Uncovering the mystery of TikTok’s algorithm

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Tik Tok has become one of the most popular social media sides today. Many of its users are interested in how the algorithm works for the app’s “For You” feed. Photo by cottonbro from Pexels.

TikTok was launched in September 2016 and has quickly become one of the most popular social media sites, amassing over 2 billion mobile downloads worldwide. A major factor leading to the global success of the app is the advanced algorithm it uses to gain insight about user preferences. Once this information is collected, they utilize it to provide a customized feed for each user, referred to as a “For You” feed.  

Many users are likely interested in exactly how this algorithm works and why their feed is different compared to those of friends or family members. In an effort to be transparent about its recommendation system, TikTok released a press statement detailing exactly how the platform recommends videos to uncover the mystery behind how they work toward perfectly tailoring the experience to each individual user.  

In the press release, TikTok describes the For You feed as “one of the defining features of the TikTok platform.” The main factors video recommendations are based on are user interactions, video information, and device and account settings.  

User interactions include behaviors such as the videos you like or share, the accounts you follow, the comments you make and the content you create. All of these factors combine to provide a general idea of what type of content you are most interested in. For example, the press release states that whether or not a user finishes watching a longer video from beginning to end is a strong indicator of an individual’s interest in that type of video. 

This is one of the main reasons why each user’s For You page is completely unique to them and their level of interest about certain topics. In addition to videos that they believe might interest you, TikTok also said they want to focus on diversity, and therefore, you might come across videos that don’t appear to be relevant to your expressed interests. In doing so, TikTok says they hope to give users additional opportunities to come across new types of content, discover a wider array of creators and experience videos that share new perspectives and ideas.  

Device and account settings are also included within the realm of recommendations to ensure that the system is optimized for performance depending on the country you are in and the type of device you are watching on.  

TikTok’s transparency about how they generate For You page recommendations allows users who are unsatisfied with their current stream of videos to take certain steps to personalize their feed to their liking.  

If you are a new user to TikTok, the best way to customize your For You feed is to select categories that interest you. Once you create an account, you will be prompted to select categories that align with your interests, such as animals, travel, sports and others. These initial choices will allow you to customize your feed and begin your TikTok journey. 

Once you have become a consistent user of the app, you will be able to fine-tune your interests through liking videos and following accounts. Since the recommendation system is a continuous process, you will be able to adapt your For You feed to reflect your current interests. In addition to telling TikTok what you are interested in, users also have the ability to choose the option of “not interested” that can be accessed by simply pressing on a video.  

TikTok has quickly risen to dominate the social media scene and has led to many accounts and individuals going viral. Whether you are curious about the latest beauty hacks or makeup trends, or want to keep up with your favorite sports teams, TikTok’s algorithm allows each user’s For You feed to be customized to their specific needs and interests, leading to a personalized experience for each user.  

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