How important is the first video you create on TikTok?


Summary: There is a widespread belief that the first video one creates on TikTok 1) gets an automatic “boost” from the recommendation algorithm and 2) has extra importance in influencing future video success. I test these claims on a data set of 33,925 videos and find that both propositions are unsupported by the evidence. If you have been holding off on creating your first video because you want it to be perfect, you should just go ahead and make an imperfect one.

Background

I sometimes hear people argue that the first video one creates on TikTok is unusually important. For example:
The first video that any user on Tik Tok posts gets an instant spike in impressions. As a new user, Tik Tok metaphorically “throws you a bone” and will in most cases show your video to more people right off the bat than it would a video by a repeat poster. This means that it’s vital to make your very first post on Tik Tok engaging.

Unlike Youtube, for example, where you can feel free to post tons of crappy content as you get comfortable in front of the camera and find your voice, Tik Tok will literally punish you for having a bad start. The app will rate you based on your first video, and while it’s possible to climb back up after a bad start, it’s better to just hit the ground running.

Consider making a “tester” account to try out a few different video formats before having an official launch on another account, or simply take several videos and save them all as drafts until you find something that’s worth launching your Tik Tok journey with. Whatever you do, don’t open your account and launch with a boring “Hello World” style video, it’s instant death.
This quote seems to make two claims:
  1. The first video will receive more views than it otherwise would have
  2. If your first video does poorly, your second video will not be shown to many people
These claims imply the following predictions:
  1. An author’s first video should receive more views than their second video (both because TikTok gives first videos a boost, and because the performance of your second video is constrained by the performance of your first).
  2. An author’s first video should have a higher view:like ratio than their second video (indicating that TikTok give them a “boost”).

Results

A comparison of the view counts received by first and second videos does not find any obvious difference:


Indeed, view counts for second videos are actually slightly higher than for first videos (mean = 2.00 versus 1.92), and the difference is borderline significant (p = 0.062 from Kolmogorov-Smirnov 2-sample test).

We can also compare the view:like ratios:

In this case, ratios for first videos are slightly higher, but the difference is insignificant (p = 0.37, KS 2-sample).

Lastly, we can look at the ratio of view count between authors' first and second views. Second videos do almost twice as well as first videos (average ratio = 1.7):

However, the difference is again insignificant (p = 0.27, Wilcoxon test).

These results remained consistent after removing videos with greater than 100,000 views.

Discussion

There is no evidence to support the claim that TikTok does anything special with first videos. There is limited evidence that second videos do better than first videos, but this is probably explained by creators having more experience with the platform when creating their second video, as opposed to anything the TikTok algorithm itself does.

It’s possible that the TikTok algorithm does boost first time videos, but this boost is offset by first-time author’s ineptitude. This seems possible to me, but I would bet that the effect is small – second-time authors are probably not that much more talented than first-time ones.

The first video someone creates does influence the success of their future videos, but so does every other video they create (e.g. because it may gain them followers). There’s no particular importance to your first video, and it’s probably better for most people to just dive in instead of creating the perfect first video.


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