Google has long reigned as the king of search engines. With more than 8.5 billion searches a day, it’s no surprise that when in need of information, the common vernacular is to literally say, ‘Google it.’
So, with this historical dominance in the industry, what company can shift this trend and give Google a run for its money?
While you may have thought this short-form video platform had reached its headline quota after news covering its metric rise of popularity, securing the title for the fastest-growing social platform of all time, or the back and forth about whether it would be shut down in the US. But, TikTok’s dominance in the industry hasn’t slowed down, and therefore neither have the headlines.
Introducing TikTok: The Search Engine
The platform rose to popularity as a social platform used to discover, interact and post short-form videos (many with the hopes of going viral). Now touting over 100 million monthly active users in the US, experts have recently noticed a pattern that shifts the platform’s primary use.
Rather than strictly for entertainment purposes, users, especially younger generations, now use the app as a search engine. In fact, 40% of Gen Z searchers turn to TikTok or Instagram before performing a traditional Google Search (source).
So why the switch in behavior? The amount of time people spend on the app naturally lends itself to this new use. The average TikTok user spends 45,8 minutes (source) on the app every day. However, there are also four features unique to TikTok that keep Gen Z coming back and searching more.
4 Reasons Users Turn to TikTok for Searches
1. The Algorithm
When asked why people enjoy the app beyond its sheer entertainment value, the overwhelming response is its precise algorithm. Maybe you’ve even heard a friend say, “my algorithm knows me so well.” TikTok is touted as having one of the best algorithms to find personalized, curated content explicitly based on your preferences and interests.
Users started and grew their time using the app because of the curated videos served to them based on their interests. Now, they know they can use that same benefit when seeking information. They are confident the search results will fulfill not only their curiosity but will align with their preferences.
In light of Gen Z’s preference toward influencers and user-generated content, the answers provided on TikTok seem more authentic coming from a fellow user rather than a faceless, impersonal website.
3. Today’s Consumers are Video-First
It’s been on-trend for years, but consumers overwhelmingly prefer video content to any other format. And when it comes to recommendations, short clips of a dining experience showcasing the different food, drinks, atmosphere, and live reaction to the taste are sure to peek your interest more than the written word or even static imagery. In the current environment, the battle of text vs. video always ends with video on top.
4. Less Bias
As mentioned above, today’s consumers, are wearier of ads and vague recommendations. They are looking for sources beyond websites and blogs strickly optimized for Google. TikTok allows them to scroll through different videos and source their own information. They can also browse comment sections, see what other users think, verify which recommendations seem legit, and confirm if it fits their needs.
With any information searched and consumed online, there is a risk of misinformation and biased results. TikTok takes this up a level because of its walled garden platform. Consumers aren’t moving away from the app; therefore, they aren’t going to alternative sites to verify or double-check the information they receive.
As TikTok recognizes this new consumer behavior on its platform, they have leaned into its new reputation as a venue for finding information. As such, they are testing features to combat misinformation and also encourage users to do more research on topics. For example:
- It is currently testing a feature that identifies keywords in the comment section and links to search results for them.
- In Southeast Asia, it is also testing a feed with local content so that people can find businesses and events near them.
Google’s response to the recent changes
Google hasn’t publicly spoken out, recognizing that there’s a new competitor in town. However, recent changes to their search experience indicate they know they can’t rest on their laurels. When searching on google, you’ll now notice a variety of different media, including:
- TikTok video
- YouTube Shorts: vertical videos less than a minute long
Additionally, individuals within the organization have commented that it’s on the company’s radar. In July, a Google senior vice president, Prabhakar Raghavan, stated:
“In our studies, something like almost 40 percent 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.”
What Does this mean for advertisers?
In an environment where advertisers have long relied on Google as the cornerstone of their paid search efforts, many may question whether they should reconsider their strategy. The short answer is there is no need to abandon Google and move all investments toward TikTok. Google still has tremendous power as a search engine.
However, this change in consumer behavior is a good reminder and indication that regular refinements to your digital advertising strategy are essential. So if it’s been a while since you’ve thought about how your strategy stacks up in today’s environment, here’s your sign to regroup.
Consider how you can TikTok to interact with and engage consumers.
TikTok Strategies for Advertisers
While it may seem overwhelming due to the endless creativity that seeps out of TikTok, jumping into the platform with an organic presence is a good place to start. Remember you started from scratch on other platforms like Instagram and Twitter, built a following, learned what works and doesn’t, and refined your strategy. The same can be done on TikTok.
As mentioned, younger generations love organic content, so creating authentic videos showcasing your products and services while maybe incorporating a trend of two will go a long with today’s consumers. An always-on, regular cadence of content also puts your brand in a great position to pop up in those organic searches that app users make everyday.
Once you have a solid organic strategy, consider investing in paid efforts. There are unique creative opportunities for brands to get their content in front of consumers, including:
Additionally, the platform offers a suite of audience targeting solutions to ensure you’re ad is reaching the right audience, such as:
- Demographic (Gender, Age, Geographic, Language)
- Internet Operation (Mobile OS, Internet Access)
- Interests (Examples: Anime, Auto, Pets, Food, Funny, Games, Lifestyle, Entertainment, military, Films & TV, Song & Dance, Society, Sports, Technology)
- Custom Audience: add audience, exclude an audience, replace audience
- Lookalike Audiences
Ready to incorporate TikTok into your digital advertising strategy?
At Digilant, we help brands to eliminate channel siloes and inefficiencies with Advanced Social solutions across all social platforms, including TikTok. Learn more about key features of our solutions, including fluid budgets, transparent fee structure, and holistic reporting with superior customer service here.
And contact us here if you’re ready to build a digital advertising solution targeted for today’s modern consumer.