Social Media

Here’s How TikTok’s Algorithm Works To Get You Hooked


It’s 10:00 pm, the day is done, you just want to get some sleep. However, you realize you haven’t had time to visit TikTok, so you decide to check out the For You Page for just a few minutes. You know, just a quick peek. You look down at your phone for literally two seconds and suddenly the birds are chirping, the sun is rising, it’s 5:00 am! What the hell happened?

Well, you might be thinking to yourself “I’m Addicted!”. But wait. As much as that could be part of the problem, I think it’s just safe to say that TikTok is doing a good job to keep us interested.

One thing most social media platforms have down is how they personalize your experience. It’s like being in a relationship with someone who is overly interesting. You always want to be around them, you want to hear what they say and watch what they do.

In a recent blog post, the rising social media platform TikTok explained how recommendations are delivered to the For You Page. (Basically how they keep you hooked)

TikTok For You PageWhat is TikTok? Tips and tricks... from a 30-odd year old Xennial

It’s highly unlikely that you will see the same posts your friends do unless you follow the same accounts. For instance, your Instagram search pages are very different from what your other friends have. The same thing works for the TikTok For You Page.

While different people may come upon some of the same standout videos, each person’s feed is unique. They are carefully tailored to that specific individual.

When you start out on TikTok, there’s a flurry of videos you, mostly from the most famous creators. For example, you’ll never miss a post from Jason Derulo who has over 26 million followers now.

Fortunately, the more you like certain posts from creators, TikTok learns what you like and starts recommending posts with similar content. This brings us to the recommendation system.

Recommendation System

The system is designed to help people have a more personalized experience. In short, they suggest content after taking into account user preferences as expressed through interactions within the app. This includes posting a comment or following an account.

On TikTok, the For You feed system recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors

  1. Starting from interests you express as a new user ( share, other, cancel:) )
  2. Adjusting for things you indicate you’re not interested in (when you swipe away too fast from a certain post)
  3. Video information, which might include details like captions, sounds, and hashtags.
  4. Device and account settings like your language preference, country setting, and device type.

This is all in a bid to form your personalized feed reflecting preferences unique to each user. For instance, I love music, specifically acoustic covers. When I started out on TikTok, I rarely saw any musical posts. However, as soon as I started following musical accounts and liking my favourite cover, TikTok would now recommend more musical posts to feed my hunger.

However, by optimizing for personalization and relevance, there is a risk of presenting an increasingly homogenous stream of videos. To keep the For You feed interesting and varied, TikTok’s recommendation system works to intersperse diverse types of content along with those you already know you love. This means that despite my love for music, I still get too see other types of content and that keeps everything quite interesting.

Parting shot

I can’t remember the last time I went to my ‘Following Page’. The For You feed designed to continuously improve, correct, and learn from your engagement with the platform. It works really well and for most of the people I know, TikTok is the reason our sleep schedules have gone all haywire.

It’s both a good and bad thing. Bad for the obvious reasons of spending too much time on the platform but good because the content is diverse and sometimes worth the endless nights. As much as the funnies take much pride on the platform, there’s a lot of short videos, tips tricks and hacks that you could never get before. I want to say I’m a certified magician now but wait for my next show!

Like, Comment, Share, Other, Cancel. It’s the way to go.

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