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Decoding TikTok’s Algorithm & How To Use It To Your Brand’s Advantage.

Dubbed the casino of social media due to its deliberately hypnotic scrolling technology, algorithm and its full screen, time hiding layout, TikTok is designed to keep you on the platform for as long as possible. 

If you’re like us and have sheepishly joined the platform during the lockdown, then you will know just how addictive it is. But what makes TikTok so addictive, and why do we find ourselves setting timers to keep us from spending hours scrolling without even realising it? 

TikTok has only existed for a short period of time but it has already seen over 500 million downloads. Largely composed of Gen Z and younger Millennials, TikTok users average eight opens and accumulated time of 46 minutes to an hour per day on the app. Videos are typically between 15 seconds to 1 minute long; 46 minutes may seem small, but it actually allows for a lot of content to be consumed in a short period of time.

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TikTok’s main objective is to keep users on the app as long as possible. Its favourable algorithm shows users things they know they will like based on their past engagement. A step above Instagram and Facebooks tailored newsfeed, TikTok’s ‘For You Page’ is your echo chamber on a loop. Video after video, the app shows you more of what you’ve engaged with and more of what it thinks you will like. 

It’s easy to curate your For You Page too. As the app fable goes, we all start on the app at the same place; viral dances and sneak peeks into rich American kids homes. Eventually, the algorithm will tease new themes in your For You Page, as you engage with different content you will eventually be immersed in your ideal feed. 

A stark difference between the perfectly curated world of Instagram and some of the content (at least that we’ve been consuming) on TikTok is the normalisation of messy bedrooms, unfashionable pyjamas and filterless* faces when delivering content. Videos often hold the illusion of being highly spontaneous, natural and authentic. 

* TikTok automatically applies a beauty filter on videos. Filterless in this instance refers to the highly edited or posed content that is very prevalent on Instagram. 

Furthering the contrast between the platforms in favour of TikTok, Ads on Instagram are expected every four posts and the newsfeed is quite stagnant in comparison to TikTok’s far less predictable feed. 

This is where TikTok becomes a powerhouse for advertising in ways that Instagram may be losing out on. Between the layout of the For You Page and the homemade, spontaneous and exclusive behind the scenes aesthetic of the videos, TikTok users are able to pose as authentic promoters for the brands they are sponsored by. 

Additionally, ads on TikTok look exactly like user content. Because the ‘For You Page’ is driven by what you like, not who you follow, users expect to be exposed to new content with every scroll.  This means that in the time the user realises your ad is, in fact, an ad, 15 seconds is up and they have consumed your message. 

While partnering with influencers on TikTok is one way to get exposure on the app and paying for ads is another, there is actually a far cheaper and authentic way to get noticed and reach your target market, and that is having a business TikTok profile and making videos. 

By combining the right viral music, hashtags and text with your brands content in an engaging way you not only have the potential to grace your target markets ‘For You Page’ often, but you may also gain followers if you jump in on trends the right way. 

Similarly to Instagram, TikTok will often rate your profile and push your videos based on your profiles past engagement and give you similar opportunities with your new posts. The number one way to ensure virality for your content is to ensure users want to complete the entire video. Luckily there is a formula that can give you the viral success that you dream of. 

  1. Short Videos:
    Keep your video length between 10 to 15 seconds. This will encourage users to finish the video before their attention span runs out. 
  2. Clever Editing:
    Videos with things like seamless loops increase the chance of your video being watched multiple times in one hit- the algorithm will love you for it.
  3. Tease Your Viewers;
    No, we don’t mean make fun of them. Do this by building up to a surprise with ‘wait for it’, ‘see what happens’ or ‘surprise at the end’ in your captions of video text.

  4. Keep With The Trends: 
    Using current and trending music and creating versions of trending videos will increase views and will make your video instantly recognisable. Bonus points for incorporating original moves or twists.

  5. Hashtags:
    Just as they are on Instagram, hashtags are a very important tool that you should utilise to reach your target audience.
  6. Encourage Comments:
    Comments boost your video likeability by a lot. Ask questions or request suggestions during your video to encourage comments and subsequently build a community with your followers.
  7. Prime Time:
    TikTok’s prime time sits around 6 pm in the evening and 12 pm in the afternoon. Use this to your advantage.
  8. Don’t Over Do It:
    If you post too often you will be flagged as spam. You also don’t want to drive your followers away by posting too much, especially if it’s clear you are a brand.

Although Facebook and Instagram are still our favourite platforms for social media advertising, the enigmatic nature of TikTok is exciting and still evolving. We’re keen and curious as to what role Tik Tok will play in digital marketing as the platform grows. 

If you’re looking to maximise your full potential on social media, develop your brand’s digital personality or champion your industry with unique, creative and strategically devised content contact us to get started on your digital journey.

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