A software developer followed TikTok by testing algorithm theories

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  • Felecia Coleman is a former software developer who helped create the app for a major US bank.
  • She gained a TikTok following by testing her theories around the platform’s algorithm.
  • Within months, she grew her account to over 245,000 subscribers.

Felecia Coleman, a 30-year-old former software developer, has spent the past few months systematically hypothesizing and testing theories on TikTok, and in the process, she’s grown her page from 0 to 245,000 followers.

Over the past month, Coleman has been sharing his insights and theories on TikTok. Although she was unable to confirm these theories with TikTok, her followers are eager to learn more about the platform’s mysterious algorithm. Coleman believes his TikTok growth has been helped by his focus on factors like engagement rates, post frequency and video length.

A TikTok spokesperson did not directly respond to Coleman’s theories, but directed Insider to the company’s blog on its recommender system.

The post says the recommendations are “based on a number of factors,” which include “user interactions”; “video information” such as “captions, sounds and hashtags”; and other entries.

Coleman thinks posting frequently, and liking and commenting, helped her earn a following

Screenshot of Felecia Coleman's TikTok grid


TikTok / @FeleciaForTheWin


Coleman didn’t immediately find success on TikTok.

“I first downloaded TikTok in November 2021, and I went with a strategy that I wanted it to work. I was posting outfits, I was showing my apartment, I wanted to keep it super simple,” said said Coleman, adding that at first she posted a video or two a day, and averaged around 100 views per video. “But nothing was working.”

Then, in mid-January, she said she came across another user’s video on her For You page that suggested posting about 10 videos a day to speed up the process of reporting or finding your videos. algorithm. She said she started spending four hours a day creating and posting 10 videos, and she was flabbergasted that it seemed to be working.

“In two weeks, I had 10,000 subscribers,” she said. “I was shocked. After that, I started thinking about [growth] intentionally.”

When asked, the TikTok spokesperson pointed to a company blog titled “5 Tips for TikTok Creators” which says posting frequency won’t impact – positive or negative – on how a video is chosen for the FYP.

“The amount of videos you post will not affect how your content is recommended in the For You feed, and views vary from video to video,” the blog post says.

Yet, statistically speaking, posting more videos means a higher likelihood of being on the FYP. This is especially true if TikTok isn’t punishing you for posting frequently.

Coleman also believes that the engagement rate is a key factor in the algorithm and that the views/likes ratio should be at least 10% and the likes/comments ratio should be at least 2% for a post to spread widely.

Coleman takes a developer approach to TikTok

Coleman previously worked on an app at a major US bank, where she said most of her work involved changing and testing various codes.

She applied this thought process when testing what works on TikTok, including around video length.

Over the past few months, she said her videos longer than two minutes seem to perform better than videos shorter than a minute. However, over the past few weeks, she said she has seen a drop in views in her videos longer than two minutes, while her videos under a minute have gained views.

“As my subscriber count grew, I scaled back and started doing two or three videos a day; they’re all longer than two minutes,” she said. “But in the last three weeks, none of these videos have surpassed 10,000 views. So I said, ‘Let’s do an A/B test.'”

She started posting two videos on the same topic: one nearly three minutes long and another less than a minute long. She said the one that was less than a minute had 17,000 views, while the longest had less than 10,000 views.

Asked about this Coleman observation, the TikTok spokesperson said “watch time” – rather than duration – was a better determining factor in whether a video is pushed to the FYP, pointing to this line in the company blog: “Our recommendation system takes watch time as a signal that users enjoy your content.”

Overall, as Coleman has built a significant following in a short time, she said she’s scaled back on growth testing and exploring how she can pair her coding background with her new spotlight on TikTok.

“People sent me emails saying they would pay me just to explain everything I know to them,” she laughed. “I was like, sure, but I’m not a TikTok marketer. I’m a software engineer with a perspective.”

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