By now you have most likely heard of the social media app TikTok. Formerly called Musically, TikTok is a social media platform that boasts over a billion daily users worldwide. Many believe that the app is filled with videos of young people doing silly dances, but millions of videos are uploaded every day in every genre from dance tutorials to finance news. So, what is TikTok and how does it work?
TikTok is a social media application owned by the Chinese parent company ByteDance. TikTok allows users to post and view videos of anything they want. The app has a time limit of 3 minutes for each video, so most videos are short and easily consumable with little to no context. Individual creators post anything from their favorite dance to telling personal stories. Users of the app watch videos that come to their feed based on how they interact with TikTok’s algorithm. Users continue to like, comment, stitch, and duet videos to influence what the app shows them.
When a new user logs in to TikTok, the app begins by asking them a series of questions about their interests. Users can select interests out of a vast list of options. After the options are selected, TikTok prompts users to interact with the videos they like so that they can get a better idea of what the user is interested in. It then shows users a video that aligns with their interests. Users scroll and interact with videos and over time, the TikTok algorithm focuses on content that the user would like based on their interaction with past videos, their location, and their list of interests.
TikTok uses metadata to influence its algorithm. This means that TikTok is constantly gathering data on its users to provide a better user experience. Not only are they measuring which videos you like and dislike, but they measure the length of time you spend on each video, the frequency of how much you comment, and where you view videos. All of this information is used to help decide what videos to show you.
Despite popular belief, TikTok is not just videos of young people dancing. There is content on TikTok for anyone with any interests. The algorithm ensures that users get the experience that they would enjoy most. For example, if you are an entrepreneur who is interested in building your business or learning about finance, TikTok will most likely show you videos from other entrepreneurs about those topics. If you are an outdoorsman who is interested in hiking, fishing, and hunting, TikTok’s algorithm will show you other outdoorsmen exploring the world. Businesses have even utilized the algorithm to help micro-target specific niches that may be interested in their product or service. As long as you spend the time to interact with videos on the app, you will get a personalized user experience every time you open the app.
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