July 10 | 2020

Tiktok releases some information on its famous algorithm

Alex Araque - Digital Strategist

Overheard is a section of the Attention Academy where Superheroes highlights relevant news from the world in relation to Creativity, Reach and Culture and gives its take on the issue. This piece is a take on Wired and Recode’s reporting on TikTok’s announcement.

On June 18th the platform with over 2 billion downloads released a blog post explaining how the famous #ForYou page is delivered to you. The #ForYou page is arguably TikToks biggest asset, a hyper personalised never-stopping feed of content that aims at keeping you in the app. The blog post is a direct response to public scrutiny the company has faced in recent months. Opaque content moderation practices and data privacy concerns have shaded the incredible growth that the social media platform has seen during the last six months.

In the blog post the platform describes how its recommendation system works taking into account “a number of factors” like:

  • user interactions (likes, shares, comments, follows)
  • video information (captions, sounds and hashtags)
  • device and account settings (language preference, country setting, and device type).

The company goes on explaining how their recommendation system weights these factors in relation to the value to a user: “A strong indicator of interest, such as whether a user finishes watching a longer video from beginning to end, would receive greater weight than a weak indicator, such as whether the video’s viewer and creator are both in the same country. Videos are then ranked to determine the likelihood of a user’s interest in a piece of content, and delivered to each unique For You feed”

While this is not entirely surprising to anyone working in tech, it is the first glance of “transparency” the company is giving to the public. In the same blog post the company acknowledges the risk of “filter bubbles” (recommendation systems’s inherent bias toward homogenising the content delivered to users) and user safety but reassures the public that it is working on decreasing these through continuous improvement efforts to the algorithm.

What it means for advertisers and content creators is basically the same as it meant when Facebook, Google and other social media giants opened in the past about “how” their algorithm works: Content is the king.

The relevancy of the message, the usefulness of it, combined with how well it fits to the platforms specific features and culture will drive engagement and consequently will hopefully appear in people’s “#ForYou page”, NewsFeed, Up Next or Discovery tabs. Purpose and creativity are still winning and the trend does not seem to stop any time soon.

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