Did you know that TikTok staff have access to a heating button? Well I didn’t either and it affects the TikTok algorithm and the algorithmic rules as we know them. According to Forbes, this button can be used to put selected videos onto users’ For You pages, helping boost views by sidestepping the algorithm that supposedly drives the TikTok experience.
The purpose of this heating button is to boost videos in order to introduce celebrities and emerging creators to the TikTok community. It will also promote some videos to help diversify the content experience. Apparently, however, TikTok doesn’t do it that often, claiming only “.002% of videos in For You feeds are heated. According to an internal document obtained by Forbes, however, heated videos reportedly make up around 1-2 percent of total daily video views. So 98% of the time, the algorithmic rules we know and (sometimes) love still apply.
If you’re a TikTok user you’ll have noticed (or not noticed) that heated videos don’t come with a label to show that they’ve been boosted by TikTok like ads or sponsored posts do, according to the report. Instead, they appear like any other videos that the algorithm would’ve selected for you.
The news isn’t necessarily a surprise. There have been reports for years that TikTok used promises of promoted content to convince politicians and businesses to use its platform, and companies, especially in the music industry, have made no secret of using the platform to promote their brands.
The negative side of the heated button means that 2% of the time, TikTok is picking winners and losers: creators and brands may lose a spot on someone’s For You page to someone that has a tighter relationship with the company. According to Forbes, there have been incidents where employees heated content they shouldn’t have, promoting videos from friends, partners, and even their own accounts. Yuk.
The report comes as TikTok is facing heavy competition from platforms like YouTube, which has recently started enticing creators by giving them a cut of ad revenue made off Shorts, and Instagram’s push to pay creators for Reels (though the latter admitted on Friday that it’s recently been pushing video too hard). Meanwhile, TikTok has a selective creators fund and a very limited ad-sharing model, which could give its competitors a leg up.