Try to understand the algorithm
“No one knows how to beat the algorithm!” laughed Scott. “People in the TikTok building can’t even really tell you. It’s an incredibly intelligent piece of software that no one really truly understands.” But there are some basic principles, especially when considering the mysterious For You page.
“The For You page, the most used feed on the platform, makes recommendations to users purely based on how they react to content,” said Myradh. “It works on the basis that if you react positively to a certain piece of content, it will show you similar content based on what content other users who liked that video also enjoyed.”
The same principle can be applied to the content that you share. “Once you have posted, TikTok will push out your video to a group of people,” said Hollie. “If the viewers interact well with the video it will be pushed out to another group of people. If engagement stays up, it will be pushed out to another group and another group and another and before you know it, you’ve got a viral video. If at any point the group of viewers don’t show interest in the video, it stops getting pushed out and your video will only get seen by the people following you.”
The key to reach your desired audience, it seems, is through hashtags and using keywords in your captions. “If you hashtag ‘electronic music’ your videos are more likely to get served to people that have interests in electronic music,” said Scott. “You should really use hashtags to your advantage—and it feels a bit weird. Hashtags were a big thing years ago, and still are a bit on Twitter, but not really used on Instagram at all. TikTok, internally, promotes certain trends and hashtags. Every month, they will send around a list into an industry and say, ‘These are our focuses.’ Obviously it’s been summer festivals, so festivals have been one. They’ve been doing electronic music every month because it’s been their focus, so every single month they put that to the top of their trending hashtags list.”
Word choice in your captions is impactful too, Scott said. “If you search ‘electronic music,’ as you scroll down it says ‘others searched for’ and you’ve got other keywords and phrases. The more you keep scrolling down there’s more and more key phrases, so if you are posting electronic music videos then you’d have a look at that and it gives you some other key phrases and hashtags that you could utilise.”
“Make sure your content is of good quality so others can get a good look at the activities performed throughout the video,” said Myradh
“Audio quality is just as important when you’re in music, so make sure you’re always giving them the best,” Jovynn said. There are simple tools to help you do this, such as Pioneer DJ’s DJM-REC app, which allows you to record directly from your mixer to your phone in high-quality audio. Of course, amazing DJ performances never go amiss either. “This is super easy content for DJs to gather and it’s really effective,” said Myradh.
Content typically succeeds when audiences watch it fully from start to finish. “A big part of the algorithm is viewer attention,” Scott said. “So with your videos, you want people to watch them from start to finish. There are ways to game that part of the algorithm. What people will do is have a long piece of text over a very short video, so for the time it takes to read that piece of text, the video has played three times. In terms of viewer attention and repeated views, which the algorithm rates highly, you’ve watched that video three times and watched it start to finish three times as a viewer, so the algorithm is likely to boost that.”
“Try coming up with an idea for a video series,” Hollie said. “An example of one I used when starting off my account was ‘Double Duals’. Myself and another creator I found through TikTok would take it in turns to decide a track, record a double drop blend with the chosen song and tag each other in the caption. Other creators started to notice and asked to take part, so we were able to benefit from each other’s audiences as well as our own.”
Using TikTok’s in-app functions also helps. “Editing in-app is generally advised because it’s recognised by the algorithm versus a video edited externally,” Scott said. “That’s not to say that you have to edit every single video in the app, but it’s generally best practice to edit in the app because it helps the algorithm. Anything else that is an in-app function—so replying to comments, using filters—is generally a way to tell the algorithm that you’re using it and using the functions and engaging with the platform properly.”
And don’t lose hope if your videos don’t pick up views immediately. “My favourite thing about the TikTok algorithm is that it’s not all based on how the content performs in the first hour, day or even week,” Myradh said. “You can have content which suddenly catches on weeks or months later. So if your content is good, it could go viral at any point, even if it didn’t when you first posted it.”
Hollie experienced this for herself: “I’ve had cases where videos blow up a day or two after posting. It means that the algorithm has found the right audience for your video, so never delete anything you feel has failed.”