TikTok passes Google as top search engine for younger audiences
Gen Z younger people are increasingly using TikTok as their preferred search engine – a development which has important consequences for any brand’s TikTok UGC (user generated content) strategy.
New statistics, revealed by Google itself, showed that up to 40 percent of Gen Z users are now turning to TikTok for online searches.
It is one of the biggest threats to Google Search since the company, founded in 1998, saw off the likes of Yahoo!, Ask Jeeves and Bing to completely dominate online search.
Younger people are no longer just looking for words and information when they search. They want visual content and visual representations of the things they search for.
Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan, from Google’s Knowledge & Information organization, admitted the new trend at a recent conference.
He said: “We keep learning, over and over again, that new internet users don’t have the expectations and the mindset that we have become accustomed to…the queries they ask are completely different.
“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.”
Brands need to recognize this and adapt their TikTok strategy accordingly.
It’s no longer enough to think of TikTok solely as a brand channel. You also need to focus appearing in relevant searches as part of your TikTok strategy.
TikTok search must be part of your marketing strategy now and over the next five years. It’s important to start investing in a proper TikTok UGC strategy which will maximise the opportunities for search.
The explosion of TikTok
The rise of TikTok as a social media platform has been astonishing. TikTok, owned by Chinese company Bytedance, was only launched worldwide in 2018, after merging with Musical.ly.
By 2021 it had been ranked by Cloudflare as the most popular website of the year, eclipsing Google. It earned $4 billion in advertising revenue in 2021 and had reached 1 billion users by September that year.
TikTok was designed as a social media platform for consumers to share short form videos. One of its biggest areas of growth was silly dancing videos, with people creating viral routines over tracks.
Another huge area of growth has been food and recipe videos – prompting TikTok to start a new food delivery service TikTok Kitchen in the United States.
It did not take long for TikTok ‘stars’ to emerge – people with huge followings, able to generate revenue as influencers
Some of the biggest TikTok influencers in the UK are Kyle Thomas (@kylethomas), with 32.2m followers, identical twins Jamil and Jamel Neffati (@neffatibrothers) with 17.7m and Shauni Kibby (@itzshauni) with 16.8m.
@neffatibrothers Win this PS5!! Follow @PLAY_PLANETX & tag 2 friends in the comments. Good luck!! #fyp ♬ original sound – Goof Life
Celebrities were quick to jump on the TikTok bandwagon. Some of the most successful around the world are Will Smith (@willsmith), The Rock (@therock), Jason Derulo (@jasonderulo) and Kylie Jenner (@kyliejenner).
Brands on TikTok
Where influencers celebrities lead, brands will follow.
There has been an uptick in brands creating content for TikTok. It takes genuine creativity for a brand to successfully build up a following through their TikTok strategy. The most successful, often use humour or innovative video and graphics.
Those brands who’ve done it well include Ryanair (@ryanair), Zara (@zara), Gymshark (@gymshark), Nandos (@nandosuk) and BMW (@bmw).
@gymshark taking “say it with your chest” literally @Jay #gymmeme #gymtok #Gymshark ♬ original sound – Gymshark
An increasingly popular, and more effective way, for brands to build up their TikTok following is with TikTok UGC.
This is this when brands deploy content created by a ‘real’ users with a smaller number of followers. Many brands do not have the time or resources to seek out there own UGC and use UGC agencies like dally.co to help.
UGC is seen as more honest and transparent than when big brands post themselves or rely on bigger influencers, with large followings.
How to maximise TikTok search through UGC
One of the main reasons people turn to TikTok for search is for the variety and unpredictability it offers, compared to Google.
If young people are interested in a subject, or they’re looking for new beauty products, clothes, recipes or restaurants, they are increasingly likely to use TikTok.
Over the next few years there will be more and more opportunity to benefit from search behaviour on TikTok and drive sales.
To maximise the potential of TikTok search you should start by accepting that the platform was build for consumers not brands. If you want to attract attention from TikTok search you need to act more like a consumer than a brand.
An effective TikTok strategy will place relevance, relatability, and insight above all other factors.
Being successful on TikTok is not about scale and reach. It is about being flexible and nimble, providing discoverable content which sparks interest.
As with a general TikTok strategy, the videos which will best achieve these search results are UGC.
UGC from everyday people is seen as more trustworthy and authentic and ‘from below’ – rather than official brand content ‘from above’. It seems less salesy to the end consumer.
Any brand which wants to benefit from TikTok search needs to invest in a long term UGC strategy.
For those brands who cannot manage their UGC themselves, they can hire a UGC agency, like dally.co, to handle it for them.
A UGC agency will have UGC creators on standby ready to create content for brands. These creators will work with a brand to create highly targeted videos which will show up on TikTok searches.
Tactics will include product reviews, ‘get ready with me’ morning routine reels, diaries of a day, product demos and brand intros.
Those brands who do not start engaging with TikTok search now will fall behind and lose out on sales. Leave it too late in the fast-moving world of social media and it will be harder to catch up.