If you’ve ever wondered how TikTok decides what content to show you on your feed, here’s your chance to find out.
TikTok’s ‘For You’ feed is where you connect with other users and discover new content. It’s also where you are likely to spend most of your time on the platform. What you see on the For You feed isn’t random – the stream of videos on the feed is curated to your interests, thus making it a lot easier for you to find the content and the creators you love and care most about.
The recommendation system it’s powered by delivers content to each user that is more likely to interest them specifically. So yes, each user sees something different.
But how does TikTok decide which recommendations are delivered to your For You feed? Here is a short explanation, according to TikTok, along with some tips for how you can “personalize your discovery experience” on the platform.
The first thing you need to remember is that the For You feed system ranks videos based on preferences that are unique to you and all other users. It ranks videos based on factors, like the interest you show in one thing, or non-interest in another.
Factors that Affect Recommendations in TikTok’s ‘For You’ Feed
- User interactions: the videos you like or share, the accounts you follow, the comments you post, and the content you create.
- Video information: this may include details like captions, sounds, and hashtags.
- Device and account settings: language preferences, country setting, and device type. TikTok says that these factors “are included to make sure the system is optimized for performance, but they receive lower weight in the recommendation system relative to other data points” that are measured, as “users don’t actively express these as preferences.”
The above are processed by TikTok’s recommendation system and each given a weight based on their perceived value to you as a user. For example, watching a longer video from beginning to end is a strong indicator of interest, while whether or not the viewer and creator is in the same country is a weak indicator of interest. Videos will be “ranked to determine the likelihood of a user’s interest in a piece of content, and delivered to each unique For You feed.”
Your ‘For You’ feed is also shaped by other things as well. Following new accounts, exploring hashtags, sounds, effects, and trending topics on the Discover tab will all help refine recommendations for you.
How to Curate your Personalized ‘For You’ feed on TikTok
When you join TikTok, you start by choosing several interest categories to help the platform tailor recommendations to your preferences. This sets off the first recommendations in your feed, which will start to become more and more personalized as you interact with more and more content. But what happens if you don’t choose those initial categories?
As TikTok explains: “We start by offering you a generalized feed of popular videos to get the ball rolling. Your first set of likes, comments, and replays will initiate an early round of recommendations as the system begins to learn more about your content tastes.”
Interactions on the app help its recommendation system learn more about your true interests and suggest content. The best way to curate your TikTok For You feed is to use the app. Over time, relevant recommendations should increase.
If you’re not interested in a recommendation, you can simply tap “Not Interested” to tell TikTok that you don’t want to see things like it again. TikTok also allows you to hide content from a specific creator or made with a certain sound. Finally, you can also report content. All the above will contribute to future recommendations in your For You feed.
How TikTok Tries to Burst your “Filter Bubble”
Over-optimization and over-personalization can lead to the so-called filter-bubble effect. TikTok tries to interrupt repetitive patterns by adding “diverse types of content along with those you already know you love. For example, your For You feed generally won’t show two videos in a row made with the same sound or by the same creator.”
Furthermore, TikTok tends not to recommend duplicated content, content that you’ve seen before, or content that it considers spam. You may, however, be recommended a video that other users, who share similar interests with you, have reacted positively to.
Finally, TikTok strives to bring diversity to your feed, so you may come across content that doesn’t seem relevant to your interests but has received a huge number of likes from users. This is intentional, bringing diversity to your For You feed, and allowing you to “additional opportunities to stumble upon new content categories, discover new creators, and experience new perspectives and ideas as you scroll through your feed.”
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