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A new report from Forbes confirms that TikTok employees can and do promote specific videos across the platform – effectively deciding what goes viral.

Several current and former employees reported that some employees have access to this ability via a “heating” button which overrides the platform’s usual algorithm to ensure as many users can see content as possible.

What Is “Heating”?

An internal TikTok document called the “MINT Heating Playbook, “The heating feature refers to boosting videos into the For You feed through operation intervention to achieve a certain number of video views.”. 

According to the company, this heating button is intended to boost videos that will “introduce celebrities and emerging creators of the TikTok community.”

Though it was never explicitly stated that every video in the For You feed was selected and placed using the algorithm, that has always been the public understanding of how the feed works. Behind closed doors, it appears things have been a little different.

TikTok Used Heating To Encourage Partnerships

The social network doesn’t altruistically use this algorithm to promote creators who show promise.

Several former employees said the company uses the process regularly to help attract businesses and influencers.

In response, TikTok spokesperson Jamie Favazza didn’t dispute the nature of heating, but downplayed how often it is used:

“We promote some videos to help diversify the content experience and introduce celebrities and emerging creators to the TikTok community,” TikTok spokesperson Jamie Favazza told Forbes. “Only a few people, based in the U.S., have the ability to approve content for promotion in the U.S., and that content makes up approximately .002% of videos in For You feeds.”

What Favazza doesn’t mention is that heated videos make up 1-2% of daily video views according to the MINT Heating Playbook.

Do Other Social Networks Boost Videos?

It has long been suspected that most social networks manipulate their feeds to encourage partnerships with brands or content creators. However, TikTok is the only one so far to have a practice like this confirmed. 

TikTok is once again facing a potential ban in the United States after FCC commissioner Brendan Carr raised dire concerns about the app’s risk to national security. 

This is the second time the company has come under fire by US government officials. During Donald Trump’s presidency, the company was threatened with a ban until one was rejected in federal court. 

The issue now is the same as it was then – TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company. As TikTok continues to become massively popular in the US, some worry there’s an unprecedented risk for the app to funnel data on US citizens to China. Others have suggested the prominence of the app and its current influence on American culture creates a risk for propaganda to influence American citizens.

Is TikTok Getting Banned?

The short answer, for now, is that TikTok is not getting officially banned in the US.

No formal actions have been taken, and the Federal Communications Commission does not have the authority to directly regulate or ban the company. However, the FCC has a significant influence on those that do – Congress. 

For example, it was Carr’s recommendations that largely led to the Chinese company Huawei being banned by Congress. 

What Has Carr Said?

The latest concerns over a ban were sparked by comments made by FCC commissioner Brendan Carr during an interview with Axios

When asked about his view on TikTok and its potential security risks, Carr plainly stated “I don’t think there is a path forward for anything other than a ban.”

Furthermore, the commissioner showed little hope that the company may come to an agreement with the US government that would allow it to remain operating in the country:

“Perhaps the deal CFIUS ends up cutting is an amazing, airtight deal, but at this point I have a very, very difficult time looking at TikTok’s conduct thinking we’re going to cut a technical construct that they’re not going to find a way around.”

How Is TikTok Responding?

For now, the company seems to be confident that they will reach a deal to continue operating and downplayed Carr’s role in any discussions about the issue. As a representative from TikTok told CNN:

“Commissioner Carr has no role in or direct knowledge of the confidential discussions with the US government related to TikTok and is not in a position to discuss what those negotiations entail. We are confident that we are on a path to reaching an agreement with the US government that will satisfy all reasonable national security concerns.”

As such, it is safe to assume that TikTok will remain in the US for at least the short-term future. How long it can withstand the growing concerns remains to be seen, though.

Though TikTok is mostly known for its video content, the platform’s latest feature is a throwback. Along with new editing abilities and longer captions for content, TikTok has revealed it is introducing a Photo Mode within its app.

What Is Photo Mode?

As announced in a recent blog post, TikTok’s Photo Mode is a new post format that creates a carousel or slideshow of still images for users to share.

Along with their original images, users can add music, filters, stickers, and more to the carousel.

Ironically, the new post format is very similar to the type of content found on Instagram – which has been repeatedly accused of copying TikTok’s features.

Though nearly every popular social network has incorporated aspects of TikTok’s layout and features in the past year or two, Instagram has received the most criticism for the ways it has borrowed from the newer platform. This may be partially because many view the two platforms as rivals.

Enhanced Editing Features

Along with the reveal of Photo Mode, TikTok introduced new editing tools for videos, photos, and more. 

As the blog post says:

“TikTok’s enhanced editing tools allow you to easily adjust clips, sounds, images, and text in a new editing environment, all within TikTok’s creation flow.”

With the new tools you can:

  • Edit clips: Stack, trim, and split video clips.
  • Edit sounds: Cut, trim, and set the duration for sounds.
  • Edit and position text: More easily edit, position, and set the duration for text.
  • Add overlays: Add photo and video overlays for picture-in-picture (or video-in-video) stacking.
  • Adjust video speed: Speed or slow the pace of video clips.
  • Frame content: Rotate or zoom in and out of frame of individual clips.
  • Add sound effects.

The new features, including Photo Mode, have been rolled out to all users in the U.S. and most other countries.

Creators on TikTok are receiving way more space to describe their content and optimize it for the platform’s search engine. Over the weekend, many users started to notice that the limit for descriptions has increased from just 300 characters to over 2,000 characters.

The increase doesn’t just give creators more space to explain their video or page. Longer descriptions will also make it easier for TikTok to understand the content better, better include it in search results, and make more informed recommendations for users.

When you consider the impact these descriptions will have across the platform, it becomes clear that content descriptions are becoming a powerful optimization signal for those wanting to stand out on the increasingly competitive app.

How We Learned About Expanded Video Descriptions

It is unclear exactly when the feature started rolling out, but social media analyst Matt Navarra called attention to it Friday with a screenshot of a notification he received in TikTok’s app.

The full message says:

“You can now type up to 2200 characters in your posts’ descriptions: This allows you to express more details about your creations, describing what your videos show, giving you the opportunity to get closer to your audience, generating more engagement while becoming more searchable and better recommended by TikTok to viewers.”

TikTok is Becoming a Search Engine

If you haven’t spent much time on TikTok, it may come as a bit of a shock to learn that young people are increasingly using the platform as an alternative to Google’s search engine.

The phenomenon is so widespread, that Google has publicly addressed the shift, with Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan stating:

“In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search. They go to TikTok or Instagram.”

The longer descriptions signify that TikTok is also fully aware of this phenomenon and is prioritizing ways to improve its search results. For example, creators now have more flexibility to describe what happens in a video, include keywords that will help their videos be found by the right people, and provide links to a professional website or other social accounts.

Plus, longer video descriptions will even improve your TikTok content’s chance of being found on Google since the search engine has confirmed it indexes TikTok videos.

TikTok continues to gain more interest from brands – especially ecommerce brands – as it proves that the social app is here to stay. New data collected from over 5,000 stores shows that ecommerce brands spent 60% more to advertise on TikTok in Q2 of 2022. Even more, analysts believe the trend will continue for the foreseeable future.

This information comes from Triple Whale ecommerce analytics, which gathered the data from all the stores using their tools to estimate the overall growth of ecommerce ad spend on the increasingly popular social video app.

“It’s time to get on TikTok while the needle’s still moving in the upward direction, or before users are completely inundated with ads from new brands,” advises Triple Whale. TikTok “is no longer a channel serious paid media buyers can avoid without cutting into revenue and profit.”

Other Findings About Ecommerce Q2 TikTok Ad Spend

Notably, the most significant increases don’t come from major brands. Smaller retailers with annual sales between $1 million and-$5 million are instead leading the charge.

Along with these findings, the report also included a few other interesting facts:

  • Overall ad spend across the 5,000 online retailers rose by 11% in Q2 to a total of $529.7 million
  • Retailers with revenues between $1 million and $5 million are contributing to the biggest increases in ad spend
  • In the first two quarters of this year, retailers spent a total of $48.4 million on TikTok ads – which was a 231% increase over the previous 6 months
  • CPMs vary by industry. Baby, books and collectibles niches have a CPM below $10, while health & beauty & digital products are over $14 CPM
  • Stores with over $25 million in sales have the highest average order values and ROI

How TikTok Compares To The Competition

While TikTok is showing impressive growth in popularity among online retailers, it still trails Facebook and Google by a significant amount. Specifically:

  • Despite only growing 5.6% from Q1, Facebook remains the leading ecommerce choice for advertisers by a wide margin
  • Google grew 20.5% in Q2
  • Snap declined 10.8% in Q2

If you’ve been writing off TikTok as just another social network that will be here today and gone tomorrow, it is likely time to reconsider. The platform seems to be cementing its place among users and winning over brands through increased ad revenue.

Inspired by the popularity of TikTok, Google is working to find new ways to include short-form videos in search results. 

Google Product Manager Danielle Marshak revealed this during a recent episode of the Search Off the Record podcast with hosts Gary Illyes and Lizzi Sassman from Google’s Search Relations team. 

Why Google Is Interest In Short-Form Videos

Though the entire episode is more broadly focused on discussing how Google handles video content in search results, the conversation eventually turns to the most popular video format of the moment – short vertical videos less than 5 minutes in length. 

Beyond their popularity, the Google employees agree there is a lot of interest in short videos because they are easily digestible and can contain a lot of information in a compact package.

As Marshak says:

“And this format, it’s really cool because as I mentioned, it is very concise. You can get a lot of information in a short period of time, and you can also get a loot of different views and perspectives…

“So we think this kind of content could be useful for a lot of different types of search queries, and we’ve been experimenting with how to show it to users more often.”

Could TikTok Videos Appear In Search Results?

Since TikTok is practically synonymous with this specific type of short video, it was only a matter of time before the social video app was brought up. 

Interestingly, Gary Illyes explained that the unique way TikTok works makes its content much easier for the search engine to crawl and index compared to others like Snapchat or Instagram.

Since every TikTok video has a unique URL and can be opened directly in a web browser, Illyes says there is a chance the videos could be directly indexed and shown in search results:

“You can actually open it on the laptop and you will end up on a web page and you can actually watch it on the web page. You don’t have to have the TikTok app for watching the video.

“So I imagine that if they allow crawling – I haven’t checked – then we can probably index those videos as well.”

Other Ways Google Is Integrating Short Videos Into Search

When asked about other types of short video content that Google might include in search results pages, Marshak mostly focused on educational or informational content, such as recipes:

“So let’s say, again, you’re searching for some new ideas to make banana bread. And right now, you might see traditional recipes, you might see longer videos, but you could also see short videos, which could just give you a different style or perspective.

“And people’s preferences are different. Some people might prefer to read; some people might prefer a longer video; some people might prefer short videos.

“And so we want to offer a lot of different options to get that type of information, in the format that is most useful for you. So that’s one example.”

From what was said, it seems the ideas are still in their early stages but the episode makes it clear that Google is taking TikTok and its popular video format very seriously. You can expect to see much more of it in search results sooner, rather than later.

Listen to the full episode of the Search Off the Record podcast here.

After suffering a massive drop in stock values earlier this week, Facebook is planning to pivot more towards being a short-form video platform. 

The shift in focus was announced by CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a company-wide virtual meeting with Facebook employees shortly after the stock crash, which was triggered by a devastating quarterly earnings report from the platform’s parent company – Meta Platforms. 

In its latest earnings report, Meta disclosed that it had lost money throughout the quarter as well as seeing the first-ever decline in daily active users. By the end of the quarter, the company says more than half a million users had stopped using the platform on a daily basis. 

All of this then caused investors to panic, leading to the company’s stock price dropping by over 200 billion dollars in a single day – the largest single-day stock drop in history.

Why Is Facebook Losing Users and Money?

As Zuckerberg laid out to employees, he sees three major contributing factors to the unflattering quarterly earnings report. These are a recent wave of investments from Meta to establish Metaverse, difficulties with advertising after the of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature and Android’s take on this information sharing feature, and TikTok.

The first issue is easy to believe. After the company’s hugely publicized rebrand to Meta, it has been spending a lot of money to establish its Metaverse platform – which has yet to pay off. Given the mixed-to-negative reception the Metaverse has received, it is also possible investors are nervous about the potential for eventual revenue from the platform.

Facebook is also seeing a notable loss in money from advertising, largely because the largest mobile operating systems have both implemented new features which give users more information and control over how their information is being used. 

On one hand, this is a benefit for users because they can now easily opt-out of being tracked online. On the other, it makes it much more difficult – and even potentially impossible in some cases – to target relevant ads for users. This leads to less interest in ads from users, which translates to less engagement, and thus less revenue, 

What About TikTok?

After surviving challenges from Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, Facebook may have finally met a competitor it can’t afford to ignore.

Mark Zuckerberg told employees that part of the company’s poor quarterly performance was an “unprecedented level of competition” from TikTok.

As such, Zuckerberg plans to directly focus on promoting its short-video-related content and features across both Instagram and Facebook.

As he told meeting attendees:

“People have a lot of choices for how they want to spend their time, and apps like TikTok are growing very quickly. And this is why our focus on Reels is so important over the long term.”

While both of Meta’s social networks have increasingly prioritized video in recent years, this underscores a renewed emphasis on video content – especially short, easy-to-share clips like those found on TikTok. As such, brands hoping to reach their audiences on these platforms should be prepared to similarly focus on creating video content that connects with their potential customers.

Step aside Google, there’s a new top domain around the world according to the annual rankings of most popular domains globally from Cloudflare. For 2021, TikTok is the top site based on internet traffic.

The full list of the most popular domains in 2021 is:

  1. TikTok.com
  2. Google.com
  3. Facebook.com
  4. Microsoft.com
  5. Apple.com
  6. Amazon.com
  7. Netflix.com
  8. YouTube.com
  9. Twitter.com
  10. WhatsApp.com

This is a big jump from 2020, when the newly popular social network ranked in just 7th place overall, while Google (which includes the variety of services under the Google umbrella, such as Maps and News) seemed safely in the top position. 

Cloudflare’s Year in Review report details TikTok’s rise to dominance over the course of the year:

“It was on February 17, 2021, that TikTok got the top spot for a day. Back in March, TikTok got a few more days and also in May, but it was after August 10, 2021, that TikTok took the lead on most days. There were some days when Google was #1, but October and November were mostly TikTok’s days, including on Thanksgiving (November 25) and Black Friday (November 26).”

What Does This Mean?

To be clear, this is only based on traffic. This does not necessarily mean that TikTok is now the biggest social media platform around the world, let alone the site with the most users.

When looking at the number of distinct users on each platform, most estimates still place the upstart platform behind both Facebook and Instagram – let alone Google.

It is quite clear, though, that TikTok is quickly growing into a force to be reckoned with online. If it isn’t already on your map for your marketing plans in 2022, perhaps this report will cause you to reconsider.

Read the full Cloudflare Year in Review report, which includes stats on the top social networks, e-commerce sites, and streaming sites from the past year, here.

TikTok is introducing new ways for pages to monetize their presence on the platform via digital “gifts” and tips.

Notably, these tools are exclusive to individual creators or entrepreneurs through the Creator Next monetization suite, which is not available to brands on the platform.

In a way, this makes sense as the new monetization features are designed to be direct ways for other users to reward creators for sharing great content. Let’s talk about exactly what these new features are.

TikTok Tips

TikTok now allows users to send money directly to creators as a “tip”.

The feature is managed through Swipe and requires an account with that service to be eligible to receive tips. 

Although creators will receive 100% of the value of the initial tip, TikTok will apply a service fee to generate revenue from this feature.

Signed-up profiles will include a new icon on their profile, which will allow users to send $5, $10, $15, or custom tips up to $100.

By default, others will be able to see when you send or receive a tip, unless you specifically choose to make your tip anonymous.

To prevent misuse, TikTok limits users to $500 total or up to 100 transactions per day.

TikTok Video Gifts

TikTok’s new Video Gifts blur the line between Reddit awards and its tipping system. It allows users to pay to reward content they love with specific gifts, which are shown to other viewers.

The big difference between this and something like “Reddit Gold” is that recipients can then exchange their rewards for actual money via a virtual currency called “diamonds”.

Interestingly, gifts come with some very unique benefits, including a boost in the platform’s algorithm:

As the announcement says:

“… a key metric that TikTok uses to assess the popularity of a video is the number of Gifts sent to a creator’s content.”

Are You Eligible?

Users interested in utilizing these monetization features must:

  • Be 18+ years old
  • Have at least 1,000 video views in the past 30 days
  • Have at least 3 posts in the past 30 days
  • Be in good standing regarding TikTok’s community guidelines
  • Reside in the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, or Spain

If your account meets these requirements, you will be able to opt-in to the Creator Next suite.

For more, read the announcement here.

TikTok announced this week that it is extending the maximum length of videos on its platform, tripling the limit from sixty seconds to three minutes.

The update began rolling out to users over the past few days. As users get access, they will be notified with a notification in the app, as shown below:

As the company says in the announcement:

“There’s so much that can happen in a TikTok minute, from crowdsourced musicals and sea shanty singalongs to feta pasta recipes, roller skating revivals, and more. Now we’re introducing the option for our global community to create longer videos – paving the way for even richer storytelling and entertainment on TikTok.”

Keeping with how videos have always been handled in the app, users can record, edit, and share their videos entirely within TikTok, or choose to upload pre-edited videos.

Is TikTok Challenging YouTube?

For the most part, videos on social media have tended towards short-form clips. From Vines to Snapchat Stories and YouTube Shorts, most platforms have prioritized keeping videos easily consumable while on the go. 

Until now, TikTok has worked within these limits to establish itself as the platform for bite-sized videos. 

This marks the app’s first foray into longer videos, which can demand more attention and focus from users.

The question is whether users will be willing to invest this energy in longer content, though the announcement is optimistic:

“With all the ways our community has redefined expression in under 60 seconds, we’re excited to see how people continue to entertain and inspire with a few more seconds – and a world of creative possibilities.”