In the span of just a few years, TikTok has become one of the most valuable platforms for marketers to win new customers and stay top-of-mind with existing ones.
When you combine TikTok’s status as most downloaded app in 2022, the reality that it’s the most popular app amongst the biggest generations in Gen Z and Millennials, and the fact that it’s the most engaging social media app (by 2x the amount of time spent on it) – you’d have to be crazy to ignore TikTok if you’re doing any sort of digital marketing.
Obviously, with the popularity and cultural significance of TikTok, any marketer will want to use it in order to reach those key younger demographics on a platform where users consistently, actively engage with content (even branded).
As marketers, we know how crucial it is to maximize the value of every dollar spent. With so many brands competing for users’ attention on TikTok, how do you maximize the value of your spend? How do you achieve the maximum return on your TikTok strategy?
The key to succeeding on TikTok as a marketer is simple – once you understand the TikTok algorithm, you can then create and deploy successful content by leveraging the power of the TikTok algorithm to maximize your reach.
What Is An Algorithm?
In its simplest form, an algorithm is a mathematical formula that tells a computer what to do with a certain set of data.
You could create an algorithm to identify the perfect egg based on color and shape, or you could use an algorithm to create networks via tastes and preferences, like you see in social media and online searches.
When it comes to social media platforms like TikTok, algorithms are utilized as a way to create demographics, funnel desirable content to those demographics and to continually generate and disseminate trends across the platform.
Perhaps most importantly, algorithms are designed by social media platforms with one goal in mind: keep users on their platform.
The TikTok Algorithm in 2022
TikTok’s algorithm is one of the most highly-praised algorithms on the planet. Competitors like Facebook and Twitter see their numbers dwindling over time, struggling to reach increasingly disaffected audiences, while TikTok effectively gathers new users with content that users enjoy, interact with, and demand more of.
TikTok’s competitive advantage is thanks to a hyper-effective algorithm that continually analyzes your tastes and provides you with specific content to you, at an incredible pace and with remarkable consistency.
What’s In TikTok’s 2022 Algorithm?
In an article published in December 2021, The New York Times identified the key elements of TikTok’s algorithmic code, thanks to a leaked internal document called “TikTok Algo 101”.
This document gave a full view of the mathematical formulas that keep TikTok humming along as the fastest-growing social media platform on the planet, revealing everything about what’s going on under the hood.
From the highest level, we learned from this document that TikTok has two (familiar) metrics that dictate their algorithm. The first is retention, or whether a user comes back to the platform or not. The second is time spent, or how much time they spend on their app.
Underneath these two key strategic goals are their tactical approaches for how to get there. They want to achieve maximum retention and time spent on the app for users by:
- Providing value to users (high-quality content delivered to the right people)
- Keep users coming back every day (new content delivered consistently)
- Give value to creators (facilitates value to users and keeps them coming back)
- Improve the app as a platform (make things easier to use via algorithmic analysis)
This all is just common sense, isn’t it?
You want to keep users on your platform by consistently delivering them valuable content, keeping creators happy by encouraging them to continually create content (and thereby making users happy), and finally make the app as easy to use as possible, based on user taste.
So how does this look in practice? How does it actually affect your content and your TikTok strategy?
We know from the TikTok Algo 101 document that TikTok’s algorithm has a robust video weighting system. Whether or not your video succeeds on TikTok is dependent on interaction – and interaction is based upon the following metrics:
- Likes – the more likes the video receives, the higher the video score.
- Comments – the more comments it receives, the higher the video score.
- Playtime – the longer video is played, the higher the video score.
- Plays – The more plays it has, the higher the video score.
These metrics should be unsurprising for marketers. TikTok is no different from other social media platforms – they always push the videos with the most interaction up to the top.
How To Succeed On TikTok in 2022
So that’s the nitty-gritty of how TikTok’s algorithm works in 2022.
How can you, as a marketer, utilize this information to propel you to success on TikTok?
TikTok’s algorithm allows for microcultures to grow and subsist – which means you can really laser-focus your approach when it comes to content.
Drill down into your customer data and look for comparable subcultures on TikTok; the more specific you can speak to your customers, the more they will respond. Hashtags like #cottagecore and #momsoftiktok are great examples of ways to slide into already-defined markets.
Consistency, consistency, consistency.
TikTok rewards consistency. As we know from their leaked algorithm document, TikTok’s goal is to keep both users and creators on the platform, by rewarding them for consistent usage. If you’ve got an organic account for your brand, posting daily will help expand your reach as the algorithm gives you more weight as a creator. TikTok themselves recommend you post 1-4 times a day!
Since viewtime is a huge part of the algorithm, creating valuable content is key to winning the TikTok algorithm game. You simply need to be providing your audience with something they find valuable. Lucky for us, on TikTok, “valuable” usually just means something entertaining – but it can be educative, relatable, trending, musical or just aesthetically pleasing.
Focus On Engaging Hooks
Your view time will go down (and therefore, your video score) if viewers don’t watch past the first second, so make sure that your opening is eye-catching and entices the viewer to NEED to see what comes next. We know the power of a strong hook across social media, but for TikTok especially, with its already-bite-size format, a strong and meaty hook is crucial for beating the algorithm.
This one might seem pretty obvious as it has been true of social media platforms since the very dawn of time – but engaging with other users on the platform will also increase your visibility. You don’t always have to be making the content. Sometimes it’s best to just engage with other users and creators to develop legitimacy in the eyes of the algo.
Not only does this approach give you the opportunity to meet your customers on a (digitally) personal level, but it also increases your profile’s weight in the algorithm. Spend some time each day just interacting with your followers (or even better, followers of followers!), and you’ll receive a bit more love from the algorithm.
The weird thing about TikTok is that, while it’s an aggressively young platform, it still strongly weights for hashtags, long after they’ve become irrelevant on competitors’ platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
And that’s probably because the hashtags are more useful and more flexible on TikTok – you can use them to participate in a trend, to whistle to a specific demographic to check out your post, or to find new partners for your content.
The Trend Is Your Friend
More than anything, TikTok is the platform of the trend. TikTok moves faster than any other social media platform in history, with cultural trends appearing out of nowhere and expanding across demographics, saturating the platform with trends you can take part in.
The ease with which trends proliferate on TikTok might be the most powerful tool for marketers. We can easily create a quick video that plays on a current trend, and if it’s entertaining enough, it could easily make it into the For You page of your target audience.
When participating in a hot trend on TikTok, it’s crucial that you use trending sounds or music (you can find a list of trending sounds on the record page, under sounds), and make sure your caption and hashtag games are on point as well.
It Takes A Village
As marketers, we need to be masters of the dark arts from time to time. If TikTok’s video scores are weighted towards interaction, we need to increase interaction. Having a number of accounts ready to boost your video when it goes up could be the key to success of your videos on TikTok – so gather your team and make sure they’re commenting, liking and interacting with your posts as soon as they go up!
The TikTok algorithm – for all the technical plaudits it has received – is in actuality not that complicated, and really, TikTok is probably the easiest platform for marketers to find success.
The low cost of entry, the ease of market penetration via trends and the general addictiveness of the platform means that creating and deploying a successful TikTok strategy is probably easier than Facebook, Instagram and Twitter combined – but only if you know what you’re doing.
If you need a partner when it comes to finding success on TikTok, First Media has a long and successful track record of creating and deploying video content of any kind. No matter your vertical or goals, we can work with you to create a winning TikTok strategy in just weeks.