How TikTok Leveraged the Interest Graph to Redefine Social Media

How TikTok Leveraged the Interest Graph to Redefine Social Media

Steve Hyde
May 20, 2023
Social Media

In the ever-evolving landscape of social media, TikTok has emerged as a game-changer. It has not only captured the attention of millions around the globe but has also revolutionised the way social media platforms function. To some extent the team at Tiktok would say they would define themselves as an entertainment platform rather than social media but maybe thats semantics.

The key to TikTok’s unprecedented success lies in its utilisation of the “interest graph” as opposed to the traditional “social graph” used by many of its predecessors.

The social graph was made popular by Facebook, who used it to connect people with others they knew, turning them into “friends” in the digital space. The social graph relied heavily on pre-existing relationships, familial ties, or geographical proximity.

Interest Graph from Livechat


TikTok's Disruptive Approach: The Interest Graph

TikTok has disrupted the social graph model and in doing so, has reinvented the essence of ‘social’ media. TikTok’s incredible rise can be attributed to its unique focus on the interest graph.

This model prioritises connecting people based on shared interests rather than existing social connections. This shift in focus may seem subtle, but it has significant implications. It has allowed the platform to transcend age brackets, making it appealing not only to teenagers but also to a wider demographic.

Indeed our experience has been that one of the highest converting groups when looking at people who end up buying something ( TikTok made me buy it) is (drum roll) people like me OVER 50s !!


Social Graph Image from Business Insider

TikTok's Algorithm

One of the cornerstones of TikTok’s platform is its algorithm. This mechanism pays meticulous attention to user preferences, creating a highly personalised feed for each user. Whether you’re a teenager or a boomer, the algorithm learns from your interactions and feeds you content that aligns with your interests.

This personalised approach ensures that every user’s feed is unique and tailored to their tastes, making the experience on the platform highly engaging and, thus, addictive.


Redefining the Digital Landscape

TikTok’s success with the interest graph has prompted a paradigm shift in the digital space. Other platforms are scrambling to imitate this model, with Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts being prime examples.

Even YouTube is reevaluating its algorithm to pivot from a social graph-focused model to an interest graph-centric one. This shift is indicative of a broader trend in the future of social media. The focus is moving away from who you know towards what you are interested in.


The Implications for Marketers and Business Owners

The success of TikTok has highlighted an important lesson for marketers and business owners. Understanding your audience’s interests is more crucial than ever before.

It’s no longer enough to know who your audience knows; you must understand what they care about. By doing so, you can create content that resonates, engages, and ultimately, converts. TikTok has redefined the landscape of social media, demonstrating the potent power of the interest graph.


Leveraging the Interest Graph

This transformation led by TikTok is not just a shift in the mechanics of social media but a revolution in how businesses and marketers approach digital marketing.

Where previously businesses relied on the social graph, focusing on their target audience’s connections and network, they must now leverage the interest graph to build meaningful relationships with their audience.

With the interest graph at the core of its strategy, TikTok has debunked the myth that the success of a social media platform is solely dependent on the user’s existing network.

Instead, it has illustrated that an engaging user experience, fuelled by personalised and relevant content, is key to capturing and maintaining user attention.


The Need for Personalisation

For businesses, this underlines the importance of thoroughly understanding their audience’s interests and using this knowledge to craft compelling, tailored content.

Gone are the days when generic, one-size-fits-all content was sufficient. In the TikTok era, content must be meticulously tailored to cater to the diverse interests of the audience.


Building a Community

TikTok’s algorithm encourages and rewards active participation and interaction. This means that businesses can’t simply broadcast content; they must also engage with their audience, fostering a two-way relationship.

It’s about creating a community of like-minded individuals who are bound by shared interests.


The Role of User-Generated Content (UGC)

The rise of TikTok has also brought to light the significant role of user-generated content (UGC) in building brand loyalty and fostering community.

The platform’s design encourages users to create their own content, providing businesses with an invaluable opportunity to engage with their audience in a more authentic and organic way.


The Interest Graph as a Necessity

The bottom line is that the interest graph is transforming the rules of the game. In this new landscape, understanding and catering to your audience’s interests is not just a strategy, but a necessity.

Businesses and marketers must adapt to this new reality to stay relevant and competitive.


Embracing the Interest Graph for Future Success

TikTok’s utilisation of the interest graph has revolutionised the social media landscape, creating a more personalised and engaging user experience. It has fundamentally shifted the focus from who the user knows to what the user likes, paving the way for a more intuitive and engaging form of social interaction on digital platforms.

As marketing professionals and business owners, it’s crucial to recognise and adapt to this shift. It’s no longer enough to rely on the social graph and pre-established networks. We must delve deeper into our audiences’ interests and preferences, delivering content that not only captures attention but also resonates on a personal level.

In the era of TikTok, successful marketing strategies are those that can leverage the interest graph, tailoring content to match the unique preferences of each user. This approach not only enhances user engagement but also fosters a sense of community and loyalty among users.

The shift towards interest-based content presents a unique opportunity for businesses to tap into the power of user-generated content. Encouraging and facilitating the creation of UGC can help businesses forge deeper connections with their audience, enhancing authenticity, and fostering a stronger sense of community.

Finally, it’s important to remember that this shift towards the interest graph is not a fleeting trend but a glimpse into the future of social media. As we move forward, we can expect to see more platforms adopting similar approaches, making it more crucial than ever for businesses to adapt their strategies accordingly.

The transformation brought about by TikTok serves as a stark reminder of the ever-evolving nature of social media, underscoring the need for businesses to stay agile, innovative, and customer-centric in their approach.

As the saying goes, “Change is the only constant,” and in the world of social media, this couldn’t be truer. Embracing the interest graph today will ensure your business is prepared for the future of social media tomorrow.



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