A guide to using TikTok’s algorithm to watch videos you actually like
The popular mobile video app TikTok is a gold mine, featuring everything from dancing to angry voicemails, snappy rants, and brilliant sketch comedy. Only problem: You have to wade through a lot of rough lip syncs to get to them.
The app’s elusive “For You” page a never-ending scroll of videos promoted by TikTok is curated based on what the user watches, likes, and shares. According to TikTok’s App Store description, the page will “quickly adapt to your taste” the more you engage with it. The company has never revealed exactly what factors it takes into account for suggesting content, but users have their own theories about how it works.
The TikTok algorithm is a bit of a black hole like most social media sites, the company is pretty hush-hush about how they choose to promote content. Some TikTok users theorize, Vice reports, that the app shows each video uploaded to the platform to a small batch of users and the engagement an individual video receives determines whether it’s shown to a larger batch of users.
When users first make their TikTok account, they’ll see a pretty generic For You page. Depending on what’s trending, they’ll get whatever videos have already racked up likes and shares.
Engagement does play a role in what the For You Page will show you. The more a user engages with the platform, through likes, shares, or other options, the more likely it is that TikTok will show them content with fewer views that align with what the user has already engaged with. By not engaging, users might miss out on the chance to weigh in on what they actually want to see.
So, how do you get to the cute cat content you actually like?
Here’s a guide to using the algorithm to make the For You Page more for you.
Engage with what you like
In short: if you like a video and want to see more like it, literally like the video. Tapping a heart does more than just boost creators’ egos it also trains TikTok’s mysterious algorithm to suggest more videos like it.
Into the dreamy herb drying and serene yarn spinning of cottagecore TikTok? Favorite it! Share it! Save it to your camera roll for future mood boards!
On the flip side, if you’re not watching something and don’t want to see more content related to it, make a point of swiping past the offending video. The more you directly engage (or don’t engage) with videos, the better curated your For You Page will be.
Follow creators you like
If you’ve liked a few of a certain creator’s videos, chances are, you’ll vibe with most of their content. The beauty of TikTok isn’t its popularity with teenagers, it’s that the platform includes every niche hobby imaginable.
Whether you’re singing along to mxmtoon, the singer who went viral for her song “Prom Dress,” or following dancer Charli D’Amelio’s choreography, or just dreaming along with the rest of One Direction fanfiction TikTok, the platform has a remarkable ability to carve out a space for everyone.
Want to see more like it? Follow those creators!
Search certain keywords and sounds
Yes, TikTok is known for its lip syncs. But if you’re only interested in watching cats hike on leash, or seeing oddly satisfying videos of resin pour art, then there are plenty of accounts that specialize in that.
Most of the app revolves around its For You page, but venturing off and using its other features can better shape your For You Page. Searching for certain keywords or engaging with certain hashtags can increase the chances of seeing more of the content you like while scrolling.
Granted, some of the videos that include certain hashtags may have nothing to do with what you’re looking for — as Intelligencer noted last November, some TikTok creators add trending hashtags to their videos in hopes their work will land on the For You Page.
Not into what they post? Just scroll past it. There’s also a theory that the amount of time spent on each video also influences whether the algorithm with continue suggesting them to you. Chances are, if you like a video, you’ll watch the whole thing and if you do, TikTok will probably queue up more like it.
Again, the parameters of TikTok’s algorithm are hazy. But as Vice reported some TikTok users believe that even tapping the “Share” button will expose a video to a larger batch of TikTok users. Sharing videos you like, then, will probably alert TikTok to the fact that you want to see more content like it.
Bottom line, nobody knows exactly how TikTok’s algorithm works. But directly interacting with the app can better shape your For You page to show you the videos you’re actually interested in. Sure, the algorithm can be eerily spot-on, but at least you can lose yourself in endless scrolling!