About this time last year, I was just getting hooked into the TikTok Algorithm. Before 2020, I didn’t rate TikTok. It felt more like a west world thing and something I did not want to get into. More so, when I asked about it, people said it was for Kids.
Fast forward into 2020 when we all had nothing else to do and thought, ah heck it, it would not hurt to try. So I did and I have never left. When I began using TikTok, I thought it would take as much as two to three weeks for the algorithm in question to kick in and learn my ways.
However, the more I use it ad based on this WSJ tests, it can take as little as 45 minutes to fall into the rabbit hole of never ending content.
TikTok Algorithm: How It All Works
When you start out on TikTok, there’s a flurry of videos already set out for you. This is mostly from the most famous creators or most popular videos. Yes this includes all the cute animals. For example, you’ll probably come across a post from Charlidamelio who has over 120 million followers or Khaby.Lame with 92 million followers.
Yeah that guy up there. Now let’s use him as part of the analogy. Say you’re swiping through videos and come across his. The tests suggest that there is one thing that keeps him and his type of content on your For You Page. That’s Watch time.
It All Lies In The Watch Time
On TikTok, the For You feed system recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors
- Starting from interests you express as a new user ( share, other, cancel:) )
- Adjusting for things you indicate you’re not interested in (when you swipe away too fast from a certain post)
- Video information, which might include details like captions, sounds, and hashtags.
- Device and account settings like your language preference, country setting, and device type.
Following these steps, when you finally come across a video you like, you are more likely to linger over it. The more time you spend on it, the more TikTok learns. After you watch this video, about 15 videos later, you will see another video from either the same creator or the same topic you were watching.
The same goes on for a while and the more you watch specific content, the more recommendations you will get for it. TikTok notes that this system is designed to help people have a more personalized experience.
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.
You Decide Your Own Reality
Those at the WSJ however note that the variation of content is very minimal according to their bot tests. Their results show that your likes and interests go as far as 93% of the content you see. This is mainly because the Algorithm wants to show you what will make you stay on the app longer.
This essentially means that the TikTok world is yours to create and rule over. If you are feeling depressed and decide to liger over some depressing videos, TikTok will bring them all to you without fail.
However, should you also chose to swipe away from them really fast and you focus on motivational, educational or even funny videos, your FYP is likely to get your moods up. So you decide what you want to see. Use this information however you deem fit.