After my post yesterday in which I talked about using TikTok to LARP during the height of the 2020 pandemic, I had a couple of people tell me that while they used the app, they were having a difficult time finding content like what I was describing in that post (aka story tags or actual LARP). And honestly, when I heard this, I realized they were right. Finding that sort of content isn’t easy, especially if you’re new to the platform.
I had a bit of a hand up in finding content like that back when I first started using TikTok. The first few people I followed on the platform were a handful of LARP YouTubers who had decided to start creating content on TikTok in addition to whatever they put out on YouTube. It was because they found certain tags that I found other TikTok users to follow and interact with through the people they duetted.
But in the early days, I honestly wondered how they found some of these tags, too.
In the course of the year I’ve spent on TikTok, I’ve come to realize that finding these tags depends on a few things, primarily the people you follow, the tags you’ve favorited, and the algorithm itself.
What TikTok’s Algorithm Is And How It Works
The first thing I really want to do, though, is demystify TikTok’s algorithm a bit. See, for the most part, how the algorithm worked was a mystery. The developers behind the platform legitimately would not tell users how it worked, and this led to a lot of speculation as to how the platform chose what videos to show users on their For You Pages (or FYP).
The secrecy surrounding the algorithm was lifted in June 2020 when TikTok published a blog post telling us how those videos were actually recommended.
According to TikTok itself, the algorithm is based on the preferences and activity history of individual users. As a result, no two FYPs will be the same due to the sheer number of variations involved in the things different users interact with or enjoy. As the name of the page implies, the results are specifically calculated for you and your individual interests.
Of course, when users first start using the platform, their FYP is going to look like a strange mishmash of various kinds of videos that they may have no interest in whatsoever. In order to start curating it properly, TikTok looks at a variety of factors that include user interactions (liking, sharing, commenting on videos, who you’re already following, and the kinds of videos you yourself create), video information (what sounds that are being used that may or may not be viral, how long a user spent watching a video, similar hashtags), and your device and account settings (language preference, country setting, and device type).
The one thing the algorithm does not take into account, though, is the number of followers a particular user has. A user with thousands of followers has the same chance of coming across your FYP as someone with only about 100 or so. The platform bases the videos it shows you on the video itself, not necessarily the user who created them.
That said, however, the algorithm isn’t a perfect system. It does take a while to train. TikTok recently gave users the ability to pay to promote their content, so sometimes, videos you have no interest in will show up anyway, even if you tell the app you’re not interested in it. And sometimes when platform updates occur, the FYP will show you thousands of unrelated videos.
For the most part, though, mine has remained as I’ve curated it over the past year, which I’m grateful for.
Get That Content
Now that we understand how the algorithm works, we can finally start figuring out how to find story content you’d enjoy.
If I were brand new to the platform, my first step would be to search for hashtags of things that I personally enjoy. Since we’re discussing story content specifically here, I might look for various tags for different fandoms or Dungeons and Dragons or even just the LARP hashtag.
If I was part of a local LARP game, I might also search for the name of that game as sometimes, players film TikToks in full costume as a way to share their character with a larger audience. As an example, Dystopia Rising, a large network of post-apocalyptic LARP games, has player presence on the app, and there are multiple hashtags not only for the overall game but for several of the local branches.
But say you don’t have a LARP you’re particularly interested in. Say you want to see original pirate characters or werewolves or even vampires. Well, you can take pretty much any descriptor like that and throw “oc” onto the end of it, such as “pirateoc,” to find that particular sort of content. Dungeons and Dragons OCs, as I mentioned in that previous post, are fairly easy to also find via the “dungeonsanddragonsoc” or “dndoc” tags. If you’re looking for cosplay for a specific fandom, the fandom name with “cosplay” tacked onto the end of it is an easy way to find that, too.
A step that I personally also take is to add the tag to my favorites so I can find it later. This also serves as an indicator to TikTok that you’d like to see more content like it, so make sure you tap that little bookmark icon on your phone app to do that.
Next, go through the videos in those tags. Watch them completely through. Hell, watch some of them several times if you enjoy it. And make sure you interact with the video by liking it and commenting on it. Maybe even share the link with others. As mentioned above, this is a clear indicator to TikTok that you enjoy this kind of content and you want to see more of it.
Watching the videos in a particular tag may seem like a daunting process, especially for particularly large tags, but it’s worth it in the end to find the content you really want to see. You don’t have to watch them all, just enough to narrow down what you’re looking for.
This is also a good way to find other content creators on the app to follow. Hell, you can even look for people on the app that you might follow on other platforms, such as Twitter or YouTube. Remember, who you’re following is another way to curate the algorithm and increase your chances of finding content like a story tag.
So you’ve found some people to follow, you’re tracking some tags, and your FYP is slowly becoming curated with content you actually enjoy. What should you do now?
Keep interacting with the videos you enjoy. Watch, like, and comment on the videos of the people you’re now following. Maybe even check out the videos of people that the creators you’re following are duetting. (And if you like them, why not follow them, too?)
And don’t forget to create some content of your own, too. This one may feel a little daunting, but I promise you it isn’t.
Post videos in costume as your own OCs! Duet content created by the people you’re already following! Dive into some of those tags you’re following, find duettable content, and duet those, too!
Check out the hashtags some of your favorite creators are using. Does the video say they’re introducing a new character for a tag? Check out that tag if it seems interesting! If there’s a video in there that specifically mentions it’s open (some aren’t, so make sure you check that), then you can play, too! Some tags even have Discord servers to join!
Most importantly, though, have fun. Put content on the app that you’d want to see. Chances are good that other people will want to see that, too, and interact with it.
And with all of that in mind, go forth, storytellers of TikTok! I hope this helps you find the content you’re looking for.