Tik Tok is a video sharing platform that has quickly transformed into a social media haven. Here, internet goers both young and old gather to create short-form videos and build a community of followers and friends. It has skyrocketed in popularity in recent times, with an App Annie report revealing that TikTok actually leads YouTube in time spent on the app monthly.

When distilled, TikTok’s basic model is very straightforward. The app allows users to create video content ranging from as short as a few seconds to as long as three minutes. Once videos are uploaded, they are released into the TikTok server. With the help of the platform’s carefully-crafted algorithm, these videos get shown to TikTok’s million of users.

But how does this intriguing, yet mysterious algorithm work? And why do creators feel limited by it? Let’s dive in and discuss what we know about how TikTok’s algorithm works, and how it can be a problem for creators on the app.

The TikTok algorithm and the For You Page

The first thing that pops up when the app is opened is a specifically-tailored feed known as the For You Page, or FYP. No two FYP feeds are the same. Each feed is created to fit each unique user. Every user on TikTok, whether they admit it or not, has hopes of trending on the FYP. Hashtags like #foryoupage or #fyp line the bottom of videos across the platform. To get on it, however, relies heavily on the algorithm. 

Once a user starts scrolling, the algorithm locks in on their interests and somehow knows exactly what they want to see. With each like, comment and pattern of viewing habits, the app gathers information and feeds the user content that it thinks pertains to them.

How the TikTok algorithm works

The first factor to consider regarding TikTok’s algorithm is the interaction between the user and the app. These interactions include the videos that a user likes and shares, the specific accounts one follows and engages with and the comments users make and videos they create. Engaging and posting consistently helps TikTok gather information and tailor your custom-made FYP.

The second factor is video information. This information is the captions and hashtags that you write into your videos; whether it is the popular hashtags that the app provides or ones that you create yourself. The app also has a caption feature which is good for the hearing impaired. Another source of information that the app uses is both sound and audio.

The third factor is utilizing your account settings such as language preferences, country setting as well as device type. This will make your feed specific to your location.

How the TikTok algorithm helps creators

There are ways to work the algorithm in your favor. Users who post consistently and on a regular basis often find their video metrics rising, including the number of followers and views for each post. Experimenting with the app’s features – such as duets and stitches – and utilizing the trending hashtags that match your niche will help the algorithm find a place for you.

When it comes to the algorithm, there are both benefits and drawbacks. Users have the ability to control what they see through the Followers Feed, or let the algorithm dictate their entertainment with the FYP. One side shows videos created by those you follow directly, while the other side is like an all-you-can-eat buffet.

When you first join the app, the FYP feed is nothing but popular creators with million views and thousands of likes. Sometimes it feels overwhelming. But as you start to find your footing on the app, whether it’s liking videos or creating your own, you have some control over the content you see. if you want to fill your feed with outdoors-focused content, start interacting with videos that reflect that desire. The algorithm will pick up on this, and soon your feed will be flooded with videos related to the outdoor lifestyle that you find yourself interested in.

Why the algorithm can be a problem

On the other hand, many creators on TikTok are struggling to find a place in the algorithm. At its core, the algorithm is difficult to decipher, and some creators feel like they experience a dip in viewership without any real explanation from the platform. Shadowbanning, as it’s often called, is a side effect of the algorithm where creators’ content inexplicably falls off, without any obvious reasons as to why. Here, in the purgatory of shadowbanned creators, video views are drastically down. Older creators, the ones who have been active on the platform since the beginning, felt this the hardest – especially for those that rely on views as a source of income. Some creators are leaving the app. To them, it’s just not worth it.

The TikTok algorithm is a hot topic among creators of the app. Some blame the shadowbanning and the platform’s censorship policies as aspects that are meant to suppress creators. The platform’s community guidelines are rules that users agree to follow, but some creators believe the app itself tends to look the other way. Creators have even left the app on their own to try and pursue success on other platforms because of the experiences they’ve had on TikTok.

What can be done about the TikTok algorithm?

Despite the issues surrounding this topic, people continue to flock to TikTok. Unquestionably, it is doing something right. While there may not be a clear-cut way to stay in favor with the platform’s algorithm as a creator, it’s best to stay focused on the things within your control. Make and interact with the content that most interests you, and put effort into delivering a finished product to your followers. The algorithm may be an essential component of TikTok, but it shouldn’t completely control your experience on the app. With enough dedication and perseverance, you can find success on TikTok, whether the algorithm wants you to or not.