Within 6 months on TikTok, we gained over 70K followers with 4 viral videos getting over 6.5 million views combined. During this time, we studied the patterns and behaviors of the algorithm and what video characteristics work favorably with it.

Here is the YouTube Video of this post: https://youtu.be/2ax0Wan4rSs

Let's start with the basics of the algorithm, then to the flow that a video goes through when posted, and end with tips to create more viral videos. Here is the outline of these sections:


 

How the TikTok Algorithm Works

How TikTok Algorithm Works

Before we discuss cracking the algorithm, let's go over the TikTok basics. TikTok’s main objective is to keep users on the app as long as possible, so they focus heavily on showing the right videos to the right users. For this reason, we refer to the TikTok algorithm as the Matching Engine. The engine take the video classification and show it to users with preferences similar to those classifications.

Video classification is defined by two key characteristics:

  • The music / audio
  • The text description / hashtags

The users' preference is determined by tracking their actions on previously seen videos:

  • Likes
  • Shares
  • Comments
  • Percentage Watched: The more the user watched, the higher it is; also known as completion ratio which will be explained in next section.

To see how the videos are classified and how the user's actions factor into the Matching Engine, let's go over a scenario. If a user "likes" only videos using a particular song and has a text description of "cats", then the algorithm will try to match videos with those characteristics to those users. The more time the users are on the app, the more the algorithm will narrow down their preference.


 

The Flow of a Video When Posted

TikTok Flow of a Video When Posted
Figure 1. Flow of a Video When Posted 

Considering Figure 1 (above), let's take a closer look at the process of each step a video goes through after being posted.

1. Post Video

This is the first stage that defines the video reach. Based on the video classifications, the algorithm matches what viewers to push the video to.

2. Push to Viewers

TikTok will push to a group of viewers. The number of viewers is based on a few factors:

  • Number of Followers: Higher is better
  • Profile Rating: This is a rating that is assigned to the creator's account (one posting the video) based on past video performances. If the creator has created content with great engagements, the profile rating will be higher.
  • Rating Ratio: If it isn't the "Initial Push" (refer to flow chart), then the "Rating Ratio" in stage #4 is included as well. The higher the ratio, the more the video will be pushed to new viewers.

3. Evaluation of Peformance Rating

This stage is crucial since it determines the quality of the video based on engagement rates. After viewers watch the video, the algorithm tallies up engagements. Engagements are measured based on these criteria (ordered from most to least importance):

  1. Completion Ratio: What percentage of the video was watched. For instance, if they watched half of the video, the ratio is 0.5. Good video content will be viewed in it's entirety. TikTok shows the analytics of the video, and the user can see, on average, how many seconds viewers watched relative to the length of the video. If the average is greater than the length, then the video was watched repeatedly which factors favorably into the ratio.
  2. Shares: When viewers share a video with other users, the video will gain viewers and engagements
  3. Comments: The more comments, the better. If comments include other users being tagged, that will direct more users to the video, similar to sharing.
  4. Likes: This is the smallest engagement, but it does count.

4. Rating Ratio Requirement

In this stage, the performance rating in stage #3 will determine if it meets the minimum requirement to do another push to new viewers. The higher the performance rating ratio, the more viewers get to see the video in the next push. If it does not meet the minimum requirements, then that will end the pushing of the video.

5. End Push to Viewers

This is when the video isn't getting pushed to any users, and the views will drop to nothing. However, there is a chance that a video could get another push if it can get enough views and engagements to warrant it, and the cycle continues again. We have seen it on a few of our videos where it spikes again after a certain time from getting no views.


 

Tips on How to Make Videos Go Viral

How to Hack TikTok Algorithm

The previous sections explained the the TikTok's Matching Engine algorithm and the flow a video goes through when posted. Now, let's go over some tips to help videos become more viral.

1. Completion Ratio

As defined earlier, Completion Ratio is the percentage of the video that viewers watched, and it is the most important performance rating factor when the algorithm determines whether or not to push it to more viewers. Here are some tips that will help encourage users to watch an entire video and perhaps repeatedly:

1.1. Video length of 10 to 15 seconds: Shorter videos increase the chance that users will watch completely, and not stop due to lack of attention span.

1.2. Video with seamless loops: Seamless loop videos increase the chance viewers will watch it multiple times, and it factors favorably into the completion ratio since it is counted as watching a video repeatedly. Below is a video where we implement this method:


1.3. Video with a teaser: Video with teasers add a buildup where the viewers want to watch to see what happens at the end. Videos using terms like "Wait for it" or "See what happens next" apply this approach. We implemented this where we show a quote with parts missing, and the quote gets filled in as the video progresses to the end. Here's an example:


2. Trending Music

Creators can increase their chances of getting a video pushed to more viewers by simply using music that has previously been liked by many people. Below is a video where we used the trending song "Señorita" by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello:


3. Trending Hashtags

Similar to using trending music, creators can use trending hashtags in the video description. Below is a video that at the time of posting, the hashtags "#scienceiscool" and "#alakazam" were trending.


4. Ask Questions

Present a question in the video where it encourages users to engage with comments. Make sure you like and reply to those comments to open a dialogue and increase engagements.

The video below is an example of how we present a question to encourage viewers to comment. In addition to commenting, we also suggest they tag one person which will bring more viewers to the video.


5. Build a Community

We allow followers to contribute to the content of future videos, and they feel like they are a part of the channel. In the video below, we gave credit to a follower that told us a joke that we used to create the video:


6. Post Only 1-2 Videos Per Day

Limit posting to to one or two videos a day - any more and the algorithm will see it as spam and stop pushing your videos. Additionally, followers are less likely to engage with more than a couple videos daily from the same creator.

7. Prime Posting Times

The best posting times are early evening (6pm) and noon (12 pm), in that order, which are the times users will be on the app browsing. It might be different based on regions and countries, but from our our experience, these are the prime times for the United States.


Conclusion

The secret to being successful on TikTok is to understand the workings of the system and approach it with proven strategies. We have tested and refined these strategies to improve our chances at creating viral videos.

We can be found on TikTok here: "Henry and Emma" on TikTok