Is TikTok Becoming Gen Z’s Next Big Search Engine

Is TikTok Becoming Gen Z’s Next Big Search Engine

Could TikTok really become a big competitor within the web search space, and move into Google’s untouched territory?

Google’s Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan recently shared that the search giant does in fact see this as a risk, noting that:

“In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search. They go to TikTok or Instagram.”

As of July 2022, TikTok has over 1 billion monthly users worldwide, with TikTok users in the United Kingdom expected to reach almost 15 million users by 2025 (Statista).

The rate at which TikTok has grown has increased the power of its algorithm; individuals, in particular, are using this more for updates, information, advice, and news, and TikTok knows this. Getting the attention of its audience by tracking this data and begins to personalise the content its users see based on views, interactions, and searches, making it uncannily catered to their tastes and searches.

With all this in mind, it’s no wonder TikTok has found its audience and is keeping it with more personalised and engaging strategies, offering quick, tailored experiences to its user base.

A Constantly Evolving Game of Relevance

Brand channels have to be constantly active to engage with their audience and to be more discoverable on search. And more than ever there is a huge opportunity to generate purchases from platforms like TikTok. 

But it’s important to remember that TikTok can’t be seen as an exact search match, like other search engines such as Google.

For example, the search results for “vegan recipes” on TikTok are very different from the results for “vegan recipes” on Google, which is why this audience is attracted to TikTok and finds it more useful. A hashtag or search on TikTok will also generate culturally relevant elements like music, people and live events and can be filtered based on likes and views. This, in turn, yields a different set of videos that consumers can continue to relate to.

We’re seeing a shift from TikTok as a pure brand channel to a channel that drives action across a highly valuable and curious audience that wants the most utility from their search.

Create, and act as a consumer

Brands need to approach TikTok in a way very different from other platforms and channels, they need to humanise themselves and remember that the platform was created with consumers in mind, not as a place for brands to build. It’s a space where relevance is key and not about automation or scale.

Companies must not only have the right tone of voice within the search but also think and act like the consumers they are trying to reach. It’s about insight and what’s happening now. Not only is TikTok providing more up-to-date, timely and various options for a single keyword, but it’s also providing ideas that might end up being more accurate in terms of the original search than what might be found on Google.

This is where the fact that Gen Z uses TikTok more than Google begins to make sense because the most up-to-date resources are only available where relevance is king and is most largely applied to all demographics in a single search.

Gen Z believes TikTok search is for discovery, whereas Instagram or Google provides validation. The key to this kind of consumer behaviour, which brands must keep top of mind in this new landscape of consumption and attention, is that companies have to remain flexible, nimble and timely in order to garner attention from a wider pool of consumers.

Want to learn more about TikTok and how you can get started? You can download our TikTok Guide here!

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