’re likely to lose followers.

Use hashtags specific to your niche; for example: #musictok #dogtok #ukelelelessons

  • Use trending sounds and music

It’s easy to find trending music and sounds by scrolling through your feed and looking for audio that is repeated. You can see how many people are using that music by tapping the bottom of the screen.

  • Be the first to try out new features

Instagram rewards those who use its new features and TikTok is no different. New filters and new sounds are your best friends

  • Capture attention with engaging captions

You only have 150 characters to hook people in. Say goodbye to long-form captions and think about a one-liner or a question that’s going to draw people into your content vortex.

There’s more to TikTok than taking on dance challenges and shocking ‘story times’.


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