Inside the TikTok #ForYou Algorithm

Now we know why we see certain types of videos on TikTok

Understanding how the recommendation engine works can help you curate your TikTok experience.

Hand holding a phone with TikTok open with a wall that says TikTok behind it
Chesnot/Getty Images 

The mystery of the wildly popular video-sharing app TikTok's inscrutable #ForYou video recommendation engine is solved, and by TikTok, no less.

This is big: On Friday, TikTok delivered a lengthy and revealing blog post on "How TikTok recommends videos #ForYou." This information is important for TikTok users who wonder why they see the videos they see on their "For You" feed (as opposed to "Following" feed, which is TikTok creators you choose to follow). It's of critical importance to TikTok creators who are desperate to end up on your For You page and drive up their views, likes, and follows.

How does TikTok choose? In broad strokes, TikTok describes a system (read "algorithm") that ranks videos based on your interests, ones you can define when you first download the TikTok app (iOS or Android). However, the "For You" feed's personalization kicks in when you start using TikTok and interacting with each 15-to-60-second video.

What you do matters: TikTok describes a system that weighs things like your interactions with videos (likes, shares, comments), information inside the videos, like captions that might appeal to your interests, and your settings like language and location.

Wait, there's more: Among the things you do that TikTok's For You recommendation engine weighs are:

  • Exploring sound effects
  • Hashtag searches
  • Interactions with trending topics in the Discover tab
  • Long pressing on a video to show you're not interested in the topic

A good mix: The TikTok For You feed is defined by your interests and actions, but it's also randomized to ensure that you can discover new content. TikTok said it doesn't deliver two posts in a row from the same creator, which is not surprising. However, the system may also drop in something new that doesn't align with all your algorithmic interests to help avoid "filter bubbles."

A safe mix: If you produce content that's on the edge ("Look at me Eating Cow Brains!"), don't expect the TikTok algorithm to drop you into someone's For You feed. Such content may not be eligible. TikTok also tries to block spam content or TikTok videos specifically designed to increase traffic to themselves. That last bit is notable since many TikTok creators are busy trying to figure out how to beat the For You feed system. Some videos even claim to know the "secret" to the #ForYou feed. Now, though, we have the secret, which isn't much of one, right here.

As TikTok said: "Ultimately, your For You feed is powered by your feedback: the system is designed to continuously improve, correct, and learn from your own engagement with the platform to produce personalized recommendations..."

Learn more about TikTok