How TikTok Decides What Goes Viral

TikTok is deciding who wins and who loses: creators and businesses may lose a space on someone’s For You page to someone with a closer relationship with the corporation. This is how TikTok decides what goes viral.

How TikTok Decides What Goes Viral

According to Forbes, TikTok workers in the United States have the option to promote videos in order to “introduce celebrities and emerging creators to the TikTok community.” The assertion is part of an article regarding TikTok’s “Heating” button, which Forbes claims can be used to place selected movies on users’ For You pages, increasing views by avoiding the algorithm that supposedly governs the TikTok experience.

According to Jamie Favazza, a TikTok spokesperson, increasing views to certain videos is not the primary reason for heating. He also stated that TikTok will “promote some videos to help diversify the content experience” (read: make sure your feed is not completely made up of one or two trends). Favazza further claims that TikTok does not do it very often, alleging that only “.002% of videos in For You feeds” are heated. However, according to an internal memo seen by Forbes, heated videos account for “around 1-2 percent” of “total daily video views.”

According to the research, heated videos do not include a tag indicating that they have been boosted by TikTok, as advertisements or sponsored posts do. Instead, they look like any other video that the algorithm could have chosen for you.

The news is not entirely unexpected. For years, there have been claims that TikTok exploited promises of promoted material to get politicians and corporations to use the platform, and businesses, particularly in the music industry, have made little secret of their use of the site to promote their brands.

TikTok would also be far from the only social media firm to artificially elevate videos. Facebook allegedly knew it was providing inflated view counts but did not correct it immediately in order to entice advertisers and media businesses to use its platform. (It eventually paid $40 million to resolve a lawsuit over the matter.) While it is not exactly the same scenario — TikTok videos appear to gain genuine views even if they are not going viral organically — the effect could be similar: people believe they will do better on TikTok than they will.

It also implies that TikTok is deciding who wins and who loses: creators and businesses may lose a space on someone’s For You page to someone with a closer relationship with the corporation. According to Forbes, there have promoted instances where staff heated inappropriate content, boosting videos from friends, partners, and even their own accounts.

According to Forbes’ initial report from October, ByteDance has admitted that it used TikTok to track the physical locations of journalists using their IP addresses. This is how TikTok spied on Forbes journalists.

Creators may also lose all interest in the site if their videos underperform when contrasted to those that are boosted, as TikTok’s lack of openness regarding heating makes it difficult to identify which videos rose to the top naturally.

The report comes as TikTok faces stiff competition from platforms such as YouTube, which has recently begun enticing creators by offering a cut of ad revenue generated by Shorts, and Instagram’s drive to compensate creators for Reels (though the latter admitted on Friday that it has recently been pushing videos too hard). TikTok, on the other hand, has a selective creators fund and a relatively limited ad-sharing scheme, which could offer its competitors an advantage.

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