This Is How TikTok’s ‘Heating’ Boost Videos Views

According to six sources and documents reviewed by Forbes, employees at TikTok and ByteDance regularly engage in “heating,” a manual push that ensures that specific videos “achieve a certain number of video views.”

TikTok has referred to its potent ‘For You’ Page as a customized feed ranked by an algorithm that predicts your interests based on how you use the app.

However, Forbes reviewed internal documents and communications as well as statements made by current and former employees of TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance.

According to these sources, employees at TikTok and ByteDance secretly hand-pick specific videos and use a technique known internally as “heating” in addition to letting the algorithm decide which videos go viral.

An internal TikTok document titled MINT Heating Playbook explains,

“The heating feature refers to boosting videos into the For You feed through operation intervention to achieve a certain number of video views”.

The daily total video views of heated videos account for approximately 1-2 percent of the total video views, which can have a significant impact on the core metrics as a whole.

Although all tech giants try to amplify particular posts for their users to some degree, TikTok has never publicly disclosed that it does so. However, when they do so, they typically make it clear when they do so.

For instance, public health and elections organizations have partnered with Google, Meta, and TikTok to provide users with accurate information about COVID-19 and to assist them in locating their polling place. These organizations have made clear disclosures regarding how and why they have chosen to promote these messages.

However, sources told Forbes that TikTok has frequently used ‘Heating’ to entice brands and influencers into partnerships by increasing the number of views on their videos. This suggests that some influencers and brands — those with whom TikTok has sought business relationships — have benefited from heating, while others have not.

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Heating also reveals that videos on the ‘For You’ page don’t always appear because TikTok thinks you’ll like them; Instead, they are there because TikTok wants to increase the number of views for a particular brand or creator. In addition, it is impossible to distinguish between the two without labels, such as those used for sponsored content and advertisements.

According to Forbes’ review of the documents, employees have ‘heated’ both their own accounts and the accounts of individuals with whom they have personal relationships. One document claims that a similar heating incident resulted in more than three million views on an account.

Documents also show that employees, including those at TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, and even contractors who work for the company, have a lot of say over which content to promote.

Employees may use heating to “attract influencers” and “promote diverse content,” according to the TikTok Heating Policy document, as well as to “push important information” and “promote relevant videos that were missed by the recommendations algorithms.” According to two sources, Forbes employees have frequently felt that they are left on their own to determine whether a video complies with these guidelines.

Jamie Favazza, a spokesperson for TikTok, wrote in response to a detailed set of questions about how and by whom heating has been used:

“We promote some videos to help diversify the content experience and introduce celebrities and emerging creators to the TikTok community. 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.”

Forbes was told by a source that ‘Heating’ has also been used to boost high-profile collaborations between TikTok and external actors, such as NGOs and artists being courted by the platform. Another source also said that heating was also supposed to be used when a creator in one category (for example, beauty) created a video in another category (for example, cooking). The individual stated that heating “can help the algorithm find the right audience” in those circumstances.

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When asked if its Chinese-based employees or the company itself had ever produced heated content, TikTok declined to comment.

Maureen Shanahan, a spokesperson for TikTok, issued the following statement after this story was published: CFIUS and third-party monitors would be able to audit all protocols and processes for promoting videos in the United States under the national security agreement that is currently being considered by CFIUS; In the United States, only vetted TikTok USDS employees would be able to “heat” videos.

Oracle will also review the source code to make sure there are no other ways to promote content. A request for comment was not immediately answered by Oracle.

Currently, TikTok is negotiating a contract with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) that, according to the company, will address all concerns regarding national security brought up by the app’s foreign ownership. However, a growing number of legislators are pursuing a ban on TikTok due to concerns that the CFIUS agreement may be insufficient or too late.

Favazza responded,

“we’re continuing our work to expand our ‘why this video’ feature and provide more granularity and transparency to content recommendations.”

Douek, the Stanford professor, said disclosing where and how TikTok uses heating “would be a first step” to getting users comfortable with the tool. “But sometimes, the reason why they don’t [use clearer labels] is because transparency allows for criticism.”

Credit: CNN

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