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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. 

 

If you haven’t seen the political quiz website ISideWith, you really should give it a look. It won’t change how you’re going to vote in November, but it is a perfect case study in great viral marketing because, as Rand Fishkin points out, it has two important psychological triggers.

First, sharing is simple and obvious. They have made it easy for you to share the quiz on almost any social site with bright and attractive buttons. They even tell you how many people have taken the quiz because of your sharing. Showing how your sharing has influenced others plays on your ego and the desire to know how many people care about what you share.

Second, they ask you how your results made you feel. When you give them feedback, they create a ready-to-share Facebook post for you. By allowing you to not just share your results, but customizing it with your own reactions, ISideWith plays on the way people use Facebook to share how they feel. People don’t always share what they are doing or interested in, but most people share how they feel. Capitalizing on emotions is a smart way to make people want to share your content.

The site isn’t perfect – no site is – but it takes advantage of the emotions people invest in politics to make their content as shareable as possible, thereby maximizing the chances of going viral. By knowing the psychologies of your audience rather than just their activities, you can make them want to share your site with the world.

 

So Paul Christoforo and Ocean Marketing have gone viral.  But even though they say bad marketing is good marketing, I think this particular instance is an example of bad marketing being bad marketing.

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