TikTok’s secret is out! Their staff has a hand in making videos and influencers go viral. Your FYP isn’t as organic as you think, and the TikTok algorithm is just as prone to manipulation as any other platform. 

As reported by Forbes, TikTok uses an internal practice called “heating” to earmark specific videos for increased distribution. The goal with heating is to enable TikTok employees to push their chosen videos to hit a desired number of views. While most of your FYP might be based on the algorithm, some of those videos are pushed. But why would TikTok do this when users have been drawn to the app specifically for the incredible accuracy of the TikTok algorithm?

ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, owns several companies, including Douyin, often called the Chinese version of TikTok. There has been news of the dramatic differences between TikTok and Douyin, including the limits set for minors and the content they push for school-aged children. On Douyin, videos tend to be heavily regulated by the government, especially for younger audiences. There are strict screen time limits set, and the “heat” button, as it’s called, is often used to push content supporting the government or educational videos.

Influencers and Brand Deals

In the United States and many other countries, however, government regulations of technology are much slower to evolve. It’s not surprising then that the heat gets turned up for one main reason: money. According to Forbes, TikTok often uses heating to bring influencers and brands together, implying that TikTok employees are helping to make and break influencers’ careers. 

TikTok marketing services take a cut of the revenue generated by sponsored content. So when they use heating to push brands to work with influencers, they expect to make more money off the ads. In addition to taking a cut of the revenue from sponsored content, TikTok offers advertising options to brands. These ads can be targeted to specific audiences but are always clearly labeled as an ad. The videos TikTok pushes internally aren’t. 

Trouble in Town

With the power to go viral comes the temptation for abuse. Forbes reported that their sources revealed some employees misused their heating policy. Instead of pushing diverse, important, or money-making content, they pushed their own videos or a family member’s content. This violates TikTok’s company policy, but we are unaware of any consequences for those employees.

Part of the problem seems to be that the guidelines for heating are vague. Employees are instructed to push content that will attract brands, but also videos that are important or were missed by an algorithm. That’s not very descriptive and leaves a great deal of power in the hands of a few individuals.

View Manipulation

In practice, almost all social media platforms engage in some kind of view manipulation, and TikTok marketing is no exception. Meta, formally Facebook, came under heavy fire after the 2016 election for its alleged red and blue feeds. We also know that Facebook maintains “shadow profiles” for all users and people who don’t use the platform but have been mentioned in other timelines. Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and even Pinterest use different methods to push information out. 

Transparency Matters

Market manipulation can have a dramatic impact on your client’s trust. TikTok may have started with good intentions for its consumers, but by keeping it secret and keeping things as opaque as possible, they’ve created problems for their company. At beMarketing, we keep things crystal clear. The last thing you want is for your customers to feel tricked or manipulated. Our social media marketing services keep your customers engaged and informed using clean, honest engagement practices. None of our work happens behind closed doors. We keep you informed and looped in 100% of the time. We stay on top of trending hashtags and SEO so you can focus on running your business. To learn more about beMarketing and how we can help you, call us at (484) 261-1149 today!