The TikTok Algorithm (needs work)

Matthew Suchan
3 min readAug 1, 2021

With TikTok being the new kid on the block of social media street, there’s not as much sophistication when it comes to the way the app currates content for its users. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. can basically read our minds when it comes to what we subconsciously want to see, but TikTok isn’t there, yet. So here’s the issue with TikTok’s algorithm, in my opinion:

  1. “User base” does not equal “content creators:” Put simply, people are way more likely to write a post (on Facebook) or post a photo (on Instagram), than they are to be on camera. This means, even though TikTok has 800+ million monthly users, it’s only a small fraction of that population that actually post content. So when scrolling through my For You Page (a feed that TikTok populates “for you”) I constantely see the same creators, posting the same content. Sometimes I even check to make sure I didn’t accidentally follow them, because I see their stuff so much. Which leads me to my second point, subject matter.
  2. People like different things, at the same time: It’s humorous to admit this, but you really do find your own little world sometimes using certain hashtags (#EpilepsyTok, #SkateTok, #SynTok). BUT, when I said at the beginning that TikTok isn’t sophisticated yet, this is what I mean. A few videos about far left political views came up on my For You Page (FYP), and I paused to watch them. The immediate next time I opened the app, my entire FYP was populated with political videos. It was about 80%, but now about down to 55%. But in its infancy TikTok doesn’t know I also watch a lot of skateboarding videos, and videos of people rapping, and informational epilepsy videos. The algorithm grabbed on to one aspect of me (which I’m seriously not on TikTok for political discussions) and ran with it, disregarding my other interests. And this leads back to my first point.

When TikTok tries to recommend videos for you based on one select aspect of your viewed videos, combined with not having enough content creators, it leaves the algorithm with very little to work with. I’ve even ended up blocking an account that was being shown to me too much. I wasn’t even following him, and he wasn’t following me. TikTok just fed me his videos SO much that I couldn’t take it.

Here’s a bonus reason why TikTok needs to keep working on it’s algorithm, and knowledge of it’s users.

3. As a content creator, I’m forced into one subject matter: I had one of my videos go semi-viral earlier this year with over half a million views, 73K Likes, and 3.9K Comments, and 1.3K Shares. In about a week’s time, I went from 210 Followers, to over 4,000. But the thing is, my page is mostly about painting. This viral video of mine was about the Detroit Lions. None, of my painting videos have ever broke more than 10.3K Views. I once had a video about rap that hit 5.7K Views though, somehow. And as a marketer I know time of day/day of the week matters when posting. I keep track of all of that when I post. So TikTok, if I’m a creator trying to dive into #ArtTok or #RapTok or whatever, don’t purposely boost my Football video and leave me high ‘n dry when I post my normal content.

I forgive you though, TikTok. You’re a fun app. (shameless plug for my account: @mattsuchansuch)