Hacking the TikTok Algorithm

hacking the tiktok algorithm

TikTok has changed the game when it comes to marketing and brand building in 2022. Content creators worldwide use social media platforms to connect with their followers and promote their newest products. With over 1 billion monthly active users and 3 billion downloads globally, it is a no-brainer for businesses in all industries to use TikTok to shift their sales into high gear.

But the question is: How can brands hack the TikTok algorithm? In a sea of content creators and hashtags, how can companies set themselves apart from the crowd?

The platform keeps things a bit mysterious when describing its algorithm. They call it a complex content recommendation system personalized for each user. This unique landing page is known as the For You page:

“When you open TikTok and land in your For You feed, you’re presented with a stream of videos curated to your interests, making it easy to find content and creators you love,” TikTok writes. “This feed is powered by a recommendation system that delivers content to each user that is likely to be of interest to that particular user.” 

Is this a great deal of information? Nope. But it does tell us a few things about how (and why) B2B and B2C brands can use TikTok to their advantage.

The For You page creates an equal playing field for businesses to target their ideal personas (and vice versa). While higher follower accounts help engage with people who are already interested in your company, they do not impact the content-discovery process. This is good news for small businesses looking to raise awareness organically through TikTok. 

Here at Zen Media, we have broken down our five best tips for hacking the TikTok algorithm:

  1. Create compelling and concise content.
  2. Develop a hashtag strategy.
  3. Find your niche audience.
  4. Experiment with in-app features and trends. 
  5. Study your metrics.

It’s time to make it on your target audience’s For You page. So let’s get to work!

1. Successful TikTok content is compelling, concise, and authentic. 

This first tip may seem obvious, but it is one of the most important things to remember when trying to hack the TikTok algorithm. Instead of looking or reading like a PPC advertisement, your content should look and sound like your brand is sharing its story with a group of friends. So keep it compelling, concise, and authentic. 

According to TikTok’s studies, 56% of users and 67% of creators feel closer to brands that publish unfiltered, human content. Are you a tech startup? Highlight your team’s collaborations in a fun montage video shot directly on your phone. Do you sell clothes or unique home decor? Post a time-lapse video creating your products, or try a fun trend popping off (we’ll get into this later). The algorithm gives preference to accounts that emphasize authenticity over filtered content.

The challenge B2B brands face when creating authentic content is keeping it short and sweet. For example, research shows one in four top-performing TikTok videos are between 21 and 34 seconds long. Companies must get to the point with only a few seconds to keep users engaged. There is no room for a lengthy introduction or opening agenda.

A great example of a brand that creates compelling, concise, and authentic videos for TikTok is the makeup brand, Rare Beauty. Rare Beauty’s TikTok page features founder Selena Gomez and many other fresh and diverse faces. The page keeps things light and authentic, from sharing Selena’s travel diaries to empowering six-second videos about feeling confident in your own skin. The company cleverly soft-launched its new matte lipstick collection by having Gomez wear it in many content pieces. As a result, the page has reached 19.9 million likes and is followed by 915,000 users. 

2. Develop a strong hashtag strategy and expand your reach on TikTok.

Developing a solid hashtag strategy is essential to hacking the TikTok algorithm. These hashtags will help you target your niche audience segments, so make sure you get down to specifics. 

Related reading: How To Hashtag Like A Pro – Zen Media

Think beyond the industry you are in, your business location (if applicable), and your demographics. Ask questions like these:

  • What do my prospective customers like to do on the weekends?
  • What subcultures do my products fit in? 
  • What music, food, clothes, and books do my prospects enjoy? 
  • How can I tie my products or business to current trends? 

3. This process is called finding your niche. 

The more specific you can get when answering these questions, the better. This is a common principle of niche marketing, which allows brands to establish a unique identity and build better relationships with their customers (for more about niche marketing, read our blog post about it). 

Once you have answered these questions, research what hashtags already exist within your niche. Imagine that you are a musician in a rock band that wants to grow your following on the platform. Instead of just using #rockmusic, which has over 950 million views, try a subgenre like #poppunkmusic or #alternativeband, if applicable. If your music appeals to skater kids who miss the early-2000s scene, try #vanswarpedtour or #skaterlife. The more you can tap into the overall culture of your personas, the easier it will be to find and engage with your ideal consumers. 

However, you do not want to rely on niche hashtags alone. It is a good idea to utilize important keyphrases in your hashtags too. Like B2B SEO best practices, ensure your captions are concise and specific. It is crucial to find the sweet spot between using popular keywords and less competitive ones. The key here is that popular hashtags will broaden your audience, whereas niche hashtags will narrow it. 

Niche hashtags target a specific group of users—those who are most likely to engage with your B2B content. From a sales perspective, users targeted by niche hashtags are more likely to be in your sales funnel already or to enter it readily—they’re generally ‘higher quality’ leads.

So when should you use a popular hashtag? Popular hashtags help expose a broader audience to your brand. This audience may have a lower percentage of quality leads, but, nonetheless, they may be able to further drive brand recognition and engagement. A good method is to use a popular hashtag alongside more niche hashtags to attract a broad audience while targeting a more niche audience. 

4. Experiment with TikTok’s In-App Features and Trends 

TikTok loves when you play with its editing features and fun filters. These can be found when brands tap the “Create” button in the center-bottom area of their screens and select the “effects menu” in the bottom left corner. 

The algorithm loves when you are utilizing TikTok’s effects because it means you spend more time on their platform. So rather than outsourcing other video applications for these features, try using them here. 

It is also smart for your brand to participate in TikTok trends. Whether it is a viral audio clip or philanthropic challenge, there is always something new that you can take advantage of and relate to your particular industry. When you participate in a trend, use a popular sound and/or the appropriate hashtags, and your video will be included on that hashtag’s page. Thus, allowing both the algorithm and users to find your content engaging and timely. You could also create your own challenge!

Just look at these statistics: 

  • 68% of TikTok users remember a brand better if they feature a song they like in their videos. 
  • Jimmy Fallon’s #Tumbleweed challenge amassed over 38 million views: a great example of a trend that improved the reach of many creators’ accounts.
  • Fashion brand Guess’ #InMyDenim challenge has received over 38 million views and is known as one of the earliest branded hashtag challenges on TikTok.

Just make sure that this content continues to feel authentic. If it feels too gimmicky, trust your gut and try something else. 

5. Study your TikTok metrics and be open to tweaking your strategies.

Social media platforms are known for switching up their algorithms all the time. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing on TikTok, and the app will continue to evolve. That is why it is important to study your TikTok metrics consistently. 

Related read: How to Hack the Twitter Algorithm

To do this, you must have a TikTok Pro account—you can convert a standard account to a Pro account in your profile settings. Content creators and businesses in all sectors are welcome to make the switch, unlocking a whole new world of insights. From demographic information to your followers’ average viewing times, this side of TikTok can help you fine-tune your strategy. 

Interested in learning more or want a team to hack the algorithm for you? Contact us today. 


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